Change #metoo to #ifoughtback
Change #metoo to #ifoughtback
After Hollywood starlet Alyssa Milano launched a social media storm to expose sexual assault and harassment, I was dismayed to see how many of my female friends on social media joined the campaign and proclaimed themselves to be victims. The hashtag campaign was meant to expose the enormity of the problem after revelations against serial groper and rapist Harvey Weinstein rocked Hollywood.
On Sunday actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a note that read “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
The sheer scope of the problem was vast, indeed. I was sickened to see how many people I know were victimized by scum.
But I did not join in the latest hashtag activism fad, and please let me explain why.
First, I don’t believe in waving the victim flag. There’s no pride in being prey, and I refuse to advertise a tragedy, and claim some kind of moral authority because of it.
Second, “sexual harassment” is many times a subjective issue. I’ve seen women get upset and claim sexual harassment because a man made an inappropriate joke at work, because a man they didn’t find attractive gave them a compliment, or because a man had a comic, cartoon, or picture pinned to his office wall that the female found objectionable. And because there’s a certain amount of subjectivity involved in this campaign, it waters down the very real, very traumatic subject of sexual harassment and rape. It promotes the concept of “rape culture” and victimhood, and dilutes the definition of sexual violence against women to whatever the “victim” wants it to be.
Third, it promotes a mob mentality – a mentality that advances the desire to be part of a group and the mindset that misery loves company. Instead of being appalled at the number of women who claim to have been sexually abused, the hashtag activists appear glad for the company, as if it somehow makes their plight more real to have others join them. Personally, I’d be thrilled if I was one of just a handful of women who experienced this, but instead these women seem to wallow in the sheer size of this repulsive swamp and celebrate when others fall in. Many of these people seem to rejoice that their cause has so many victims, as if the cause wasn’t real enough before. While I understand that having a lot of people with whom to commiserate helps healing to a degree, I can see it also promotes a certain pride in victimhood mentality, and that’s just not me.
Fourth, it excludes men. It also excludes women as predators. The implicit assumption is that only women are victimized, and only men are predators. A friend on FaceBook actually recounted an encounter in which someone chicksplained that “Saying guys can be assaulted in response to a #metoo post is like saying ‘all lives matter’ to a black man.” Pardon me while I pound my head into a wall until there’s a massive dent. The CDC reports that 1 in 71 men has been raped, but remember, that number only includes rapes that have been reported. It’s much harder for a man to report rape or even sexual harassment. It impugns their masculinity (You didn’t fight back and let someone take advantage of you? What kind of man are you?), it undermines their credibility (Yeah, right, sure you got groped! A real man would enjoy it!), and because of this, it’s vastly under-reported, even more so in the workplace. How likely is a man to report sexual assault or harassment, if he knows he will likely not be believed and will almost certainly be demeaned and derided as something less than a man for falling victim to sexual assault? I knew a guy who was groped by his female superior. She demanded sex in exchange for special treatment. I told him to report it. He refused, and said “I’m not worried about it. That’s just the way it is.” Sexual assault and sexual harassment isn’t a women problem, it’s an everyone problem.
Fifth, the #metoo campaign solves nothing. You read it right. It solves nothing. It prompts no action, other than momentary outrage on the Internet, after which, readers will move on to something else.
And finally, how many of the women who are posting #metoo on social media fought back? How many of them did something other post a hashtag on social media? Hollywood knew about Weinstein. Actresses are crawling out from under their rocks and claiming he abused them, and yet they fell all over themselves for decades to laud him and thank him for helping advance their careers! Where was their outrage when they were groped? Courney Love warned young actresses in 2005 to stay away from Weinstein. Gwyneth Paltrow in 1995 at least had the balls to tell then-boyfriend Brad Pitt that Weinstein groped her, and to his credit, Pitt threatened to beat the crap out of the hairy, fat pig if he ever laid hands on Paltrow again. Angelina Jolie had the courage to at least walk away after the pestilent creep pawed her. But overall, Hollywood was largely silent, blaming men writ large for the problem in Tinseltown, because PATRIARCHY or something.
Here’s a clue for you: the fact that men are “in charge,” and the fact that the majority of women still report to men in Hollywood isn’t the problem. The problem is that none of them had the courage to speak out. They allowed this to happen. They lauded him, kissed him, posed for pictures with him, and protected his veneer of benevolence, and by doing so, they allowed him to continue to victimize other women. It’s not about men being in charge. It’s about alleged victims helping perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
How many of these women stood up and exposed that odious, loathsome lech for what he really is? They didn’t. They were afraid for their careers. They were afraid he would sue them. And instead of having the courage to slap that pig down, they allowed other young women to be assaulted and harassed.
How many women on my FaceBook feed stood up? How many of them reported their assaults? How many of them fought to ensure their experiences were not repeated, and other women were not similarly victimized?
So, here’s where I reveal it all. I was sexually assaulted when I was a college student by a completely insane ex, who I later found out was sexually abused as a child by a relative, leading to some serious psychological issues. I was prevented by laws and regulations from carrying a personal firearm for protection, and I was left defenseless by the very government that was supposedly there to protect me from violence. I made sure he was arrested, and he was jailed, spent several years in prison, and ultimately deported (he was here legally, but that visa was revoked). I swore to myself right then and there that I would never become a victim again. Ever.
No, I was never sexually harassed at work. Yes, most of my supervisors were male. No, I was never threatened or offered promotions in exchange for sex – not in the private sector, and not in the Army. Ever. When a drunken supervisor demanded I date him, I looked him straight in the eye and told him to “Walk the fuck away. Now.” When an officer in my chain of command got a bit gropy on deployment, he received such a rebuke, that he begged forgiveness the next morning. I don’t consider these incidents “sexual harassment” per se, because I successfully slapped them down, because they would never have impacted my career, and frankly I don’t view ham-handed attempts at “hooking up” or dating to be a huge issue. Human beings desire human contact – especially on deployment. Additionally, two incidents in my eight years of service that resulted in absolutely nothing other than abject humiliation for the men involved aren’t what I would consider sexual harassment problem.
But that’s my experience. I wonder how many others would consider the incidents I described as “sexual harassment” and would gleefully fly that #metoo flag on their social media status.
My point here is that I would encourage victims to fight back. Fight back to ensure that the predator is held accountable. Fight back to protect other women who may become prey at the hands of these exploiters. Fight back for your dignity. Fight back for your honor. Defend yourself when needed, and use every tool at your disposal to do so.
It’s not enough to speak up and wave the victim flag. That hashtag proclaiming yourself to have been a victim will not give you moral authority.
Fighting back against your abuser will.
Change that #metoo to #ifoughtback. Proclaiming yourself to be a victim will not give you power. Ensuring that it doesn’t happen to others, will.