Since around Sunday afternoon, women have been posting on social media that they have been victims of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of these brave posts, with the hashtag #MeToo. But, almost immediately, the backlash came. From men.
Yes, men are the victims of sexual assault, too. Around 10% of rape victims are male, and around 3% of men in the United States have been sexually assaulted. This is a very real problem. And the sexual assault of men does not get much coverage in our world. To be a male survivor of sexual assault is alienating and lonely. In fact, many of the same things women experience, men experience in the aftermath of being sexually assaulted.
But. This male backlash to #MeToo smacks of an attempt to deny women their experiences. It also smacks of ‘All Lives Matter.’
A couple of years ago, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, white conservatives began the counterpoint: All Lives Matter. Well, duh. Of course all lives matter. That was never open for debate. No one ever said that because Black Lives Matter, other lives don’t. But the simple fact was that the discussion was about black lives, which were much more likely to be terminated at the hands of the police than other types of lives.
In effect, saying ‘All Lives Matter’ was an attempt to equate the African American experience with the white American experience, and to say they were both equal. They’re not. This nation was founded upon exploiting the labour and bodies of African Americans, and even though slavery ended 152 years ago, the cost for black bodies has not ended. And even though the Civil Rights Era was half a century ago, the cost for black bodies has not ended. To suggest the white and black experience is the same is a false equivalence.
Not all men who are speaking out right now are attempting to deny women’s experiences. They are speaking out of of the same, or similar place. But, this is already being used to silence women. Some men are using these men’s experiences to claim an equivalence of the male and female experience. This is already being used to deny the experience of women. A few years ago, during another heightened consciousness over the experience of women, #YesAllWomen was a social media activist campaign. Because almost all women have experienced this. So, to claim that the male and female experience of sexual violence is the same is wrong. It is not. It is a false equivalence.