#HimToo: An Online Movement Sending Mixed Messages and Promoting Dangerous Myths

#HimToo: An Online Movement Sending Mixed Messages and Promoting Dangerous Myths

The greatest stories always start with a meme. Last week, the internet was exposed to a viral backlash to the #MeToo movement, the online hashtag that led to over 250 celebrities, politicians, CEOs and other prominent figures in power being accused of sexual misconduct since April 2017. Their latest rival is #HimToo, which was once again reignited because of a simple tweet from a conservative mother, and has steadily been adopted by the right over the last few months.

Until a few days ago, the #MeToo movement never saw an organized online counter-response the likes of #HimToo, the term that was trending during the height of the confirmation hearings for the recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Within hours, #HimToo garnered traction among the center and the hard-right conservative base with the support of Turning Point USA, The Daily Wire, Breitbart and their peers with their declaration they #StandWithBrett.

Some argue this new movement is a dangerous effort to protect abusers through pro-male tribalism; others insist it’s an organic critique of a supposed trend of false rape allegations. Now we’re all left to wonder how exactly this became a viral thing. Well, would you believe me if I told you that as of now, half the nation are simply following the lead of a mother’s embarrassing social media post? Enter Marla Reynolds, otherwise known as @BlueStarNavyMom3, who took time away from her infrequent rantings about TV shows and local news to say her son, Pieter Hanson, is unwilling to go on “solo dates” with women because of the climate surrounding #MeToo:

HimToo Navy Mom meme

Hanson, ever the tech-savvy troll, took to Twitter to correct her meme:

What started out as a funny exchange between conservative parents and their liberal children, politely disagreeing on today’s culture over Twitter, has now created further divide across the nation. We’ve reached a serious discourse milestone where political activists, gender partisans and honest truth-seekers are forced to debate the role of men, the nature of allegations and the fallout the #MeToo era. But has that debate become exaggerated with myths? Ignoring the real struggles facing both men and women today?

Ironically, the #HimToo hashtag was not always a backlash response. In fact, Wired reports it was originally used by males sympathetic of #MeToo, using their platform to reveal their experience when facing sexual misconduct or assault in the everyday world. These confessional posts varied in both the sexual orientation and the gender of the alleged abusers, giving us countless anecdotal yet well-rounded views of the victimized male experience. It’s likely these accounts represent just a few among the millions around the world who have been the victims of sexual assault. According to older feminist estimates, such as Rainn.org, it was believed that around 2.78 million men in the U.S. had experienced rape or attempted rape within their lifetime, meaning around 1 in 33 of American males since the 1980s.

Over the years, these estimates have skyrocketed.

In 2013, The National Crime Victimization Survey discovered that of around 40,000 households reporting on rape and sexual violence, 38 percent of incidents were against men. This is in addition to a 2014 study of 284 men and boys in college and high school which found that 43 percent reported being sexually coerced, with the majority failing to report the incident. These statistics obviously shocked the feminists, such as accredited researcher Lara Stemple, who contacted the Bureau of Justice Statistics to verify what she was seeing before her own eyes.

“No, it wasn’t a mistake,” officials told her, according to Slate, nearly a third of sexual assault victims were men. Stemple soon conducted her own peer-reviewed study, the results published with co-author Ilan Meyer in the American Journal of Public Health, which back-up these results.

“For some kinds of victimization, men and women have roughly equal experiences,” Slate journalist Hanna Rosin summarised the piece. “Stemple is a longtime feminist who fully understands that men have historically used sexual violence to subjugate women and that in most countries they still do. As she sees it, feminism has fought long and hard to fight rape myths — that if a woman gets raped it’s somehow her fault, that she welcomed it in some way. But the same conversation needs to happen for men.”

As the movement stands, the current #HimToo could make matters far more dangerous. The first reason is the establishing of harmful gender roles, collectivizing the culture down the lines of male oppressors and the female oppressed. Without calling each other “cultural Marxists” or “SJWs,” is it unreasonable to point out the lack of understanding surrounding sexual violence against men? After all, the debunked 1–5 college rape statistic is given credence by former presidents and the mainstream media, meanwhile the phrase ‘men’s rights’ is a progressive punch-line.

“A lot of people colloquially just see this sort of thing as something that happens to women,” said Seth Stewart, director of development and communications at 1-in-6, a group offering help to male rape victims, in his conversation with Vox.

#HimToo ignores this reality. The idea being rallied around currently is a vulgar one, suggesting sexual assault victims are comparable to their particular kind of smeared male victims, which only exist if there are truly evil liars misusing the cultural change and social ostracism of #MeToo for ulterior motives.

“America isn’t safe anymore,” cries right-wing journalist Laura Loomer on Twitter. “If you have a son, make sure you buy him a note pad, a body camera, & a recording device. Get him a battery pack too so he can always protect himself with video evidence of every single encounter he has with a woman… There is a war on men. Crazy to see how many feminists have no problem with women falsely accusing men of rape,” she continued. “This is why you should not believe all women.”

Understand there’s nobody in their right mind that denies the cruel reality behind false accusations. See the stories of Mattress Girl and the London serial rape accuser, and you’ll find deceptive characters who, on occasion, actually received punishment when facing the imperfect justice system. There is also truth to wanting to give men societal concern for their problems. “If [men] talk to someone who says ‘it was abuse, it was rape,’ many men will psychologically go into hiding,” Stewart continued, suggesting the numbers for male victims are lower based on the cultural climate. The need to look after our boys is there.

That said, this false equivalency between accusers and false accusers misrepresents not only the divide between men and women as being antagonistic but how rare these false accusations actually are. Supporters of #MeToo are quick to make the radical assertion that between 2 and 8 percent of sexual assault reports are false, citing research conducted by the obviously unbiased End Violence Against Women International organization. The bias aside, this is a trend shown on the subject matter over time. Since only rapes reported to police can be deemed false, analysts suggest the number could be higher depending on whether accusers wanted to stand trial.

A 2010 paper by psychologist David Lisak, examining over 136 sexual assault reports made on a northeastern university campus over a 10-year period, found that 19 did not have sufficient evidence and that only 8 cases (or 6.8 percent) were determined to be outright false based on substantial evidence. This is consistent with the 8 percent to 10 percent cited by the FBI. #HimToo seems to ignore the 93 percent, which includes male victims, whose accusers provided enough evidence to merit investigation and charges. As tweeted by Amanda Wallwin, chief of staff for New York State Assembly Member Dan Quart: “men are probably more likely to be assaulted than falsely accused.”

Using #HimToo to blankety focus on false allegations could further stigmatize survivors from coming forward, reverting to an older mentality where the fairness of due process is perverted by blind inquisition against the accuser. It turns investigators searching for the truth into partisan advocates searching for holes in stories to work backward from their conclusion.

There are advocates who believe Bill Clinton’s accusers, facing credible allegations from Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones, yet don’t apply the same skepticism to their president or his SCOTUS nominees. If you want to go after one potential abuser, you have to go after the others too. Individuals don’t fit into the stereotype of women make accusations, men are accused. Assault is bipartisan, multigendered and is the bigger issue facing the nation’s people.

“Dividing the conversation on the basis of gender, the hashtag also surely causes some male-identifying survivors to feel invisible in the conversation,” Stewart continued, “the very thing #HimToo was seeking to ameliorate.”

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