I know over 50 men who have sexually assaulted or harassed women. None of whom are outing themselves on Facebook in the #MeToo campaign.
#MeToo took a large, collective step against sexualized violence (assault, harassment, threats and intimidation). Women used significant courage to “out” themselves as victims of sexualized violence on public, unprotected Facebook. The step was in the wrong direction. The #MeToo campaign sought to raise awareness. We are already aware.
Sexualized violence is an ongoing part of most women’s lives. Even the biggest sexist is the first to denounce perverts, pedos or rapists that might try and screw “his” wife, daughter or mother. We do not need a gimmick, a meme or a hashtag to prove that women everywhere have endured or are at a very high risk of enduring sexualized violence. We have come to accept it – to expect it.
Growing-up, girls fully expect to eventually “be a victim” of sexual violence in some way. We will be judged on our ability to prevent being raped and our ability to cope with however we are sexually violated.
Girls are taught: do not trust men, do not wear things that might persuade a male to rape you, beware of male university students who victimize girls at parties or “spring break”. Take and wear rape whistles as a flimsy sort of protection. We are told not to meet with men after hours alone in the office, to avoid “boys’ club” discussions where men joke about sexual harassment and assault (unless, of course, we can “handle it”). The males we are taught to fear are the students at the school, the men in our community, the men we might work with.
The males are warned differently. You might be accused of sexual assault, so be careful. Not you might be a sexual predator. You might need to defend yourself against these allegations. Not you might need to check yourself to make sure you are not being sexually assaultive.
The public outcry about Weinstein was not that actresses were sexually assaulted and harassed. We assumed they were. Weinstein clearly did not self-identify as a sexual predator. The news was that systemic sexual violence and the complacent attitude of the public was finally identified and dealt with. “Women are raped” is old news. “We identify and stop supporting men who sexually assault women” is news.
#MeToo is trending sexualized violence. It is normalizing it. #MeToo returns a woman’s individual trauma into the generic group experience we were taught to expect. #MeToo exposes victims while predators stay shielded in anonymity and even ignorance.
Wait! There is an upside. #MeToo has raised awareness about something else. Unintentionally. The eye-opening negative responses to #MeToo. Sexual assault trolls. These trolling replies show us WHY people choose not to disclose what has happened to them. These trolling replies demonstrate WHY sexual violence against women is not only surviving but thriving. These trolling replies tell us that we still feel women must endure sexual violence.
What are we setting-up women for? I have made a quick list of some of the most common answers I have seen or heard to people disclosing sexual assault. Obviously, these replies seemed appropriate to someone at the time.
- Did you tell him you didn’t want him to sexually assault you?
- Maybe he thought you wanted it
- This isn’t a great job for women – you knew that when you came in
- This is why we don’t like hiring women
- Were you wearing that shirt?
- You don’t seem like his type
- You were playing with fire
- I have had difficulties in my life, too – you don’t hear me complaining
- Stop playing the gender card
- Were you drinking?
- #MeToo – but I liked it.
Still a fan? Let us re-frame outside of the #MeToo disclosure in a way that will engage even the biggest sexists. If YOUR daughter, YOUR wife, YOUR sister, or YOUR mother told you her boss raped her, would you consider any of those responses appropriate?
None of these responses discuss the asshole rapist. The responses blame the victim. The responses assume women, did not adequately prevent sexual assault or are not coping well enough with this rite of passage. These responses prevent women from laying a charge and may even cause them to doubt whether they were “really” sexually assaulted. When these responses are triggered by #MeToo, we see the problem not about awareness of sexualized violence. The problem is that sexualized violence of women is too normal.
We need to change the dialogue. We need to move it away from victim-blaming to society-changing. We don’t need to line-up women publicly to disclose the obvious, only to knock them down for it. For every woman who is disclosing sexual violence there is an unidentified sexual predator who is roaming amongst us. He relies on many of the responses, above, to justify his own behaviour. He may not see himself as a predator. For every potential victim of sexual violence, there is a potential sexual predator.
I hope that, rather than warning women to distrust men, we begin by warning men that they are at risk of being a sexual aggressor. We cannot stop sexual violence by warning potential female victims at every stage of their lives to watch out for men. We must begin by warning and educating potential predators: reminding men at every stage of their lives that they are at risk of sexually violating women. We need to move from #MeToo to #YouToo.