If you use social media you may have seen the #METOO campaign flourish and bloom, with women stepping forward and declaring their experiences of harassment and sexual assault. Some of the women named their attackers, others merely recounted what happened. Women came forward no matter how long ago the attack happened because it does not matter how long ago. It simply boils down to the fact that it did happen, when nothing like that should have happened in the first place.
The hashtag originally appeared on MySpace in 2006, posted by Tarana Burke as part of a grassroots project to empower women through empathy over what they and others had experienced. In October 2017, the hashtag took dominance on Twitter, with women announcing they were the victim of harassment, before moving to social media networks that did not limit their word count. Soon the internet was awash with the stories of these women who were brave enough to show other women that they are not alone.
“People accused it of undermining the original sentiment of the original hashtag – it was somehow belittling the stories of survivors.”
After a short amount of time another hashtag started appearing, one addressed to and for men; #MENTOO. This in itself angered many people who saw it. People accused it of undermining the original sentiment of the original hashtag – it was somehow belittling the stories of survivors. After the initial backlash to this new hashtag, other people started joining the argument, claiming that the suffering of men was being overlooked – only to be met in response with laughter and people questioning ‘the struggles of men’.
Twitter user @men_matter states; ‘This general blaming of men for the problems of women is no different than holding everyone who is white responsible for the slavery wrongs of the past. Today is a new day. I didn’t rape you when you were young and I expect you to treat me as such.’ This holds an important message but unfortunately fails to convey it effectively. It feeds into the statement that ‘not all men are that bad’, an off branch of the ‘nice guy’ cliche which we see all too much of in these narratives.
“Often the struggles of men- and yes, they exist- are overlooked because of how the patriarchal system enforces gender stereotypes.”
Like I said, the message is not all untrue. Holding an entire group of people accountable for a small group’s actions does not help tackle the issues of that small group. Instead, it widens the parameters of their actions to embody everyone. An example of this is the recent spike of Islamophobia that has been seen throughout the Western world in response to terrorist acts carried out by the so-called Islamic State. Traditional forms of media seem to be aiding this pot stirring activity, determined to keep the lines drawn and the armies divided as they know their existence depends on people being kept from open dialogue.
This is why #MENTOO is important. Often the struggles of men- and yes, they exist- are overlooked because of how the patriarchal system enforces gender stereotypes. Men can be abused and sexually assaulted by both men and women, the same as can happen to women – though unfortunately it is statistically more likely to happen to a woman. This is what many people seem to forget: under the patriarchy, everyone suffers. However, the suffering differs according to certain aspects and unless you are a rich, white man you are going to face some amount of suffering throughout your life. Yes, the number of women who are sexually assaulted is alarmingly high but so is the number of male suicides.
Until we find a way to stand together, truly united as a collective of human beings, we will always suffer the same shortcomings. While drawing attention to men who have been the victims of sexual assault is important, the creation of this separate hashtag has done little to help combat this issue. Men who have been victims should have used the #METOO campaign umbrella because that is what it set out to do. Arguing that men need a separate category, their own box to be neatly placed into is just as bad as if same should happen to women.
“By further dividing ourselves between ‘his and hers’ hashtags, we are only keeping ourselves from helping each other.”
However, women did not force men to create this new hashtag. It was created by a portion of the internet where ‘men’s lives matter’ and they carved out this space where they could shout out against the rest of the world.
Feminism is an agent of equality and is an umbrella term for everyone who suffers under the patriarchal system. By further dividing ourselves between ‘his and hers’ hashtags, we are only keeping ourselves from helping each other.
The biggest factor against the #MENTOO was when allegations against Kevin Spacey came forward. It was all part of the #METOO campaign and the Hollywood whistle-blowers who spoke out against these men. By not segregating their claims from the others that where coming forward, these were met with the same level of acceptance and acknowledgement as the other claims that surfaced. It was also shocking due to Kevin Spacey using his rebuttal of these events as a backdrop to coming out, ending years of media rumours.
In turn, we did not see much negative media backlash against the men who came forward. On social media, there were a few comments regarding certain men’s appearance and how they could not correlate why them – which is just an average troll on a comment section. The media itself reported these claims with the same seriousness as all the others.
One argument often presented against the assault of a man by a man is that, unlike a woman, he has the potential to fight his attacker off. This is a damaging statement to make, mainly due to the fact that no one (man nor woman) should have to walk around prepared to potentially have to fight off an attacker. If an attack does happen, you are telling the victim they were not strong enough, not manly enough. Victims of assault come in all shapes and sizes, all genders and sexualities and races. Every single one counts and has a voice.
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