The past few weeks have been excruciating with all of the brave women who have come forth with their “Me Too” stories. All of my social media platforms have been cluttered with women’s stories of sexual harassment. Having read so many different accounts, I realized that maybe I’m one of the lucky ones to have never experienced such barbaric acts. I pride myself on being authentic and that doesn’t stop here. I wonder if I’ve never experienced such violations because I was taught how to dress and how to act when in the presence of men. I can’t be so sure. With so many women suddenly coming forward all at once, I have to wonder what sparked this new phenomenon? Some of these accusations go as far back as 30 years. I wonder what has happened over these past three decades that makes this behavior by men so much more prevalent? Is it that men have become less principled in the past 30+ years or is it that women have allowed themselves to become over-sexualized, confounding the issue? While reading these horrendous accounts by all of these women, I couldn’t help but wonder how many men have had the same experiences.
Accusations against Harvey Weinstein, being the catalyst to the “Me Too” movement, sickened me. I read an account of a woman who he cornered downstairs in one of his restaurants and proceeded, without gaining consent, to masturbate in front of her. It reminded me of a similar story that one of my brother’s friends told me. He frequented a coffee shop every morning before work and he couldn’t get the barista to write his actual name on his cup. She consistently wrote “babe” despite his daily reminders. One night he was at a club and saw this barista across the room. He went downstairs to use the restroom and when he came out, she was standing there and began flirting heavily. Despite his attempts to escape the situation, she leaned in and tried to kiss him but he didn’t know what to do, he was cornered. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been for him. I can understand how she or even Weinstein, for that matter, could have misread the signals, but that doesn’t justify what they did.
While the Weinstein accusations are all open and shut cases, some of the other ones are not so black and white. Take Hollywood elite, Brett Ratner and Olivia Munn. From her perspective, she, a young, attractive actress new to Hollywood, was visiting a set and was asked to deliver a meal to the director’s trailer. She was assured that no one would be there. To her surprise, not only was Ratner there, but he was masturbating. She panicked and ran out of the trailer. Taking this at face value, I empathize with Munn. That would be a horrible experience for me as well. However, she did walk into someone’s private residence. She wasn’t getting paid to deliver the food and she was a guest on set. Clearly, she bears some responsibility in this situation as well. From what I read, Ratner was unkind to her after this experience, which made her career-path difficult but that may have been interpreted wrong. He may have just been embarrassed. Whatever the truth is, at this point we’ll never know. Unfortunately, everyone involved has suffered as a result of this regrettable situation.
These situations strike me as being much more about sexual misconduct in general than it is about gender. If you focus more on the individual situation and less on the gender, it turns out that this epidemic transcends gender altogether. Surprisingly, in my circle of friends alone, I’ve found numerous examples of men unfairly being put in these situations. For example, my friend Phillip is a good guy, attractive but not overly flirtatious. One night he was out with a colleague who had a known crush on him. They had hung out previously in social settings and he often picked her up because they lived close. When he arrived at her apartment, as routine, he knocked on the door. When she didn’t answer, he entered the apartment looking for her. To his astonishment, she came out of her bedroom nearly nude. He was shocked, he left without saying a word. When I encouraged him to share his experience, which mirrored Munn’s, he didn’t feel that #MeToo was inviting of men’s experiences. Which inspired the #WeToo campaign. The experiences of the #MeToo women aren’t more important than those of men. The #WeToo campaign is inclusive of everyone’s experiences and focuses on sexual misconduct, as opposed to just gender.
One of the worst experiences that I’ve personally heard was my friend Jason. It was so humiliating to him that he only confided me and one other person. Jason was an associate at a law firm in San Francisco. Being fresh out of law school, he was the low man on the totem pole, not to mention never-ending student loans and the cost of living for a family in the bay area. Needless to say, he needed his job. One of the partners in the firm took a liking to him. Initially, he was flattered and thought it was simply in recognition of his potential. What started out as seemingly innocent flirting, ended up costing him his job and ruining his career after refusing to sleep with her at a work retreat. When he rejected her, she claimed that he was sexually harassing her which was more believable since he’s a man. Jason’s life took a turn for the worse and I’m left everyday wondering how great of a lawyer he could have been. Would you include him in your #MeToo campaign? Whether you would or wouldn’t, he feels unwelcome.
The #MeToo hashtag unfortunately carries a divisive stigma of anger towards men which makes it impossible for us to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, I support these brave women for coming forward and the #MeToo campaign has been an inspiring starting point. Now with #WeToo, we can drop the animosity, focus on the issue and encourage personal responsibility of women and men on both sides. Many of my male friends have admitted to me there’s ‘more that they could have done to avoid putting themselves in these situations and I’m sure many women feel the same way. Many of the men who have admitted sexual misconduct are victims as well. They have to live with the regret and shame of their actions, whether premeditated or not. And who’s to say whether they had a choice in the matter? Many of these powerful men are putting themselves in dangerous situations by being surrounded by young, ambitious, impressionable women, while providing financial stability to entire industries. It’s understandable that some of them would slip up. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.
Are you livid yet?
This is how you sound when you hi-jack our protests. When you change the painfully clear narrative to fit your own. When you restructure our words to justify the killing of innocent black people at the hands of paid public servants. “You’re being divisive” when we have the audacity to declare that our lives matter... “It’s a tragedy for everyone involved” when Terrance Crutcher is dead and Betty Jo Shelby has her record, reflecting the MURDER of Crutcher, expunged...”These police officers are victims as well” when they can murder innocent black CHILDREN and walk free? “We will never know the full story” when we have video of young Tamir Rice’s murder... This is how you sound when you argue for #AllLivesMatter. This is how you sound when you co-opt our hashtags in order to silence us and alleviate your guilt. The next time you want to #AllLivesMatter us, remember #WeToo.
Co-Writers: Summer McLane & Zelle Lafayette