– Zenia Zuraiq, II BSc. Physics
– Art by Tanvi Hemani, I B.A Visual Arts
The #MeToo movement has been an important focus of last month’s news cycle. Several men of great public influence have been outed as being part of manipulative and abusive acts against women. Sexual assault allegations have been rampant. The movement has then, obviously, gained some significant public traction.
There have been a number of varied responses to the movement. Mainstream media has held the movement as a positive one, helping give agency to those who aren’t ordinarily able to voice out their experiences. #MeToo has helped platform and expose some of the difficulties that women have to face in these industries.
There has however also been some notable criticism of the movement. #MeToo is not without fault – some problems mentioned includes how the movement has an incredibly short focus. The movement has (so far) not taken any concrete, long-term steps to stop an environment that enables men in positions of power to commit such acts in the first place. Good-natured criticism aside however, there has also been a vocal faction of people who have been criticising the movement.. less constructively.
The counter-movement #HimToo has been growing steadily on social media. Men, especially, have been vocalizing some concerns about the current environment that #MeToo has encouraged. Concerns have been raised about false allegations, and how “Believing Survivors Blindly” can lead to certain people taking advantage. People have also been voicing concerns about “not knowing where the line is” anymore. “How far can an innocent interaction go before it turns into something that can be reconstructed as a sexually inappropriate?”.
It’s obvious to see that this is a ridiculous position to take regarding such a sensitive issue. To look at the fact that multiple women are finally getting the courage to speak against all the pressure from external forces and then conclude that the issue must be reframed to have you as the victim is an extremely shallow one. #HimToo portrays why women hesitate to come forward in the first place. We live in a culture that would rather portray women as lying and opportunistic than even listening to the women in question.
Of course, women lying and/or taking advantage of this current situation is not, by any means, unheard of. It is something that we need to consider and have an honest discussion about, while considering the subtleties and nuances surrounding the issue. However, using such a rare possibility to fear-monger and turn people away from a movement that is just in its infancy is not just misleading, it’s harmful. Today, as the movement is beginning to gain traction and cover more ground, we need to remember that it takes a lot of courage to come out to a society that is not exactly welcoming. Victims do not come out with their repressed trauma for the attention. It is important that when presented with such raw emotion, we are able to empathise, instead of cross-examining an already fragile person. Incidentally, the hostility around victims reporting incidents of sexual abuse is an important factor in what makes them hesitant to come forward in the first place. Women are ostracized both for coming forward and for not coming forward. For the victim, it seems like a real lose-lose, so the notion of any ulterior “end goal” she might have seems to be absurd.
It is also important that we recognise that by talking about the seeming surge of “fake accusations” is in itself, ironically, manipulative. #HimToo is not just a problem of a few men whining; it has gained support rapidly amongst many people and has been used to sway countless others. The #HimToo movement is an extremely loaded one, serving no other purpose than to shift your focus away from the real victims – the real issue. That real issue is the toxic environment that enables masculinity and power dynamics to get entangled to this messy degree; that helps men get to a position where they are protected even after the worst crimes. #HimToo is just as political as #MeToo and it’s one that serves no other purpose than to discredit a group of people who have been voiceless enough as it is.
At the end of the day, when you, as a person, look at victims of abuse coming forward and reframe it around the gender that (mostly) committed the crime in the first place, it reveals exactly what agenda you prioritize. And that agenda does not involve women.