Cis Men 'All Lives Matter' the "Me Too" Movement
Let me start by saying that it takes great courage, strength, and vulnerability to speak up about sexual harassment and assault.
That being said, if you are a cis man, this movement is not for you.
On Sunday, October 15th, Alyssa Milano launched the "Me Too" campaign via Twitter. The premise, invented by Milano's friend, was simple: women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted were to tweet "Me too," and the world would see just how widespread sexual harassment is for the women of this world.
The movement was in response to the myriad women who have come out to speak against Harvey Weinstein. It should have opened everyone's eyes to just how violent this world is against women. And for a moment, it did.
Then, it was co-opted by cis men because God forbid they be left out of anything.
I first noticed it when a man on my Facebook feed posted the following:
"Idk if I'm allowed to do this but here goes,
To be honest, I was irked. I was sorry to hear that he had experienced sexual trauma, but I was also upset that he'd used a platform designed for women to announce it. What upset me the most was the fact that, to some extent, he knew this wasn't his platform to co-opt hence the preface "Idk if I'm allowed to do this."
When I brought this up, someone asked me to see the original text and once provided, they understood. The prompt they'd seen was rewritten as "If everyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. " [sic]
The prompt they had seen had deliberately erased women.
This was my first cause for concern.
The next thing I saw on my timeline was a man posting:
'If all the men/women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'
I am not posting this to try and take attention away from women, rather to show that it happens to men too and it's ok to come forward."
This was my second, third, and fourth cause for concern.
I had found justifiable reason in the wording being changed to "everyone." Perhaps, it was so that it could be more inclusive to trans individuals who could speak of violence they'd endured because of the traditionally female form they once/still had.
But this, this was deliberate. This was men, if you will, thrusting themselves into a women's situation.
Hint: If you have to disclaim something with "I'm not trying to take attention away from this women-focused movement," then you're probably taking attention from the movement.
Let's be clear: Sexual harassment and the subsequent forced hush put on males is a serious issue in our society.
Let us also be clear: This campaign isn't about that.
From the beginning, the word "women" was thoughtfully and strategically used because this campaign is about violence against women. This is a movement about violence done to the female body due to the mere fact that it exists and is female.
As well-intentioned as some male survivors of sexual assault may be, they are effectively distracting the campaign and changing the narrative being told. This is not a campaign meant to bring all survivors forward so we can hold hands — this is a campaign meant to open everyone's eyes to the fact that not a single woman in their friends list can say they haven't been violently sexualized unconsentingly either verbally, physically, or both.
Women are silenced so often when speaking about sexual assault - hence the fact that Weinstein allegations are just now coming out. This movement was created as a luminous response to that, and for cis men to jump in with their personal "Me too" narratives is, in a way, another form of silencing. More than that, it's damaging. It's corrupting of a safe space created for women's narratives and voices. In the wake of this campaign, I was finally warming up to the idea of speaking about my own sexual assault. When I started seeing men posting, I no longer felt safe to do so. For me, it had gone from a space for women's vulnerability to another co-opted space where my voice was no longer the focus. I no longer felt safe to be vulnerable.
This is a time for women to speak.
This is a time for women's truths.
This is a time to listen. To put yourself aside, just for the moment, and listen.
Because in the same way that saying "Black lives matter" is not meant to erase other lives, reserving "Me too" for women is not meant to erase men.
It just means it's our turn to speak.
So, to cis men posting their "Me too's,"
Yes, I believe that your intentions are well.
Yes, I believe that male sexual assault is a valid and addressable concern in this country.
Yes, I am so sorry that someone disrespected the forest, the wildfire, the magic that is your body and spirit. And I appreciate your strength in coming forward.
But this is a women's platform.
So please, get off of it.
Please, just listen.
***After publication, we were informed that the #MeToo movement was actually founded by Tarana Burke, a Black woman. So #MeToo was actually started by a Black woman, then co-opted by a white woman, then co-opted by white men.
Thus is life.