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The #MeToo movement is no longer about the victims

by Iris Espanenza about a month ago in activism

How a social revolution was highjacked

The #MeToo movement is no longer about the victims

In 2017, the MeToo movement promised something that many victims of sexual assault could never have dreamed of. After centuries of silencing women’s voices and scoffing at their stories, one hashtag suddenly became a beacon of hope for survivors around the world – promising real change to the way we regard sexual assault allegations, and offering a community they could seek refuge in.

Depressingly, the MeToo movement, or the TimesUp movement in Hollywood, proved that the only way to make some men care about female suffering is to present it with consequences that actually affect their reputations. In Hollywood, it was the threat of being ‘cancelled’ by the media (or the end of an upcoming movie contract), that spurred many male celebrities into a frenzy. I feel guilty in admitting that part of me took a delight in this newfound panic many men in Hollywood and across the world were experiencing, after the female gender has suffered for centuries. Let’s be honest, its validating when someone else’s feet start hurting once they take a walk in your shoes.

It was a sigh of relief to witness a powerful, unstoppable industry tycoon like Harvey Weinstein become a vagrant from society, after banishing so many of his own victims to the same fate. A tired and angry part of me wanted these men to be scared, purely out of retribution for the centuries of oppression and fear that the female gender has endured at the hands of men. Out of retribution for the horror stories every girl grows up hearing from her female family members. Out of retribution for every woman who walks home at night with keys clutched between her fingers, or endures cat-calls and groping on her commute to work, or laughs off her boss’s sexual innuendos. Out of retribution for the women who didn't live to tell their stories.

I enjoyed watching Karma do her job, as we all do. But my satisfaction in the panic these men felt in having to answer for their actions soon vanished, once their ‘fear’ was all I began hearing about in the media.

3 years after the genesis of a cultural reset, I believe the #MeToo movement now stands for something almost entirely different. I think I began noticing it around a year later, that the media had changed its mind about who the real victims of the movement were. It was no longer Rose McGowan, the actress who was raped by Harvey Weinstein and permanently blacklisted from Hollywood after speaking out. No, instead it was men like poor Henry Cavill, who bravely confessed that he is now “hesitant” and “nervous” about flirting with women without being called a rapist. Innocent, confused and well intending men terrified out of their wits of being falsely accused, are now society’s real victims.

Who knew that encouraging men to simply be mindful of their interactions with female coworkers would scare them so much? After all, women have been doing it for centuries, we’re used to society constantly telling us how to act.

Once again, a monumentally inspirational social revolution that helped countless victims find their voice and find safety in numbers, was suddenly pushed aside to instead obsess over men’s feelings. As one twitter user replied to Henry Cavill’s controversy, “the lengths men will go to make themselves the victim is astounding.”

I should have known it would only be a matter of time before society bent over backwards to sympathize with the men who had started this mess in the first place. Rather than MeToo being discussed as an opportunity to teach the next generation about accountability and respecting consent, I began hearing buzzwords like ‘witch-hunt’ being thrown around. It all stems from the problematic ideology that naming oppressors is somehow a malicious form of revenge that victims take enjoyment in – that women are eager for any opportunity to strike against the male sex. It ties completely into the 21st Century’s demonization of the feminist movement as ‘man-hating’, or being overly annoyed by political correctness. But that's a rant for another time.

The idea of women taking advantage of the movement to falsely accuse men of sexual misconduct was suddenly exaggerated to seem like an actual threat to men. On the anniversary of the first tweet that started the hashtag, one of the UK’s biggest news outlets – the Telegraph – invented this headline: “Now British Men Are More Afraid Than Ever”.

I don’t know about you, but I believe there’s an enormous difference between men being afraid that some mentally unhinged, attention seeking woman will falsely accuse them of violence, versus the actual fear women have of suffering said violence and losing our jobs if we dare to speak out. I felt the same punch in the stomach when I read a new episode of Youtube’s debate channel ‘The Middleground’, titled: “Has the #MeToo Movement Gone Too Far?”

Albeit, false accusations aren’t unheard of, and when they do happen, they cause irreparable damage to men’s careers, personal lives and mental health. It is definitely a topic that needs to be addressed and acknowledged. But if the statistic for false accusations was as high as a woman’s actual chance of being sexually harassed, I might understand the fuss. In proportion to the majority of rapes that go unreported (an estimated 87%) and the countless instances of rapists getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the judicial system, the fear of being falsely accused should be as scary to a man as the threat of getting struck by lightning – because they are just about the same likelihood.

The False Accusation Card was a subtle and smart ploy to silence the real victims, and once again create sympathy for the world’s fragile male egos.

Then came the second draw of the deck – the ‘Not All Men’ card. #NotAllMen soon became a competing hashtag, to again invalidate women’s fears by suggesting that not all men are bad, so in other words: quit whining, you hysterical females. Apparently exposing abusive men in Hollywood was an attack against.... all men? Looks like they dug themselves that hole, but hey.

The truth is, it should never have been about how Not All Men are guilty. It should have been about how All Women have had to sacrifice multiple freedoms and adjust our lives according to power that Some Men use to assault women. That despite Not All Men being rapists, there are enough dangerous men out there who are, to make Every Woman think twice before walking home alone at night, being in an elevator alone with a stranger, or taking the subway to work.

Because we know not all men are bad. There are plenty of amazingly kind, gentle, responsible men I know that I would trust my life with. Those men know who they are, and don’t feel the need to insecurely remind us of how grateful we should be that they’re Nice Guys.

The phrase “what do you want, a medal?” suddenly has a depressing irony to it. Because yes, apparently that’s exactly what Nice Guys now want. Its as if the bare minimum that was expected of men has now become an incredibly high bar that they now need a podium to stand on in order to reach.

I will cut men some slack by stating that I don’t believe they’re solely responsible for creating this self-pitying trend. Spinning the narrative to victimize perpetrators has been done before by various groups of people. It didn’t take long for the early Black Lives Matter campaigns of the 90s (and even today in 2020) to mutate into a conversation about how dangerous and scary it is to be a cop, embodied in the reactionary hashtag '#BlueLivesMatter'. Despite an incredibly strong police union and the US Government making it virtually impossible to sue police officers, society managed to become convinced that being a cop was just as dangerous as being systematically targeted and oppressed for your skin color. In time, the simple acknowledgement that Black Lives Matter soon became synonymous with cop-hating and disrespecting the law. And just like that, Black victims of police brutality were right back where they started, but now even more exhausted.

We are seeing history repeat itself with the MeToo movement, but I hope we are not too late to resurrect it. Because this trend of playing the devil’s advocate sets a dangerous precedent for which voices we as a society believe are worth prioritizing. We all can do better by being conscious of the news we consume. By noticing who’s lips we hold microphones to. And by finding a way to entertain different sides of a debate without forgetting who the real victims are.

Iris Espanenza
Iris Espanenza
Read next: The State
Iris Espanenza

Just a girl trying to figure out life in a modern world.

See all posts by Iris Espanenza