What Men Can Learn From The #MeToo Movement

What Men Can Learn From the #MeToo Movement

In my last post, I wrote about “Christine, Brett, and Me: One Man’s Reaction To The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearings.” I got a lot of reaction from both men and women. Some people made a single comment in support or opposition. Some people continued to post, generally in angry opposition to what I had written. It was clear that we all have biases, some personal, some political. If you are a Democrat or you lean to the left, you are more likely to have opposed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and believed Christine Blasey Ford’s account of what happened. You thought Ms. Ford was telling the truth and that Mr. Kavanaugh was denying his wrong doing or didn’t remember what had happened. If you were a Republican or right leaning you tended to believe Brett Kavanaugh’s account and thought Ford’s testimony was a political ploy by partisan Democrats to smear the reputation of an innocent man.

If you were a man, you tended to believe Brett Kavanaugh. If you were a woman you tended to believe Christine Blasey Ford, though many men who shared their feelings about my article believed Ms. Ford and a number of women believed Brett Kavanaugh. But the hearings are over, the votes have been recorded and Brett Kavanaugh has been elevated to the Supreme Court. Many people will feel joyful that Present Trump’s nomination has been placed on the highest court in the land and will be making decisions that impact our lives for decades into the future. Others, like me, will feel it’s a real tragedy and will have negative consequences for years to come.

There are some truths that are evident to me as I reflect on the hearings and think about the #MeToo Movement and the realities of sexual harassment and sexual assault that continue to occur between men and women.

First, in accusations and denials between men and women, there is a tendency to see it as a “she said, he said,” as though the two people involved had equal power and the system in which they are a part is a level playing field. The truth is that the people involved are generally not equals. One usually has more power than the other. Brett Kavanaugh has a lot more power than Christine Blassey Ford. Also, the system in which she says and he says is not a level playing field. The field tilts towards those in power.

Our political system and many other parts of our social and political environment favor white men in power. Any woman accusing a man in power is at a disadvantage regardless of whether she is believed or not.

Second, we all know that some people lie about events in the past or have selective memories. Many assume that in the case of allegations of sexual misconduct, the chances of a woman lying are about the same as a woman who is telling the truth. Likewise, the chances of a man being falsely accused are the same as the chances that the man did what he was accused of doing.

There are a number of myths about sexual assault including the following:

  • “Lots of women cry rape when they regret sex.”
  • “Women accuse politicians, celebrities, and athletes of rape all the time for money and attention.”
  • “The definition of ‘rape’ is so loose these days – women can claim anything is rape and get away with it.”
  • “They didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute, so she was probably lying.”
  • “If she was really raped she would have called the police.”
  • “If it really happened she would remember all the details and speak out at the time the assault occurred.”

The truth is that most sexual assaults are never reported, but when they are the number of reports that turn out to be false is very low, somewhere between 2% and 10% depending on the study. These are similar statistics for people who falsely report on other crimes such as theft or burglary. We are much more likely to disbelieve a woman if she says she was raped than if she says she was robbed. But the chances of a woman falsely reporting a robbery are no greater than a woman falsely reporting a rape.

Third, white men in power are afraid of a female uprising just as white men in power were once afraid (and sometimes still are afraid) of an uprising of people of color. When we abuse others, we are always afraid of reprisals.

Fourth, most men don’t sexually abuse women. Though we’ve all done things in our past that were inappropriate and crossed the line. Yes, I’ll admit my hand slipped downward from her waist and came to rest on the curve of her backside, until she gently, but firmly grabbed my hand and brought it back to her waist. We were at our junior high dance and the Everly Brothers were singing “All I Have to Do is Dream.” And that’s not the only line I’ve crossed, but I never forced myself on a woman, always controlled my roving hands when she said “no,” verbally or non-verbally, and I always respected a woman’s boundaries no matter how much we had been drinking. And I believe this is true of most men.

Fifth, we’ve all been complicit when we close our eyes to sexual abuse, whether its laughing or participating in jokes about “making it with her,” or turning a blind eye when a guy is getting sexually aggressive towards a woman and not saying, “Hey, back off. She said, ‘no,’” or failing to hold each other accountable for being the men of quality we all want to be and treating women with respect. We must also remember that males experience sexual abuse too and it can have lasting impact on their lives. We often fail to support men in telling the truth about their experiences of sexual trauma.

Six, we must applaud women who hold other women accountable. In a heart-felt article, “I Stand For Zero Tolerance Of Any Democrat Or Republican Assaulting Women,” which I recommend you read in full, my colleague Lissa Rankin spoke directly to her sisters in saying, “The Divine Feminine Does Not Use #METOO To Manipulate Or Seek Revenge.”

She went on:

“I support survivors and I have stood for women professionally since I became an OB/GYN physician 25 years ago. But I also have to call out my sisters, the ones who are abusing #METOO. I say this with all due respect for your pain. I am sorry for your pain and believe you have every right to tell your story, have others bear witness, ask for others to make apologies and make amends, and do what you must to heal. But some of you are channeling decades of unhealed rage—rage against all the men who have ever hurt you, even if they didn’t sexually assault you—into false accusations. THIS IS NOT OK. Women need to stand clean in our storytelling and not use #METOO as a way to falsely accuse someone who broke your heart but didn’t violate your physical or sexual safety. Falsely accusing someone of sexual assault can ruin lives and discredit those who are telling the truth, muddying the waters when we need to stay crystal clean, standing in the fierceness of our truth and standing up to women who are lying or exaggerating just because you feel entitled to get revenge. If that’s what you are doing sister, I stand for the Divine Feminine. The Goddess does NOT lie or manipulate in order to get your needs met or get revenge. Get your needs met. Yes. But don’t lie or manipulate or pull some drama queen damsel in distress story out of your back pocket if it’s not the truth.”

We’re all in this together. The battle of the sexes is part of the old dominator culture that needs to end. Men and women are natural allies and we can work together to stop sexual assault now and forever. I look forward to your comments.

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This article was originally published at menalive.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.