#ItWasMe And #MeToo

Categories: Feminism, Personal, Sexism
Comments: 5 Comments
Published on: 2017.10.16

I admit I was overwhelmed yesterday as I began to see a string of #MeToo posts on Facebook — from women I know, women I’m related to, and a few other women that I don’t know in real life but who have befriended me on social media. I was simultaneously proud of them for speaking up and devastated to learn the sheer number who have suffered.

In case you’re living off the grid and haven’t yet heard of this, here’s a bit of background. Popularized by Alyssa Milano’s tweet Sunday afternoon, posting “me too” or #MeToo to social media has spread like wildfire. Milano’s tweet contained this text:

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Tens of thousands responded to her tweet with the requested two words. Others posted on their own accounts. This all came about as a response to the sexual misconduct allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the resulting conversations.

And then I began seeing the #ItWasMe hashtag. First, from women who posted things like: “Just remember, for every #MeToo you see, there is a corresponding #ItWasMe story that needs to be told” (example). And then guys began posting #ItWasMe stories (example).

It’s an interesting social phenomenon, which I find far more helpful than most social phenomena. Are some people posting purely to seek attention? Possibly. Are a bunch of people going to misunderstand in some way? Sure. Is it going to reach the people it needs to reach? I don’t know.

As a natural pessimist, I really want to be optimistic about social media trends like this. At least it’s not a dog sprawled on a sofa with his junk clearly in the photo. At least it’s not a poorly spelled/punctuated meme about an untrue historical fact. At least it’s not a complaint about some inane part of every day life (“Mondays! Amirite?”) At least it’s not another story about some racist cop in Verdigris, Okla., who doesn’t understand he’s the reason NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem.

Will it change anything? We might be surprised. Things are already changing. Weinstein was fired almost immediately after the allegations became public and his former company is struggling because of it. Public figures like Ben Affleck, who initially condemned Weinstein publicly, ended up having to apologize for their own past behavior.

Initially, conservatives squealed with glee that most of the affected were liberals and they began posting all manner of haughty condemnations. Some of them have quickly shut back up after it became obvious that: (1) Liberals have long condemned the behavior, (2) Liberals called for Weinstein to be fired, (3) Conservatives elected Donald Trump president, despite more than a dozen such allegations against him.

But, as a man, I would be remiss to simply recount these tales from the news and social media if I didn’t bring up my own behavior. And I will do that now.

#ItWasMe

* I have behaved wrongly toward women, both in social situations and in the work place.

* I have said things to women that fit many definitions of sexual harassment.

* I did not always understand consent.

* I rarely spoke up when I witnessed others harassing women.

* I hesitated to believe women who told me it happened to them.

I was wrong and I am sorry. I am sorry for what I did and said on multiple occasions, and I am sorry that I was silent when I should have spoken up.

I won’t make excuses about the culture of toxic masculinity, or the way my former religion devalues women, or about being young and hormonal. Those might all have contributed, but they can never excuse. I alone bear the responsibility for my words and my actions.

We men can be better. I can be better. I think I am better now, but I’m under no illusions that I’m perfect in this regard. Getting better is a process that doesn’t end.

A year ago, I took the pledge, and I reaffirm that pledge today:

“I pledge: to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
5 Comments
  1. Dana says:

    With all due respect, as someone who falls in the #metoo category (as a victim of blatant discrimination and harassment, but also as a victim of domestic violence (in the past; my husband is not an abuser)) I don’t find the #itwasme to be useful or even desired.

    It’s not about the men and we shouldn’t make it about the men. Having men come forward with #itwasme (unless it’s offered in an “I am Spartacus” show of support; as in “all men have behaved badly”) just trivializes the issue. Adding an #itwasme hashtag to a social media post is of absolutely no consequence. It doesn’t change ingrained behaviors or cultural and societal norms. It won’t form the basis of any criminal prosecutions. It’s just just an empty show; making a hashtag isn’t actually doing anything. No one’s life will actually change because they included #itwasme on social media.

    • Dana says:

      (And I don’t mean to sound shrill or bitter; nor is my “rant” aimed specifically at you. I just intended to offer a different perspective. I haven’t met you in real life, but I suspect that you’re not the target person for #itwasme. So many good men, boyfriends and husbands are going to label themselves #itwasme precisely because they are good, aware, emotionally perceptive man and not the boors that so many woman women deal with day in and day out at work or in our social lives. Okay, maybe I should have led with that.)

      • Wil C. Fry says:

        I hear you. I am listening.

        You’ll get no argument from me on this topic, because I’m not in a position to disagree with what any victim (former, current, or future) thinks about it.

        On only one point do I think it’s valid for me to disagree, and that’s on the “it won’t change anything” part. It is changing ME, and has already changed me. Of course, that’s a poor offer to the women (and men) and girls (and boys) who’ve been victimized. For some of you, it WAS me, and it is imperative that I (continue to) change.

        If only a small portion of the other men who spoke up are similarly changed (improved) by this, it eventually adds up to a societal change. Cumulative individual changes are, in fact, the background story for societal/culture change.

        • Dana says:

          And I disagree with your disagreement. ;-)

          I’m guessing that you didn’t change because of a hashtag. You changed because you’ve spent time thinking about these issues and what it means for you and those in your life. I would be surprised if you said that you’d never thought about gender disparity or sexual harassment prior to the Harvey Weinstein debacle.

          • Wil C. Fry says:

            (Sorry for late reply; my wife has been out of town a few days and I haven’t turned on the PC in a while.)

            To be fair, hashtags didn’t exist when I began to change, LOL. But I didn’t mean “change” as an event at a specific point in time, but “change” as in the ongoing process of becoming a better person.

            If we stipulate that X percent of men aren’t going to change, and Y percent of men are already where they need to be on this issue, that leaves only Z percent of men who could possibly be affected — so I’ll grant that the audience for this is limited. But I’m optimistic enough to believe that the Z group does exist, even if it’s largely young men who are still finding out who they are. Without the Z group, the situation doesn’t improve — and we know it’s improving, because we can compare *now* to *history*.

            * “You changed because you’ve spent time thinking about these issues and what it means for you and those in your life.”

            That thinking was very often instigated by real-time events, and the actions and words of other people, and it is still ongoing. If this ongoing change is occurring in me, then I can assume it’s happening in others. I plan to be a positive part of that equation, an active stimulus to other men in that process.

Write a comment

Archives
Welcome , today is Sunday, 2017.11.19