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Shedding Light on the Darker Side of #MeToo

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I love the intent behind #metoo and the fact that it shows the plain truth of just how many women have been affected by sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

What I don’t love about it is that the more we focus on #metoo, the less we may think hard and clearly about the men who actually commit the abuse in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong–I honor and respect my friends and family who have already declared their #metoos. Power to you for being so brave as to declare in virtual public that you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, harassment, or maybe rape. There is something very freeing about being able to release yourself from the shame of being victimized by telling others what really did happen. So often, women are scared into silence or ashamed to talk about their experiences. To be able to state even just the simple phrase #metoo can open us up to a world of support and healing that we never knew was there.

I also appreciate that focusing on the stories of survivors is far more uplifting than focusing on abusers. But, as much as I hate to say it, I would like women’s #metoo revelations to subside. Here’s why.

I want the men to now reveal their own #metoo stories of all the crap they’ve pulled that they knew was utterly indecent, maybe even criminal, or at the very least not correct. Yep, you’re up to bat now, fellas. Spare women the pain of regurgitating our traumas for all of the Internet to enjoy and own up to your own #metoo moments.

(Sidebar: I know plenty of men are respectable, though not perfect, and may not have such stories. Great. Love you guys even more. I know, of course, not every man is an a-hole or a perp.)

BUT: Even if you are one of the Respectable Guys and never did anything, I implore you to still use this moment as a way to continue to be a good influence on your jerky pals who occasionally say stuff about how women are b**tches and just general whiners about stuff in general, or worse, actually hurt, abuse, or assault women. Don’t say you don’t know any or never met one. Those guys are your roommate, your co-worker, your best friend from college, your golfing partner, maybe even your dad or your older brother. With the sheer volume of #metoos out there, how can it be possible you never bore witness to any guy friend or acquaintance putting down, harassing, cajoling, catcalling, abusing, or possibly even assaulting a woman? It’s not possible. So, Good Guy, either you care already–great! thank you! please keep up the good work!–or you start now. Pay attention and help out.)

Or… worse.. maybe you, Respectable Guy did, just once, this tiny little thing to some chick you knew, and You Feel Bad About It but it was really No Big Deal, either.

Now’s your chance to own it. Instead of yet another outpouring of stories from women under the #metoo umbrella about how we’ve been hurt, mistreated, and abused, let’s let the men take the lead on this latest round of Twitter solidarity and force them to share stories of their “fun” escapades that “weren’t supposed to hurt anyone” or were “just a joke” or “nothing to really get upset about”. Thanks to the power of the Internet, with merely a tweet those men can cast light on their offensive acts for all the world to see them as they are – as sexual abuse and harassment. Let them air their secrets and bask in the toxic glow of Internet-fueled shaming that victims have felt forever.

Let’s keep wide open the floodgates of sharing stories but let those men do the work now. Women can revel in the tragic joy of being engulfed by the outpouring of truly honest, repentant #metoo stories from those men who bothered, niggled, harassed, hurt, and victimized us and treated it like it was No Big Deal or Your Problem. Declare to the world, or at least to Twitter, your sincere understanding that your acts were, actually, a Very Big Deal to us. That your abuse and harassment were neither our fault nor our responsibility to end.

I stand in support of those women who have already bravely shared their #metoo stories. I don’t want to silence their voices if speaking out gives them power. But I hope this moment doesn’t pass without seizing the opportunity to demand the taking of responsibility by those who commit abuse. Women’s stories of sexual assault, rape, and harassment at the hands of men they’ve known and loved are not just grist for the mill of Internet voyeurism. The pain of abuse and the shame victims feel persist long after the topic is no longer trending. But if people are really paying attention now, turn the spotlight away from victims and onto abusers. Let #metoo give those men their own grisly moment in the spotlight as they take whole and willing responsibility for what they’ve done to abuse women. They say that evil thrives in darkness and secrecy. Let men cast some light on themselves now.

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Elizabeth Senouci is a software localization engineer, translator, occasional writer, and mom of two boys. She enjoys traveling, running, and sitting on the couch.

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