I watched a video on Vice a while ago titled “Conservatives and Progressives Debate Feminism, #MeToo, and Donald Trump.” In the video, women discussed their opinions on varying topics, including the modern connotation of feminism and the place for traditional gender roles in modern society. Some were unable to identify as a feminist because they felt the left had twisted feminism in “radical” and “pernicious” ways. Some voted for Trump because they supported him or “didn’t like either party.”
However, what stood out to me the most was the fact that some disliked the #MeToo movement because of the way it affected dating culture.
For those unaware, since October 2017, starting with Hollywood actresses, waves of women have started to come forward with sexual assault allegations. This movement was aimed at helping other women share their experiences, with knowing that they are not alone in their experiences (hence the #MeToo name).
While this movement has thrust a necessary topic into national dialogue, many have raised concern over the effect the very publicized movement has had on work and dating culture.
Does this mean men need to be segregated from women to keep everyone safe?
During the debate, a woman brought up that some of her guy friends were “scared to date.” What if a woman wakes up the next morning, doesn’t remember the night before, and accuses the man of sexual assault when they both drank? Men are wanting to abstain from dating entirely.
Yes, it makes sense that there would be a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity infiltrating the social and romantic relationships between men and women. Anyone attempting to seek relationships have to be cautious now—many women now know all the shortcuts to call 911 and many men have to assess every course of action in order to avoid crossing lines. It seems to be one of those “once you see it, you can’t un-see it” situations. Once aware of this culture, all have to scrutinize their every move in order to stay in good graces.
But what the movement doesn’t mean is that all men are predators, or even the fact that all women should be believed (rape allegations can be a tool, but in no way reflects the general population of survivors, who have had unfathomable experiences).
In one of my recent conversations, a college student discussed the deliberations he had just recently while walking on a sidewalk at night. As he turned the corner, he noticed there was a woman in front of him. Wanting to distance himself from any aspect of rape culture, he debated several solutions to the possibility of making her feel uncomfortable. He could continue to walk behind her, keeping the same distance; walk ahead of her to let her know he’s gone; cross the road, taking himself out of her space; or turning around and taking another path. While his intentions are noble, the fact that there was a calculation of where to walk seems ridiculous to all of us.
Yet, as I thought about this conversation, I realized that it wasn’t that men suddenly lost privacy or ability to do anything, just their previous privilege of not having to worry about crossing lines or sexual assault—in no way undermining male sexual assault victims, who deserve a voice.
While I am only 16, I have encountered numerous forms of catcalling, unwanted advances, and objectification; I have been entangled in rape culture despite not even participating in legal-age activities. I don’t go out to bars, I don’t have a usual job with adults, I don’t go to college, and I don’t go to social events and leave with people. No, I’m not being “dramatic,” because street harassment enforces an atmosphere of a lack of power that allows for rape culture. If someone can’t even acknowledge a “no” in a non-sexual setting, can they acknowledge a “no” in a sexual setting?
The point: it is sad, and I feel bad men are “scared” to make moves and have to rethink their actions and their effects on those they interact with. But isn’t it polite and socially responsible for men to think whether their advances are appropriate or whether it is safe for either party when the lines are blurred? Isn’t that something kids are taught, to think if their hands touching others are appropriate, or if they should take the last cookie, if the other person didn’t say “you can have it?”
Personally, I don’t want guys to think they have to turn around and take another path just to not offend me. Guys should also not be scared to date as a consequence of #MeToo. This movement, according to their website, “was to address both the dearth in resources for survivors of sexual violence and to build a community of advocates, driven by survivors, who will be at the forefront of creating solutions to interrupt sexual violence in their communities.”
Translation: #MeToo is about the survivors, not about targeting a whole population and trying to generalize a bunch of people under one common category, such as gender.
This reminds me of something my mom said concerning my experience with police cars. “If you didn’t do anything wrong, you have no reason to hide from the police”—I found the cars very intimidating. People are not here trying to twist the actions of others into sexual violence. No one should be scared to date just because of this movement. Consent and respect are pretty clear to recognize and define. Unless one usually takes advantage of blurred lines and commits actions falling under the category of “contributes to rape culture,” there is literally zero reason to be scared to date in relation to #MeToo.
There needs to be a general educating of what rape culture is, since it’s not simply just rape. It consists of a lot of actions and attitudes that contribute to same atmosphere rape falls under. Men should not be out there scared to date or scared to be around women because they think women are out their scrutinizing their every move to catch an “iffy” move to accuse the man of sexual violation.
Lastly, if a woman doesn’t support #MeToo because they feel bad their guy friends are scared to date, sorry. I’m sorry your guy friends lost the privilege of ignorance to the abuse others face and now are starting to be more conscientious, reflecting on themselves and their past actions.