Note: This is an opinion blog post, and to be taken as such.
In the spirit of Orange Week let’s talk about one of the most talked about phenomenon of last year: the #metoo movement. The movement has been praised just as much as it has been criticized. It started with headlines like “Women unite in #MeToo” and ended in “Has the #metoo movement gone too far?”. So today, we will take #MeToo back to its roots. Away from Kavanaugh, Weinstein or House of Cards and back to the women of color who started it – and their message. In the light of its origins, these Hollywood scandals take a different shape. It is not about “kicking white men off their jobs” it is not even about them at all. It is about the survivors.
The #metoo movement was started by a civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006. Burke was working in a non-profit called “Just Be” that focused on the overall well-being of young women of color. Working there, she heard countless stories of sexual abuse that left her speechless. She learned to connect with the young victims by saying “You’re not alone. This happened to me too.” Burke saw the power of that little phrase and she kept using it for her life-long career of activism to help victims of sexual assault. In an interview with CNN she explained it like this: "On one side, it's a bold declarative statement that 'I'm not ashamed' and 'I'm not alone.' On the other side, it's a statement from survivor to survivor that says 'I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I'm here for you or I get it.'" This is the message, the only message that #metoo is about.
The founder of the movement has said in many interviews that she sometimes regrets the derailing of the movement that has become a Hollywood spectacle. She blames the media and our culture that always wants to fixate on drama. In 2018, she wants to move the attention away from the obsession with the perpetrators and back to what she originally envisioned: healing.
To me, it is important that we understand that boys too have their place in this healing process. Male victims should be taken seriously and be included in this movement. But we should also focus on all of the other men. The ones that feel threatened by the movement, the ones that say that they are scared to flirt with women or to even be alone with them.
I think that some of these insecurities come from the fact that many of us have had awkward sexual encounters in the past, and now men feel as if they were on trial for every single drunk kiss they ever had. First of all, you are not. But if you feel like you might have hurt somebody in the past, it is okay to reach out to them.
There are a lot of things that can cause sexual trauma, that do not necessarily fit the criminal justice definition of rape. Many of us have had such encounters but we do not dare to talk about them. I think one of the reasons is that the first words that come to mind are “rapist” and “victim” and neither of us want to be either of that.
The #metoo movement should encourage all of us to look back at our sexual history and talk to the people we might have made uncomfortable. There is no shame in learning to know better. We all grew up with the same incomplete sexual education. We all should have known more about consent before the #metoo movement and we all have a lot more to learn. Reach out to whoever you have in mind right now and talk it through. The #metoo movement is about connecting and about healing, you too have your place in this process.
Another reason why men feel uncomfortable in the times of #metoo is because they are scared of false accusations. Fake accusations are a serious crime and we should address them when they occur. But it is important to know that they are extremely rare, while male rape victims are not.
If you as a man only see the #metoo as a threat, then the movement has failed you. You are supposed to feel empowered and protected, just as much as the girls do. A 2010 study* said that about 2-10% of rape allegations are unfounded (the FBI thinks the real number lies around 8%**) while RAINN*** claims that 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual assault at some point of their lives. Let's tackle the real problem.
I want to encourage men to ask questions. To talk about #metoo without being scared of saying something "wrong" that could launch an avalanche of hate. The taboos around consent have brought us into this mess and now is the time for talking. #Metoo is about you, too.