How Have Men Been Interacting With #MeToo?

By Jared Hammer on November 3, 2017

Some people may think #MeToo is yesterday’s news. But sexual violence and gender discrimination are not simply going to disappear, so I’m really not done talking about it. You shouldn’t be done talking either.

I realize we aren’t going to end sexual violence with a hashtag, but what the #MeToo campaign does really well is getting a conversation going. If we keep up this momentum, we might actually be able to make some change.

Image from pixabay.com

In case you need some background information

The original use of Me Too is credited to Tarana Burke, who first used the phrase in 2007. In an interview with Ebony Magazine, she said:

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow. It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

A decade later actress Alyssa Milano shared #MeToo on Oct. 15, encouraging women to share their experiences with sexual harassment or assault in order to show the world how widespread of an issue this really is. In just nine days the hashtag had been used over 1.7 million times and had reached 85 countries! And that’s just the numbers from Twitter alone. If we had numbers from Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media, I expect the numbers would show that #MeToo has made contact with at least several million more.

Presumably, these posts have led to millions of real, face-to-face conversations about sexual violence. Some people are even taking the phrase to the streets. The woman in this video took the bed she was raped on and made a powerful public statement out of it.

Most importantly, as Tarana Burke originally intended, Me Too is a way of uniting victims and letting them know that they are not alone. But at the same time, it has also been a call for women to stand up against misogynist behavior. It is as much a tool for healing as it is a battle cry for change.

                                                                                  How men have interacted with #MeToo 

Infographic composed by Jared Hammer

Expectedly, men had difficulty fitting into the conversation. While the majority of men chose not to speak up at all, there was considerable backlash for those who did. Some men opened up about their own experiences as sexual victims, while others admitted their role in the sexual oppression of women with #IHave.

From the conversations I saw, male victims of sexual violence who used the hashtag were primarily met with support from women. These women recognized that while this issue affects women on a much greater scale, sexual violence is in no way exclusive to women.

According to rainn.org, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S., approximately 10 percent of rape victims are male. Still, with women being affected on such a wider scale than men, some felt that the focus should stay on violence against women, at least for now.

The other side of men speaking up in the #MeToo campaign was the men who spoke up using #IHave, the idea being that for every #MeToo, there is someone on the other end of the equation. The intention of the effort has been for men to openly acknowledge ways they have been a part of the problem. By confessing their own role and promising to stand up against sexually oppressive behavior, these men were trying to be a part of the solution.

A lot of people found #IHave highly distasteful. The majority of #IHave posts are primarily from men admitting to behavior that would be classified as sexual harassment or admitting a failure to stand up against it. Generally, these posts are accompanied with a vow to change this behavior. Despite their intentions, these men are often finding themselves lumped into the same category as the men who have committed serious sexual crimes.

I found it disheartening to see these men treated like rapists. Although they are admitting their contribution to rape culture, finding men who never have contributed to the problem are few and far between. The men who use #IHave are trying to start a conversation about changing that narrative. I think we should be encouraging this behavior.

I expect many women who spoke out against #IHave were reminded of past traumas and/or slimy experiences they’ve had with sexual harassment. Thinking through this lens, it makes sense that a simple “#IHave and I’m sorry” doesn’t feel like enough. The simplicity of posting a status, without seeing it backed up by action, implied to critics that these men expected their past crimes to be absolved if they just made a post about it.

While I don’t think men should be discouraged from participating in the conversation, and I think #IHave is a conversation that needs to be had, I can agree that a social media status is not enough. For those who want to do more than a status update and need a stronger starting point, this article from CNN has a lot of great advice for men who want to be a part of the solution. With time, sexual education, and a willingness to change, we can help end sexual violence.

I'm an aspiring assistant language teacher and travel writer. Currently I live in Bozeman, where I attend Montana State University and study writing and Japanese studies. I work at an amazing local restaurant and in stereotypical writer fashion, I've come to develop a hipster level love of coffee and latte art. In Bozeman, you can also catch me on stage as the hairy drag monster, JaJa Ohmai.

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