You Do Uterus: Men offended by #MeToo are missing the point

Kylie Cheung | Daily Trojan

The revelations of #MeToo, a social campaign to empower women to share their experiences with sexual misconduct, have been rolling out almost nonstop since November 2016. And despite the simplicity of its intent — a society where women are safe and respected — as movements regarding how we treat women so often are, #MeToo has become a source of bipartisan conflict, confusion and outrage across the political spectrum both in Hollywood and on Capitol Hill.

New allegations against comedian Aziz Ansari, a vocal feminist advocate and the mastermind behind the groundbreaking Netflix original series Master of None, have only added fuel to the flames. On Saturday, a 23-year-old female photographer accused Ansari of sexual coercion, claiming they had gone on a date that ended with the actor repeatedly attempting to engage her in sexual contact despite her numerous verbal and nonverbal objections. The report spared no detail and offered a jarringly familiar portrait of sexual misconduct, not as the overtly criminal, stereotypical back-alley rape, but as a wrong so commonplace men and women alike have come to accept it as normal.

A month after the advent of #MeToo in December, the internet became a cesspool of hot takes, op-eds and tweets arguing that men now live in an oppressive new world in which they must be afraid to hug women.

It’s uncomfortable for me to dignify a reaction so out-of-touch by offering a counter-argument, but I’ll say what must be said: The egocentrism of men in whom #MeToo has instilled fear rather than solidarity is part of the problem, whether or not they’ve ever sexually abused a woman in their lives.

Women are taught early on to not only accept gendered fear, but structure every aspect of their lives around it. From everyday decisions like never walking alone at night to deciding not to report a powerful man in their workplace for sexual misconduct for the sake of their economic stability, fear of being violated, hurt, threatened or taken advantage of has shaped the female identity for centuries.

Beyond speaking your truth and empowering other women, there’s nothing to gain and — as we’ve seen with survivors who speak up and face sexual harassment, threats and even arson, which one accuser of former Alabama Senate candidate and alleged child molestor Roy Moore was subjected to — everything to lose from coming forward. To be a man and suggest that a woman would risk her safety, career and reputation just to hurt you is a true testament to the boundlessness of the male ego, and a reflection of the insecurities bred in a dominant group whenever a historically marginalized one makes any gain whatsoever.

In either case, Ansari’s story has generated such a strong reaction because the prevalence of his alleged actions has led so many to believe a man pressuring a woman to have sex with him, and forcing sexual acts on women despite clear signs of hesitation or verbal objections, is a sort of gray area leaving room to debate whether a woman has the right to feel violated.

Perhaps what Ansari’s accuser described is a moral gray — perhaps, indeed, for some men, whether or not to hug a female coworker is, too. More than anything, what this latest #MeToo story reminds us is how, just as so many women identify with the women who come forward, many men are able to identify with men who are accused. Perhaps not with former Today Show co-host Matt Lauer and his notorious button, nor with Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein and the numerous allegations of rape against him, but with Ansari: a man who may not have done anything transparently illegal, but crossed lines and made a woman feel violated and unsafe nonetheless.

Throughout last weekend, Twitter was abuzz with debate between Ansari’s apologists and women like feminist author Jessica Valenti, who argues a key reason so many men are coming to the defense of Ansari on the technicality of legality is that they don’t want to believe something they’ve probably done at some point is wrong. The reality is that trying to convince a woman who has expressed either reluctance or outright objection to engage in a sexual act is coercion. Any man who has never been subjected this has no right to argue that it isn’t wrong, that women have no right to feel violated by their consent being trivialized and disrespected with bargaining, that women have no right to speak up and identify their experiences as sexual abuse.

When it comes to #MeToo, I agree that the consideration of scenarios from a legal perspective can be important. For example, let’s talk about creating effective laws to protect women’s rights in the workplace and protect women who report harassment and assault from retaliation. Let’s talk about the legal reforms that need to happen so we don’t live in a country where one in six woman will experience rape or attempted rape; two-thirds of sexual assaults will go unreported; and sexual crimes are the least likely to result in prosecution, conviction or punishment of the perpetrator.

But beyond that, it would be small-minded to suggest #MeToo should limit itself to cases of tangible sexual crimes that could be tried in court. The movement is certainly about fair laws, but it’s also about the oppressive nature of our culture — one that too often degrades the value of women’s consent with cheap legal arguments that miss the point, that absolves grown men of responsibility on the basis of their ignorance, while savaging women who dare to say a man’s treatment caused them to feel violated and threatened.

