Louder Together: Forgotten Voices of #MeToo
These past few months have signaled a switch in power. Women of all ages, backgrounds, and statuses have united together to form an impenetrable strength against their assaulters and abusers. Whether through wearing all black during the Golden Globes to show solidarity and eliminate the inevitable girl-on-girl comparisons, or 156 women speaking daggers into the heart of Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics trainer who was finally put behind bars, people are resisting the institutional abuse of power.
However, these conversations seem to lack a whole set of important voices, including cisgender men, or those who identify by their birth sex as male. While we feel conflicted about pitying the male perspective, or inadvertently taking the attention away from the incredibly courageous non-binary and transgender voices also fighting against the systems of prejudice, these movements will benefit from discussing when and where men fit into the conversation. We must acknowledge that sexual assault is both all about men, and not about men at all.
While some women may accept all the support they can get, others may see men voicing their opinions as “mansplaining” assault culture — and both perspectives can be valid. This duality results in men feeling defensive towards “attacks” — being excluded from conversations, feeling prejudiced —on their gender, and not focusing on the real issue at hand, which is how to better educate and prevent sexual assault.
The questions we need to be asking are: Why do we need a place for men? and What does that space look like?
We asked our male colleagues for their perspective, and found they felt that speaking or supporting campaigns like #MeToo left them feeling “damned if they do, damned if they don’t.” But movements will only strive when we all work together to push a progressive agenda. In response to #MeToo, many men began to use the hashtag #HowIWillChange, to push an actual change in behavior — whether that be speaking out on “locker room talk” or no longer being a bystander when they witness or hear of harassing or abusive behavior. The hashtag gained a large following, and it gave men a chance to not feel burdened by their gender, but speculate on ways they can change individually.
However, getting off the internet is just as important. Even on Skidmore’s predominantly liberal campus, the lack of male students in gender policy and education classes is astonishing. Why are men not taking these classes? Especially when most instances of sexual assault or abuse of power see the men as perpetrators. Often the men who do not show up have a fear of being shut down, or feel that they do not belong in the conversation. And while there may be cases where it may not be the time for men to speak — hopefully they will respect that — men will need to feel valued and listened to before they will feel comfortable going into a classroom focused on gender politics where the students are predominantly female.
Creating an environment for men to support female survivors may also inherently create a safer space for male survivors to speak up. According to RAINN, about ten percent of college aged men will experience sexual assault. And just last year, Anthony Ramos made the news after accusing Kevin Spacey of inappropriately touching him when Rapp was only 14. Not only did Rapp’s courage aid in the dismantling of Hollywood’s power complex, it provided such a vital trigger for not only male assault survivors, but queer male survivors. His story and the consequences Spacey faced afterwards proved voices from the LGBT+ community are valid and cherished, their fight just as important as their female counterparts.
The current culture surrounding rape culture is broken, and often results in victims being blamed for harm done onto them. For once, we are hearing the voices of young women, men, and everyone in-between rail against abuse. These voices are strong and proud, and can accomplish even more when we work together. So take classes that are uncomfortable, or be pushed to breaking points and realize there is so much more to do than previously imagined. Only then can we get work done. Our voices are stronger together, and our stomping forceful enough to break glass.