It was just last week that the #MeToo campaign started. In case you missed it, women throughout social media used that hashtag to call out that they were the victims of sexual harassment or abuse. Sometimes they shared the full story, and sometimes they just used “Me too” to call attention to the widespread nature of the problem.
As with most populist movements, it has had unintended consequences. That’s what we’re here to talk about now.
Let’s talk about the issues it’s caused men.
The whole point of the campaign was to show how often women are attacked–physically, verbally, emotionally–by men, and making them more comfortable coming forward with their complaints. But giving carte blanche believability to women can only create opportunities for women to hold the threat of accusation against men.
Obviously, I’m not saying all women will do the wrong thing like this. But it only takes some to create enormous problems for men. Being accused of sexual assault is a serious issue, one that could last your entire life. How are you supposed to get over the trauma of it?
A lot of men might start blaming themselves, thinking they did something wrong when they were just an innocent victim. And everyone will look at them differently if they know about it. Your social and professional lives may never recover.
Recently, Bill Cosby has seen his entire career tarnished beyond repair, Bill O’Reilly has paid millions upon millions in settlements, and Harvey Weinstein has been ousted from the company he created, all on the basis of allegations of sexual misconduct. If such popular and powerful men like these can be felled by mere accusations, what chance do regular guys like me have?
The balance has tipped too far. Men can give detailed accounts of what really happened, but who’s going to believe them in this environment? Many will believe it’s better to just keep quiet, suffer the indignity and pain of the accusation in silence, rather than relive it through legal recourse. In trying to bring their accuser to justice, they know that their account will be thrown back in their face, and they’ll be made out to be the reason it all happened.
Their silence will deepen their suffering, and it means other men won’t know there are others out there like them, who have been accused of these terrible things. It creates a culture where men are just expected to suffer in silence. This is not the society we should be creating.
Even if this has never happened to an individual, it can affect them. Suddenly, we’ll have to watch everything we say for fear it will be taken the wrong way. What if we say something we think is innocuous, but a women sees it as an invitation to accuse us of harassment? We’ll carry that with us forever.
We have to be mindful of everything we wear and every action we take. Does wearing a trenchcoat make us look like a flasher, and an easy target for an accusation? Does being demonstrative with our hands while we talk make it seem like it’d be simple to say we grabbed someone, or like we were touching ourselves inappropriately around them?
I now get nervous every time I’m alone in a room with a woman. Sure, she’s probably not one of the bad ones, but what if she is? It only takes a moment of opportunity for an innocent situation to turn into life-altering false allegation.
There’s no getting away from the problem. Women are everywhere. I could run into this situation at work, at the gym, at a club, or anywhere there’s a possibility we could wind up alone. I try never to leave somewhere by myself after dark, knowing there could be women just waiting out there to claim I dragged them into a dark alley and assaulted them.
Even in public places, I could be accused of groping or fondling someone and it’s nearly impossible to disprove it.
Every day of my life now I deal with this stress, and it’s the same for men everywhere. It’s affecting my health, my work performance, my sleep.
I see friends raising sons and wonder how they can deal with it. How do you raise boys knowing that a potential threat lurks around every corner, just waiting to take their innocent view of the world away from them? That they’ll live their whole life with this fear of women attacking them with accusations?
We need to be aware that this isn’t an individual’s problem. It’s easy to believe that we can deal with this on a case-by-case basis, punishing the wrongdoers as the situation arises. But this is a nationwide culture that’s being developed where the accusations of women are heightened above the claims made by men, so there’s a bias in each one.
This is a societal problem that needs to be addressed on the whole. Otherwise, we’re going to have an entire gender living in fear of the other. One gender striving to make gains while the other holds all the power. One gender that is just expected to endure this abuse silently, and accept that it’s largely their own fault.
That’s not the society I want to live in. We can do better.
We must do better.