All in all, the #metoo movement has done an awful lot of good. Voices are being heard; stories are being shared; well-known figures are seeing their reputations crumble. The “Silence Breakers” were even named the Time Person Of The Year.
All of the above has meant that there’s a real feeling of a cultural shift. One could be forgiven for feeling we are now entering a new societal phase. This new phase could be one where silence and shame is no longer the response to sexual assault and instead, victims find their voice, find a lawyer, and find justice.
Except, of course, there’s always the backlash– and the #metoo backlash is going to be a big one.
In some ways, it’s easy to see why this is the case; why men (and even some women) may feel as if they are being tarred with a brush they don’t deserve. Rather than try and understand that this isn’t the case, and that #metoo is calling for conversation rather than persecution, the feeling of injustice rankles– and that leads to the following, foolish, statements….
“#MeToo Has Gone Too Far!”
If you’ve been thinking that #metoo has been nothing but a force for good, here’s a rather depressing screenshot of what happens if you Google “#metoo has…”
Yeah. That’s… not great.
Not: “#metoo has changed how we talk about sexual assault” or “#metoo has made a difference to people’s lives”– the autocorrect (which is sourced from actual user searches) suggest that #metoo has gone too far. And also gone to far, for those who aren’t big fans of grammar.
If you find yourself hearing someone proclaim that #metoo has gone too far, just flip it: “isn’t #metoo a sign that sexual assault has gone too far, and something needs to change?”
When it comes to protecting an entire section of humanity, there’s really no too far in the debate.
“#MeToo Will Stop People Being Able To Flirt!”
This one is more than a little tiresome. The idea is always the same: people will no longer feel safe to flirt now that #metoo has broken stories about sexual assault. Women are overreacting to dodgy attempts at flirting and trying to paint them as sexual assault. Due to this, flirting will now be banned.
It’s surprising — and disappointing — just how many people have fallen into this trap of thinking.
First and foremost: to anyone who is concerned that their flirting technique will result in an accusation of sexual assault… maybe rethink your flirting technique? Women aren’t writing #metoo stories because someone offered to buy them a drink; they’re writing these stories about pushy, demanding people who make them feel threatened and coerced. If the way a person flirts makes them think they may become a victim of a sexual assault accusation, then their flirting technique needs serious work.
Secondly, no one in support of #metoo is wanting flirting to end. That is not the goal or the objective of the movement. Flirting is fine, harmless, even necessary, providing that a “no” is respected and there is no physical contact without consent. Is that really too much to ask?
“#MeToo Situations Happen To Men As Well!”
Yes, and no one is denying that. Men can experience aggressive sexual assault and deserve their voices to be heard– and have been.
Such an acknowledgement, however, shouldn’t be necessary. The “happens to men as well” statement is often uttered by those who are looking to make the conversation around #metoo binary: men versus women. This isn’t how the matter should be approached at all.
Toxic masculinity is damaging to men as well as women, and #metoo is — currently — the most effective tool we have for discussing this issue. This isn’t a scrap between the genders; it’s a quest for better understanding.
“Some Women Think #MeToo Is Stupid!”
Sure. Some women think feminism is stupid; some men think that machismo is stupid. When you’re talking about such a large group, of course there are going to be dissenters.
There are a number of reasons that women may feel they need to speak up against #metoo. The first is internalised misogyny, which is a huge societal factor that doesn’t receive a huge amount of attention. The second reason is genuinely feeling that the movement is not useful and that women should just be able to brush past these things (which is in itself a form of internalised misogyny). The third reason is that they just don’t care much, which is completely fine– not everyone gets stirred by the same issues.
Once more, this statement is uttered by those who seek to create the “men versus women” debate where it should not exist.
“What Happened To Innocent Before Proven Guilty?”
In some ways, this statement is a powerful one, as it seems to chafe against the basic fundamentals of law we’re all meant to understand.
However, “innocent until proven guilty” only applies in a courtroom, not in an essay, a Tweet, or any other circumstance. If someone makes a statement that the accused does not believe to be true, they already have a legal defence against this: slander.
Admittedly, the above is imperfect, and it is perhaps somewhat difficult to see men losing their jobs because of an accusation alone. However, it is worth remembering that these men do have recourse against such an accusation and, if they choose not to pursue it, then there might be some fire behind the smoke.
Some men are indeed suing for slander after being accused of inappropriate behaviour and as these cases progress, the concern over innocent until proven guilty should begin to be addressed in a natural way.
It might be nice to think that #metoo has changed things only for the better, but the backlash has been swift, and will likely continue for some time. The important thing to remember is that stories are being heard and, ultimately, this is the most important aspect to come of the #metoo movement– the silence being broken.