#NotAll fill-in-the-blank

Or: Whose ox is being gored here, anyway?

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Have you ever had a FaceBook friend or Twitter follower who seemed to share your values, speak your “language”, and agree on the nefariousness and malice aforethought of some particular subsets of humanity…?

You think they’re cool. You think they’re on the same wavelength. You think they “get” you…

Right up until the moment you make a passing, mildly amusing generalization about some other subset – moms, or men, or deciduous trees – and all of a sudden, they are mortally offended and taking it all personally and serious, as if you had called out their mom, their husband, or the maple tree in their front yard: explicitly and by name.

It happens to me about once a month. I’ve tried to sum up a general economic problem like the foreclosure debacle of 2008, calling attention to the ways in which many people contributed to the bubble that inevitably burst by acquiring property with the full intention of doing cosmetic renos and then flipping that property just to make a few bucks…

And wham! Someone I respect and love goes ballistic about how *they* went under and were bankrupted and lost their home because of trusting the real estate agents and the banks and how dare I imply that their misfortune was in any way their fault?!?

I lost longtime and valued friends because I once used the @yesallwomen hash-tag to discuss the many, many ways in which women in western European cultures are dishonoured and robbed of their essential agency as human beings, every day, in small but significant ways that open the door wide open to the more egregious and frequently violent actions that destroy them.

A wardrobe-mistress of a ballet company, someone I had been close friends with for nearly two decades, unfriended me almost immediately,  because apparently, according to her parting DM, she had never once been disrespected by anyone identifying as male in her entire life, and that was proof positive that I was a hatemongering feminazi.

Because #notallmen, right?

The woman who loved my memes and snarky comments about “husbands” went ballistic on me when I made a similarly generalized comment about stereotypical toddler behaviors and the over-the-stratosphere reactions that their mothers frequently resort to.

“Not my child” and “How can I possibly understand how hard it is to raise a child in this world?” was the least of it.

It’s totally human and it’s everywhere, all the time, and I’m willing to bet that even a lot of people who pride themselves on being uniformly positive, empathetic, and kind 100% of the time have still, occasionally, met this reaction to what they thought, sincerely, was a mild and affirmative post or tweet.

 

As writers, we’re taught to use our knowledge, understanding, and experience of the world and its inhabitants to bring realism and believability to our work.

But if we had a character that did this in a novel, the editors and the readers would flag it IN NEON LETTERS A MILE HIGH as completely inconsistent, unbelievable, and wrong.

Go figure.

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Me, Too.

This was the original post, when it came across my Facebook feed:

Me, too

As suggested: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

 

 

It resonated, deeply.

So I went for it, as did probably a gajillion other women I know and love.

And then…

Look, it’s not as if women are somehow unaware that men are also sexually assaulted and raped. In fact, despite the fact that they are assaulted and raped, most men almost never mention it, even in passing, and despite the fact that MRA-types like to whine about the undeniable fact that things that women experience daily are also occasionally things that can happen to men, women of third-wave feminism are the only ones actually fighting in any material way for protection and services to be available for men who are oppressed in these ways, too. We’re the ones campaigning for male oppression by the system to be recognized. We’re the ones who keep reminding the world that men, too, are victimized and assaulted.

 

But this wasn’t about that.

“Me, Too” was an attempt to show the world just how incredibly pervasive the problem is for women. How it affects pretty much every woman that you, as a man, has ever come into contact with. That it’s your mom, and your sister, and the woman in the Starbucks line-up ahead of you.

“Me, Too” was an attempt to start a conversation about this enormous problem that impacts women disproportionately, and is one of the key foundational weapons used to keep women in a subservient position in the world.

Within minutes, though….the idea that this wasn’t representing men became the topic.

 

You know what subsuming men into the sexual harassment/assault “Me Too” campaign actually did?

It made the men who become victims of sexual assault even more invisible and easier to be ignored, while subverting what was intended to be a very visual statement about women’s oppression into how we didn’t include the male victims.

It’s basically one big distraction move that took the teeth out of the impact — for ALL victims.

What might have been a great way to show just how big that impact is for women, and maybe make some men a little more aware of the problem, has turned into something that men can ignore.

If, however, y’all had waited, and then, once the conversation had gotten going, had your own “I Have” moment (or whatever two words seemed best to you), that impact would probably have been greater, and more powerful for EVERYONE.

Now, the conversation is not about sexual harassment or assault of anyone.

It’s about how women are mean because they didn’t include everybody.

Derailed and ignored, once again.