The Chai Table - 2017


The “Me Too” Movement: Sexual Harassment is a Universal Problem

By Nikhil Batra

I first noticed the “Me too" statuses on Facebook coming up recently from a girl I went to college with. I think I had a class with her my freshman year, but that was the extent of our interaction in person. Her description on the post was that this was a movement in which women were posting “Me too" to raise awareness to the fact that, they too, had been sexually harassed/abused, in support of the women coming out in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

When I saw it, I thought “Hey this is a good idea and it raises awareness to an important issue." I didn't really think about it again…until the next day. I saw someone, completely unrelated to the first girl, post the same thing. I scrolled through my timeline, and saw six more “Me too" posts; five of which were people who I knew from completely unrelated places. One was from high school, one was from work, one was from soccer, etc. They were unrelated to each other but still they had all seen posts about “Me too."

The movement had caught on...in one day. I checked Twitter; it was there, too, thousands of posts. Some simply said “Me too," some were lengthier. I read a lot of them, until I honestly couldn't read any more. It was disgusting, heart breaking and shameful to read as a man.

One thing that took me aback was that there were some posts by other women questioning the purpose of the movement. Their claim was that by posting about their harassment they were victimizing themselves and that if there was nothing they could do about it, then they were simply hurting themselves by talking about it more and bringing negative attention to themselves.

This was shocking. Ignoring the problem helps no one. Shaming those strong enough to bring themselves to reveal their abuse is the worst thing you can do at this point. It is not up to you to make a claim on how traumatic an experience was for someone.

I have seen posts about women who say that men have cat-called them, forced a girl to dance with them, forced their way into a kiss with them, and forced themselves upon them sexually. The issue here is not the degree of abuse. It is the fact that men feel that they have a right over a woman's body to do any of this. I have nothing but the utmost respect for those women who have the courage to stand up for themselves and other victims. I promise, some of us are noticing, and I truly hope those of us who are, are doing their best to make sure this stops.

Thousands of women are coming out with their stories of sexual harassment; no men are coming out and saying, “Yes I have sexually harassed a woman." I wonder how this movement would go if the goal was to have men come out and say “Sorry"? How many posts would you see? 1? 2? Probably not. It says a terrible thing that we expect women to come out and share their experiences so that we, as a society, believe there is a problem. At this point if you do not think there is a problem with sexual harassment, you are in a small, ignorant class of your own.

How much more evidence do we need, before we, as men, take a step to better ourselves? We have to stop with the “that could be someone's daughter, mother, sister, etc." It doesn't start with women. It starts with us. It ends with us.

The purpose of this movement was to raise awareness. However, awareness without action is not enough. Since the weeks that this social media movement occurred, scores of women and even men have come out with their stories about how they were sexually abused by various politicians, actors and other celebrities.

The list is embarrassingly long. One of the people accused was famed actor Kevin Spacey, lead actor in the show House of Cards. At least 15 men have come out and said that Spacey sexually assaulted them over the course of the last 35 years. Almost immediately Netflix, the producer of the show, dropped Spacey from the show. Other films he was working on have also decided to move on without him.

I bring this up to illustrate two key points. The first point being that sexual harassment is not exclusive to female victims. Men can, and do experience the same abuse. We tend to downplay abuse that men go through because we assume that it was a woman harassing the man and that a man can “fight back" or ignore it. In the case with Spacey, it was a man sexually harassing another man. It is important to recognize that this is a universal problem, not a female problem.

The second point is that the “Me too" movement started about a couple of months ago. Since then many people, like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, have lost a lot of work, followers and much of their positive image in the public. They are being rightfully punished for their actions. The “Me too" movement is providing victims a platform to share their experiences and exposing sexual predators. A few weeks ago, the Senate passed a bill requiring sexual harassment training for senators and aides.

This is a huge step in the fight towards equality and a meaningful shift amid the harassment complaints that have tainted the congressional community. Without changes to the policies on sexual abuse, we are going to be back at this very juncture soon enough.

Social media is not enough, we need social reform. We need courts and lawmakers to make stronger policies to combat sexual predators. But most importantly we need men to step up and take responsibility for what is happening, and put an end to it once and for all.