Ivan Natividad: For men, ‘Me too’ movement should be more than a hashtag
October 20, 2017
The Internet, amazing as it is, can sometimes seem like a revolving door for social issues and charities competing for our philanthropic affection.
On social media particularly there is a Kickstarter or Go Fund me campaign for anything and everything you would like to dole out the dough for, from backing the latest tech product, to building schools in a third world country.
And then there is the hashtag… Formally known as the pound sign.
With hashtags, social media spammers can key in on terms to promote anything they want. Like last week when product spammers would use #LoboFire or #McCourtneyFire to get their products seen by people trying to search for posts about the actual fires. So lame.
They are the Internet equivalent of looters who scoured homes in fire evacuation areas… Vultures.
Needless to say, popular hashtags often come and go with the changing tide of the online zeitgeist, and can often seem annoying. But the hashtag has also become a powerful vehicle to bring light to significant social issues and causes.
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The latest "#MeToo" movement in particular has brought more awareness and support to female victims of sexual harassment and assault.
The "Me Too" movement started more than 10 years ago when Brooklyn-based youth activist Tarana Burke used those two words as a rallying cry to support young women who had survived sexual abuse, assault and exploitation.
A way to let them know that they were not alone.
In the wake of sexual assault allegations against veteran movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo gained prominence on social media last week when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a call-out to victims "so we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 98 seconds someone in our country is sexually assaulted, and one out of every six woman has been victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
Moreover, 90 percent of adult rape victims are female, and females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
Within 24 hours of the #MeToo movement, more than 12 million Facebook posts, comments and reactions were made.
I have personally seen various posts from female friends who I have known for many years, coming forward and sharing specific instances of sexual violence they have experienced in their lives.
Others simply posted the hashtag without sharing, which is completely understandable.
These women are showing courage to let people know that yes, they have been the victim of some form of sexual violence. It's amazing.
As a man, the movement has made me reflect on my own experiences.
When I was a single young man I had a somewhat healthy night life, often frequenting clubs and bars wherever I lived.
And yes, I have been groped or touched in a sexual way without my permission.
But to be honest, personally it didn't bother me. In those instances I either shrugged it off or, as a single adult, took them as inviting advances that eventually became mutual.
But unlike many women, that's because I had the privilege of never really feeling like I was in danger.
Never did I worry about being followed down a dark alley afterward.
Never did I worry about a woman stalking me at my home or place of work because I did not reciprocate their advances.
The possibility of being sexually assaulted or raped is not something that ever enters my brain.
Based on the statistics, these are privileges I know I have as a male.
And that is why it's been very disturbing seeing how some men are reacting to the #MeToo campaign.
"No one I know has ever done that to a woman. The statistics have to be exaggerated!" Yes, and the world also revolves around you as well … Good for you.
"Well I have daughters and a wife now so I can't stand when I hear about woman being sexually assaulted." So it took you to have daughters to realize that something was wrong here? … Good for you.
And then there is #NotMe, a hashtag in reaction to #MeToo that some men are using to let the world know that "No not me! I've never sexually assaulted anyone!"
So you're celebrating the fact that you're not raping women? Way to raise those expectations … Good for you.
And then there is the guy who is going to go around liking all of his friends' #MeToo posts, not reading them and calling it a day.
Come on fellas. We can do better than that.
Woman are proclaiming "Me too" and coming forward to tell the stories of their abuse to highlight the magnitude of the issue, while finding a sense of support from other victims and their allies.
This campaign isn't about the men who don't commit sexual violence; it's about the ones that do, and the culture that we condone as men that allows them to get away with it, as only six out of every 1,000 rapists end up in prison.
As men, we can not stay silent on an issue that affects the daily lives of nearly half of our population. Does that mean we have to go out and seek rapists and cat-callers? No.
But we can stop supporting or condoning a culture that hyper-sexualizes women.
We can stop shrugging off actions and conversations that commodify women in a way that perpetuates sexual violence.
When we see another man randomly grab woman's ass in a club, we can say something.
We can redefine our own masculinity to detach it from abusive stereotypical behavior.
Our character is based on what we do, not what we think we believe.
For fathers, setting that positive example for our sons can go a long way to let them know that behavior that demeans or violates women is unacceptable.
And maybe by the time they are our age, #MeToo will have been more than just a hashtag.
Ivan Natividad is Digital Editor at The Union Newspaper. To contact him call 530-4774242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.