Since the #metoo campaign went viral, many necessary and important conversations have begun. We dragged the truth about sexual harassment and assault into the light of day, exposing the fact that a disturbing amount of people–especially women–have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Discussions about support and awareness have taken beautiful seed. Rape culture is finally being acknowledged on a wide-spread scale. But there’s one discussion that, while important, has not been able to take place without sounding horribly offensive. That is the conversation about the fact that not all traumatic experiences are the same.
Let me start by saying this: trauma is subjective. The development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic responses is not only determined by the inciting event. The victim’s biological makeup, personal history, and support system also play a significant role. As do the nuances of the event, which may not appear in the categorizing of the event. It is possible for one person to be more traumatized by having her breasts fondled on a bus than another person who was forcibly raped–really–simply because of all those factors; even though most people would likely say, if made to choose, that they’d rather have their breasts fondled than be forcibly raped. Our anxieties and personal biases create hierarchies of trauma, but that’s not how trauma actually works. There is no way to say that “my trauma was worse than yours,” and even if there was, it would be a silly, disrespectful thing to say. Take it from someone with PTSD: being traumatized is not something to aspire toward.
How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen lately? A lot, I’m guessing. A damn, devastating lot. Which was the point, of course. The campaign was started to demonstrate just how many women suffer sexual violence. As more and more women come out of the woodwork, we are seeing that so, so many women have experienced sexual assault or harassment. Like all of us, pretty much.
How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen from men? The campaign, which began in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal in Hollywood (edit: apparently it actually began something like a decade ago, but was revived because of this scandal), was created to highlight the male-dominant culture that allows “everyday sexual violence” to be a thing in the lives of women. It’s become an opportunity for people previously silent about having experienced sexual assault and harassment to open up about it and relieve themselves of the burden of secrecy. That includes men, right?
The issue of whether or not men should be part of the #metoo conversation has become hotly contested. In some ways it has usurped the initial conversation this was intended to start, which by all accounts ain’t cool. But since I talk a lot about sexual assault and recovery on this blog, I don’t feel guilty taking a moment to examine the issue. Should men be included in #metoo?