The problems presented within and after the #MeToo movement are problems that have existed for years.
When the word “victim” is uttered, certain images come to mind. People might envision a victim of physical abuse with a black eye or busted lip. Or, they might imagine a victim of mental or emotional abuse being scolded or threatened. But, whatever the image is, one thing stays the same –– the victim is almost always imagined as a woman.
Great strides have been made in recent years to combat abuse of all kinds. The #MeToo movement, which was established in 2006, gained traction in 2018 when abuse victims came out in unprecedented numbers to call out their abusers. During this time, top tier celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey were accused of sexual misconduct and other offenses, losing worldwide credibility. The movement had a positive impact for many female victims. However, like any movement, it has also revealed flaws.
The problems presented within and after the #MeToo movement are problems that have existed for years. Abuse is not new, but what has changed is how we handle it. We have become a society that favors trial by public opinion over the intended “innocent until proven guilty” approach provided by the judicial court system. Instead of waiting for evidence to surface, alleged victims are believed outright. Although we should take all allegations seriously, we should not aim to ruin a person’s life or strip them of their income and career based on an accusation alone. Yet, this is exactly what happens.
The movement unintentionally promoted “cancel culture” — a belief, particularly in America, that a person accused of a morally corrupt crime should be boycotted in every aspect of media. This would not be bad in itself if it was guaranteed that the person in question did the crime; but since social media allegations are often a “he said, she said” issue, there is no guarantee that the punishment would be just.
Huffington Post contributor Joshua Joda puts it this way, “‘Canceling’ leaves no room for discussion of what motivated past actions, growth, immaturity and maturity, any mistake means someone is ‘cancelled,’ we move on to the next one and wait to pounce on whoever screws up next.”
This becomes a larger problem when the accused is not taken to court or cannot defend themselves in a court-of-law. And although women can and have been abusers, this fault in the public eye lands predominantly on men.
Although recent studies are limited on the topic, it is generally known that men in the United States receive harsher sentences in federal court cases than women accused of the same crime, despite the law determining both unjust. Men are also less likely to come forward with allegations of abuse than women. On a social level, women accused of abuse are often forgiven easier than their male counterparts. This is even seen today as female celebrities like Cardi B, who admitted to drugging and stealing from men, are not punished or “canceled” to the extent men are.
On her Twitter account on March 26, Cardi B said, “I never claim to be perfect or come from a perfect world wit[h] a perfect past … I made the choices that I did at the time because I had very limited options.”
Yet, it goes without saying that if a man drugged and stole from a woman, they would not be let off the hook so easily. Instead of receiving the same backlash as men, however, Cardi B has been embraced more strongly by her fans, with memes surfacing online making fun of the ordeal rather than holding her accountable the same way men have been.
Abuse of any kind is not a competition. A man’s abuse does not overrule a woman’s abuse or vice versa. Yet, female abuse victims receive more sympathy and care than male abuse victims. This is completely out of line with the standards that our culture seems to hold dear — standards that say all alleged abusers should be held accountable.
What we see in the mainstream media is a reflection of our values as a society, which affects our laws and our lives. The hypocrisy that goes behind alleged female abuse supporters and male abuse deniers is something that negatively affects not only our media but our lives in general. This ideology, if not recanted, will result in negative consequences beyond what we have witnessed so far. If we are to be a just society, then we must support male abuse victims as we do female victims.
Believing that men are more capable of abuse than women creates a double-standard that allows for abuse to spread. Whether a man is abused by a woman or another man, he should not have to fear coming forward, as women have, to seek healing and justice. He should not be laughed at and made a mockery of. And, above all, his abuse should be counted the same as any woman’s. No one’s abuse is worse than another, so we should stop acting like it is.