My Facebook feed is filled with women standing in solidarity against sexual assault and harassment by writing the simple words, “Me too.”
Some are bravely recounting stories of their own experiences to bring awareness to the prevalence of predatory sexual behavior. I’m 5’10” tall, and I grew to this height in eighth grade. Trust me when I say I received my fair share of unwanted sexual advances over the years, particularly as a young woman who didn’t know how to stand my ground. But, I can’t write, “Me, too.”
I can’t write it because the original post says, “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. Please copy/paste.”
And that first line, where only women are invited to participate, enrages me.
The narrative where men are predators and women are victims, though often true, is one I cannot support. Predators are predators and victims are victims. Not all men sexually harass women. Further, some women sexually harass men. Some men sexually harass men. Some women sexually harass women. Some non-cisgender folks harass cisgender folks and other non-cisgender folks. This culture of abuse is not as simple as “men on top.”
Does it really harm anyone to leave men out of this conversation? I believe it does.
First, there is the obvious harm this does to victims of sexual harassment and assault who are left out of the conversation because they are not female. They may feel their story has less power than a woman’s story, that it doesn’t deserve to be told, or that no one will believe them when they tell it.
In this current example of stories of abuse in Hollywood, Corey Feldman has been open for many years about the molestation he suffered at the hands of an unnamed movie executive. He told People in 2016 that Corey Haim, who died with a lethal amount of prescription medication in his system at the age of 38, was raped as a young child.
Corey’s voice needs to be heard, and his story needs to be told. The fact that sexual assault is seen as a “women’s issue” creates additional layers of shame for men who have their own stories to tell.
Second, this binary statement, which only invites women to participate, takes voice away from the many male allies who would like to actively participate in this discussion and work toward a solution. My husband is a white male. I am often sad for him, because he is told repeatedly to shut up and listen. He’s told his voice is innately misogynist, bigoted, and ill-informed. He is told he doesn’t understand, and he can’t understand. What gives him the motivation, then, to try to understand?
I believe he actually does understand. He understands because he listens, because I invite him to share his voice and participate, and because we have open dialogue. I don’t tell him he doesn’t get to speak about assault and harassment. I ask him questions about how he feels, what he sees, and how he would like to be treated.
Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t like being treated like he is innately predatory. Also unsurprisingly, he can never share my exact experience. I can never share his, either. This is part of us being two different people. It is not part of us being two different genders.
As a 33-year-old female, I am no stranger to unwanted sexual advances. I have been groped, cat-called, and coerced into situations I did not willingly consent to. My body has been used and abused. Perhaps the saddest part is I, in my youth, bought into the narrative that my body was quite worthless, and I have been one of my own abusers.
Though they’ve started to wane in frequency as I’ve aged, I’m certain I’ll continue to experience unwanted advances. Today, I’m much better at using my voice to put an end to such advances when they happen. Today, I no longer participate in the abuse of my own body.
I have a vision for the world I’d like to raise my daughter in. I’d like her to know the value of her body, the reverence with which it should be treated, how to revere her body, and how to find someone who will also revere it. I’d also like for her to revere the bodies and voices of those around her, including the men.
I hope she learns early how to speak up against unwanted advances. I know and fear she may not always have the chance, and I know there is a lot to make the world safe from sexual predators. Because I know this, I’d like her to respect, listen to, and invite voices from those who have earned her trust and work to make the world safer for her. Even the male voices.
Guys, I invite you to say, “Me, too.” I invite you to share how you’re feeling about the news cycle. And you don’t have to fall on the sword in front of me in order for me to listen. You get a voice. You get to have an opinion. You get to be my ally.
Author: Bethany Eanes
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis