“i can’t say me too, and that is part of the problem”
it happens to men too.
Facebook is close to crashing. A new phenomenon has gripped the internet world. And frankly, the truth is, #metoo is an important and much needed movement. A while back, I went online to check my newsfeed for something interesting. For some reason everyone had posted this ambiguous “me, too” as their status. I was intrigued. After a while, I saw an article about what it really was and dug a little deeper. Women from all walks of life were coming out and raising their voices, filling the gaps in a deeply defective and ineffective discourse that has really just led us nowhere.
What is the problem then? Where does this movement really lead us?
On the bright side, this movement does bring awareness about the sheer magnitude of this crisis that needs to be dealt with. The fact that the newsfeed is heavy under the weight of these posts of women who are coming out and saying that they have seen sexual harassment of some form. It is liberating to be just one of the many voices to have been a part of this movement. But the same weight of the posts that may make one aware of the magnitude of this crisis can also have a reverse effect. It can make people genuinely believe that this is a cry for attention. And why not, why would a woman want to write about her ordeals on a public platform?
But all of this still remains just half of the equation. What followed this movement was men coming out with #HowWillIChange, a supportive and healthy outlook to this phenomenon. But I haven’t seen one woman use this hashtag, and therein lies an inherent flaw in this cause. Just to clarify, I am not going to equate this with backlash hashtags like #alllivesmatter or #notallmen. They are not the same as the hashtag I began to use out of sheer frustration. But soon after I decided to post for this cause, I ended up following #metoo with #mentoo. It clung to my breath for a while. The fed was that this would be equated with other whiny counter movements, something it wasn’t.
This hashtag might have been a manifestation of a suppressed angst. Not too long ago, I was talking to my teacher about my personal problems. Inevitably, my past came up and I told him that two years ago, been assaulted (notice how I used “assaulted”, and not “raped”). I don’t know what I was expecting as a response, but it certainly wasn’t the one I received. He told me that he was assaulted when he was 7, by a 50-year-old teacher.
This took me back a few months to when my ex had told me (jokingly, I might add) that he had been raped as a child. There is a brief shining moment of clarity when everything in life makes sense. If that actually ever happens, this wasn’t it. I was shocked. And I was frustrated.
Finally, in India, women have started speaking out. Maybe, if a girl dreams loud enough, someday the photos of rape victims will get unblurred. But at least, in my country, women can speak, even if there is an inevitable backlash (which is a projection of the societal mentality of this issue). But women can speak. And this isn’t to say that anyone is doing anything about women’s issues, but at least our voices are heard, even if for a glaring moment. But somehow, the idea of a man getting raped is considered not just odd, but comical.
A while back, this video surfaced of a man who was talking about his abusive relationship, and at one glorious point, the audience started laughing at him. To be fair, the host pointed out the hypocrisy and said that if this were a woman speaking, there would be a two minute silence in honour of her. Which is true. It might be a shallow gesture, but it would float in the air for a second.
So whom is this movement really for? And an extension of this question would be: who is victimised in acts of sexual aggression?
When I posted my story, it was almost like a confession, as if I were complicit. So there it was, the never-ending cycle of sexual violence. I talked about not just being groped, but also about being raped. And what kept ringing in my head was that I was 19 when I was raped. I knew two men who were raped when they were so young they didn’t even know what was happening to them. This is not to say that the intensity and tragedy of their ordeal diminishes the reality of mine, but the operative fact was that these were young boys who had seen heartbreaking trauma, and I didn’t know if they would be taken seriously. I didn’t know if their wall would be flooded with “you are a strong man” posts. I didn’t know if they would receive the love and support that people extended towards me. I didn’t know if their voices would carry as much weight as mine did. And yet, their voices were even more precious, because the same patriarchy that becomes the landscape for sexual aggression against women also vilified and mocked men who would raise their hands in solidarity with male rape victims.
It is a reality. It is waiting at our doorstep. We just don’t want to acknowledge it.
The issue of rape of men is a silent space in the discourse of sexual harassment. It exists, and we all know it is there, but it is so convenient to not talk about it, that we recede into the comfort of our own apathy. Unfortunately, people are like Republicans when it comes to taking this issue seriously. Unless it hits their particular home, it doesn’t happen. Maybe that is why we keep saying “it could be your mother or sister”. Rape victims have to consistently be humanized. As if the only person who deserves a life of dignity is YOUR sister. This becomes even more pronounced in case of sexual aggression against men. It is emasculating perhaps, and it carries us back to a larger discourse about the linearity and rigidity of construction of masculinity and femininity in society. A man has to be impassive. How can a man be the land, when he is already the conquerer?
No, men are constructed to hold positions of power, and any shade of reality that threatens that construction is systemically annihilated.
It is no surprise then, that this cause called for women to stand up. This isn’t to say that the idea was it happens to women only, but that was the implication. This isn’t a conventional act of marginalization that happens overwhelmingly to one demographic. Women aren’t raped because they are women, or rather, women are not just raped because they are women, but rather because it is easy to overpower them in that particular moment. It isn’t about sexism, it’s about the violent assertion of power, which is why male victims exist in abundance too.
This made the whole movement a shade weaker, paling in comparison to more active and profound phenomena like the “Black Lives Matter” one. This isn’t to say should be the same, but social activism is a recurrent theme on social media, and it should be valued. The most gaping hole in the argument about the brutality of rape is the silence about the rape of men. It is also the possibility of the perpetrator being a woman. How can she invade when she is already the motherland, begging to be invaded?
It was problematic to see that most people chose to talk about sexual abuse as if it were exclusive to women, and it was problematic to see only men coming out and asking #HowWillIChange. It has become a problematic trend to see the discourse of sexual abuse as a purely gendered one.
Because yes, it happens to men too.