(Opinion) LTE: #metoo

Students gather for the first 2017 lecture in the "Through Feminist Eyes" series in Fralin Auditorium on Sept. 20.

It’s important that we talk about the article published in the Collegiate Times on Sunday. Titled “Women’s rights movements provoke mass hysteria, perpetuate victimhood culture,” this article attacks both the #MeToo and feminist movements. As I read the article, I was first angered, then horrified, then disgusted. Some quotes that stood out to me: “There is no rape culture in the United States, and there certainly isn’t one on college campuses either,” and “Extreme feminist ideas and horrible sexual assault and harassment policies completely undermine the real problems that women in America face, such as domestic violence and mental illness.”

I will give the author the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he does not have personal experience with sexual harassment or assault. Perhaps he doesn’t know anyone who has had such an experience. Giving him this benefit, I still cannot allow him to invalidate the experiences of victims of such behaviors by denouncing movements that have given exposure to some of those “real problems that women in America face.”

I want to clear something up immediately. The #MeToo movement is not exclusive to women. While many of the victims coming forward in the movement do identify as female, male victims have revealed instances of harassment, mistreatment and assault as well. #MeToo is not a “women’s rights movement,” as our author puts it. It is, instead, a direct attack on a culture we all share that, quite honestly, enables individuals to treat one another poorly and with violence.

Sexual harassment, assault and violence are real. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, it’s probable you know someone that has. This movement is in no way a “witch hunt.” When we cite the #MeToo movement, we are acknowledging the toxic culture that has allowed for inappropriate sexual behaviors to persist and choosing to then combat that culture by promoting change. This issue isn’t a “mass hysteria,” it’s an exposure of a national problem that needs addressing.

Even more hurtful is the invalidation of the very real experiences of victims of sexual misconduct. The claim that feminist movements are “perpetuating victimhood culture” almost sounds like victims need to “suck it up” when they are mistreated or hurt. If the changes that are taking place in our culture because of the #MeToo and feminist movements scare you, I suggest taking the following rules to heart to avoid being accused of inappropriate behavior:

  1. No means no.

  2. Ask before you touch.

  3. Treat everyone with respect.

  4. Do not use sexual language toward anyone that is not a consenting sexual partner.

  5. If someone tells you that you are making them uncomfortable, stop.

It’s not rocket science, folks.

Because of the #MeToo movement, dialogues are now being opened about sexual harassment and misconduct. Standards are being set, rules are being established. This is not a bad thing. Boundaries are necessary to ensure that environments are inclusive and comfortable for those within them. Perhaps this makes some uncomfortable, as behaviors that once were OK are no longer acceptable. There will be changes in the way we treat one another professionally and personally. We’re going to have to think before we speak and act. That’s OK. That’s what we should be doing. We need to start treating one another as human beings rather than objects.

Let’s treat each other with respect. Let’s learn from the experiences of victims rather than criticizing them. Let’s work together. Let’s understand one another. The conversation’s already begun; let’s face it head on and vow to be better.

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