Kylie Cheung is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You Do Uterus,” runs Thursdays.

13 replies
  1. ProsperoWeeps
    ProsperoWeeps says:

    Ironic that someone as lascivious as yourself is such a crusader for women’s rights. You run an empty column for ideals you don’t even come close measuring up to. When people don’t respect you, it’s not because you’re a woman. Maybe it’s because you’ve been seen piss drunk and puking on the floor instead of being a dignified woman who deserves respect. Yeah, you’re a real role model in that outfit, with that lifestyle, and your empty rhetoric. Aren’t you?

  2. John Doe
    John Doe says:

    …and the feminazi with a silver spoon in her mouth begins to lecture us about male privilege in 3.. 2.. 1…

  3. Mom with Greek Son
    Mom with Greek Son says:

    I thought Ms. Cheung and her group of hungry ladies retired but apparently not.

    Men do what they do and they have since Adam. Women need only understand mens’ motives and nearly all these “new” found issues between men and women will be resolved.

    There was no such thing as sexual assault in my sorority days. It was called being “Fresh” and quick slap of the boy’s hand ended it. If you pushed yourself on girl, you’d never get another date with any girl in my sorority. We girls stuck together and didn’t allow ourselves to be sexualized as many of you ladies do today.

    Simple Advice: Respect yourself and don’t get drunk, don’t do drugs or allow yourself to be used by men in a sexual manner before marriage.

    God Bless and we continue to pray for you all!

  4. BoredHousewife
    BoredHousewife says:

    You say of the Ansari date that it was: “a date that ended with the actor repeatedly attempting to engage her in sexual contact despite her numerous verbal and nonverbal objections”

    Actually, there were no verbal cues. Go back and reread. She was upset that he didn’t pick up on her non-verbal cues.

  5. Deepdiver1
    Deepdiver1 says:

    Kylie Cheung, Insulting men by calling them egocentric and calling them fearful is not a way to converse to persuade them to look at your views. Putting people on the defensive with ad hominem attacks is not a wise way to build a coalition. Just a clue.

  6. finalmattasy
    finalmattasy says:

    “No means no,” is a useful statement that can help a society understand a specific boundary, and what is socially expected from it. But that doesn’t mean that our future selves don’t look back at our past selves and determine that we wish our past no’s were yes’, and vice versa.

  7. finalmattasy
    finalmattasy says:

    I think that it is true that women are not safe by way of the fact that they tend to be physically weaker and an intense object of desire. The woman in Aziz’s situation, if she wanted to feel more safe, could have left him or demanded to be taken home. Intimacy is a give and take. Some women want more give, some want more take (and men too). That Aziz would have been seen as more amicable by this woman if he behaved differently doesn’t mean that he behaved wrongly. Both parties have boundaries that they can draw. And it is always a bumpy road in coming to terms with others’ boundaries.

    My personal problem with #metoo is that Oprah’s inclusion of it indicated to me the expectation of a society where others would be able to treat others in a way that they want, without having to personally delineate the way a person wants to be personally treated.

  8. S.m. Raen
    S.m. Raen says:

    The MeToo movement started as ‘social advocacy’ and ‘female empowerment’, which is good. However, the movement was immediately hijacked by all of the man-hating, feminazis of the world. The MeToo movement has devolved, at the hands of women, to become nothing worth listening to. It is abundantly clear that it is NOT about equality, or reclaiming female dignity… it has become about attacking ALL males. I support legitimate issues… not this non-stop ‘bitch session’.

  9. Ron Milne
    Ron Milne says:

    Many of the men caught up in the metoo campaign are getting what they have long deserved. That said I think this article stinks of man hate( “a true testament to the boundlessness of the male ego” is a blanket statement aimed at all men ). I Believe Metoo is an important movement that should continue. I also think there will be some innocent men will pay a heavy price. Some women will feel its fair as they have paid their price for centuries. But we are all people and we all hurt and get hurt. Many of us love and try to spead that love. that will be the cure for this particularly nasty moment in humanity. not bashing one side or the other.

  10. Kate
    Kate says:

    “…offered a jarringly familiar portrait of sexual misconduct,”

    Did you even read the story? He did nothing wrong and has no need to apologize for anything. When she said no, he stopped. The fact that there are aspects of the encounter that she regrets, like engaging in more than one instance of oral sex, is not on him, it’s on her. He quite obviously, by her own words, was willing to stop when told no.

    Looking for her 15 minutes and not caring who gets hurt….it’s only a man, after all.

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