It was nearly impossible to miss: In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and assault allegations, the #MeToo hashtag began trending on Twitter and showing up in Facebook posts. The goal was to illustrate how widespread sexual violence is and the sheer number of lives it's touched, and it served as an opportunity for survivors to come together in solidarity.
Like most social media movements, some people found it empowering and others were sceptical of whether or not it would have a long-term impact. (Remember #YesAllWomen? Me too, but barely.)
But, more importantly, a very valid critique emerged: The #MeToo hashtag put victims in the all-too-familiar position of being burdened with the task of talking about sexual violence and raising awareness. At first, no one asked assailants, accomplices or bystanders to chime in and tell their stories.
Feminist writer Liz Plank took to social media to call for a shift in the conversation. Specifically, Plank challenged men to post and take accountability for their actions: "#MeToo I was sexually harassed, groped, physically and verbally attacked. But what about him though? Who decided it was women's job to fix men?" Plank wrote on Facebook. "Why is the burden always on women? I'm done. I'm done pretending sexual assault is a woman's issue. Your shame is not ours. No sir. #HimThough."
For example, comedian and writer Devang Pathak shared the story of a time he attempted to use his power to take advantage of a vulnerable woman friend.
“Whether fictional or real, I felt a power which I have let go of since. I don’t absolve myself of my actions and thoughts at all but our culture fuels such implicit power relationships," Pathak wrote. "Shows and movies tell men to 'go after' vulnerable women either drunk or those who have had a breakup. It's subtle but not at all innocuous. It’s disgusting and I will never let those impulses take hold of me again.”
"I’m certain that at more than one point in my life I’ve been the reason someone, somewhere is silently or openly posting 'me too,'" another man tweeted. “I’m sure
#IDidThat to somebody."
Unfortunately, very few men have participated: But women are using the hashtags to call them out.
Hopefully, men will begin to follow Pathak's lead and use the opportunity to speak out about the times they engaged in sexual misconduct, witnessed harassment or assault and stood by idly, or laughed along when another man joked about violating a woman. We can't begin to fix rape culture if only half of the population is participating in the conversation.