Men, will you stop posting #MeToo on your social media timelines

“The point is, there is a huge historical and social context behind the harassment of women that does not apply to men.”

It’s depressing at the best of times, logging on to Facebook, Twitter or whatever and seeing laid bare the non-workings of the modern human mind. There is an audible grinding noise as posters try to get their heads around the simplest of issues and finally come up with something that has all the charm and meaning of a splash of vomit in a cake shop.

It was bad enough when people who could barely locate the city on a map and knew no more of the language than what they’d gleaned from The Pink Panther flew the tricolour on their profile picture in the wake of the Paris massacre and declared they were actually French.

Now men are posting the #MeToo tag on their timeline as if they had personally had Harvey Weinstein’s hand down the front of their boxers.

Yes, men can be sexually harassed, and it does happen. Yes, men can feel violated by such experiences and it does happen. But no, however disturbing your male experience, it is not the same kind of thing that women are talking about. And in thinking there is some equivalence, you are being, well, a bit embarrassing, really.

Your ‘Me Too’ is not the ‘Me Too’ of someone who has experienced systemic (and sometimes systematic) harassment, abuse, control, or assault. Your ‘Me Too’ is the ‘Me Too! Me Too! Me Too!’ of a small child who has spotted a game the cool kids are playing and wants in.

#MeToo is not a bandwagon. It’s a device that illustrates something that half the world’s population has to deal with and which men don’t.

Rather than seeing this as a worthy trend like an LBGT rainbow on your profile pic, we probably ought to be looking at your timeline and paying attention to the enormous number of women acquaintances who are posting the Me Too hashtag. We might reflect that those messages are the tip of the iceberg, because many women will have chosen not to participate in this campaign.

I am a straight male and I too have experienced sexual harassment. I have had one truly disturbing experience when a man thought he could use what he perceived as a power relationship and what he thought was an exploitable vulnerability of me living and working in his country without proper documentation in order to do things I didn’t want to do. And he did this in a more or less public place surrounded by buddies who seemed to be sympathetic to his ambitions. I think a great number of women will recognise that situation or something very like it.

Although very unsettled and somewhat frightened, I was able to get away from that incident intact, and, better than that, was able to remove myself from that arsehole’s orbit completely.

That was thirty years ago and still today, in the darkest hours of insomnia, that memory creeps out of its memory hole and gibbers at me.

However alarming, it’s still not the same as what women deal with because it was a one-off, it was not a feature of my existence as a male; it had not happened before, it has not happened since; it is not something that happens to my male friends, and crucially, it is not a hazard of being my gender.

As for the unwanted attentions of women, is there not — be honest straight guys — a smidgen of ‘Of course she would want a bit of me, what woman wouldn’t?’ and how intimidated or violated do we really feel after those experiences even when we were (lucky enough to be) groped?

Let’s face it, a great number of men who express outrage at unwanted attentions and intrusive behaviour from women are probably only outraged that a woman has taken the initiative in what the man thinks is his prerogative.

Male Me Too posters can never and should never assume that any experiences they have had are equivalent to what women put up with on a daily basis.

“It’s a bit of a giveaway that men have built around women a cutting-edge, world-encompassing technology of masturbation.”

The point is, there is a huge historical and social context behind the harassment of women that does not apply to men. In various cultures at various times, widows have been murdered to accompany their departed husbands into the afterlife, girls have been sold for dowries because women are, as we all know, unproductive and a burden to men except when cooking their food, washing our clothes, bearing our children, or giving us oral relief. Women have had to fight to get jobs, vote, drive cars, or be seen in public. Women are promoted less, paid less, and more likely to be exploited for such advancements than a man, who only has to put up with matey beers and golf on weekends to get ahead; getting the leg up without the leg over, as it were.

If we as men were regarded by 50 per cent of the human race as less capable, emotionally unstable, and as chattels; things regarded with entitlement; as objects to be touched, prodded, coerced, ordered around, slapped on the bum, told our heads are full of cotton, hay and rags, and then appraised for shagability before being even asked our name, our experience of harassment might be equivalent to that of women.

But it isn’t.

So don’t post.

And men, we might ask ourselves this — and women might ask men the same thing — is this urge to share in women’s trauma a means to bond through sympathy or a means to bond in the hope of getting laid?

Let’s face it, the historical male view of women is a bit single-minded.

It’s a bit of a giveaway that men have built around women a cutting-edge, world-encompassing technology of masturbation. It’s called it the internet and we have networked every possible thing that might have computing power in order to share pictures of bare bottoms. In doing this we have wanked into enough tissues to cause a worldwide crisis of deforestation. Even as I write this, men are creating new technologies in order to build sex robots that will do the things we believe from porn that women should do and that real women are dismissed as slags for not doing.

There is some hope I suppose that the sex robots will be such a turn-on that men will finally leave women alone — after all, when did rubber and aluminium ever press charges or insist on conversation or demand you don’t wear your shoes in bed?

But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to rely on men actually learning not to see women as something to neg or grab, and that doesn’t leave much space for optimism. After thousands of years men have not shown much aptitude for learning. We have still not learned, for example, not to have wars, drink pints of creme de menthe for a bet, or insert objects in our own urethras.

To go back to an earlier point, it seems from the proliferation of #MeToo posts that almost every woman has been harassed. Surely that implies that almost every man has at some point harassed a woman. The darker, hidden text of the male #MeToo is that it could just as well mean, ‘Yes, me too, I’ve harassed women.’

So, stop posting that #MeToo. You’re looking like, well, a bit of a twat, really.

 

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About chrispagefiction

Author of the novels Sanctioned, Weed, King of the Undies World, and The Underpants Tree; also the story collection Un-Tall Tales; editor, freelance writer and all that stuff. At heart he is a London person, but the rest of his body is a long-term exile in Osaka, Japan.
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