Posted by Saachi D’Souza
This morning on twitter the hashtag #MenToo was trending with over 12.5k comments on the subject. I usually keep myself away from men’s rights activism, but while browsing through the tweets I was brought with the same anger that I felt during the #MeToo movement. I have been a part of #MeToo – I have been one of the many people who posted the hashtag as a disclosure of the trauma they have battled and navigated. There were people who filed reports and people who used social media as a platform to discuss the violence they felt. Whatever the criticism may be, #MeToo rose as a space that allowed for more conversation on the subtlety of sexual violence – how it cannot, in fact, stare you in the face. However, when the movement began and women claimed the hashtag, a popular question was, “where are the men?”
It is to crucial to know that #MeToo did not set out with a gender-bias. It did not belong to one gender or the experience of one, but the superiority of women’s voices during the movement has been subject to much criticism and enquiry. However, a significant take-away from this result is that perhaps, it is not that women had more power in the movement, but the number of women who face sexual violence is just greater, however large the number of men who face sexual violence is. What the movement then inspired is a conversation on ‘false reports.’
The hashtag was expressed in different ways, subjective to a person’s experience, trauma and how they wished to share their story. Those who claimed the hashtag by reporting their abuser, were met with a response by the accused. What was then originally a claim/statement turned into a debate about what ‘really’ happened, but largely in the comments. While there was criticism of the legitimacy to this, one should have been more concerned about how ‘false reports’ get defined.
When a claim turns into a debate, it becomes less about the crime and more about the people involved, and more often than not people are likely to point fingers at the victim. Who are they, where do they come from? Their background and identity is questioned and stripped off, of its dignity to find any possible reasons for them to use a case of sexual harassment as revenge or to direct attention towards them. This is not to imply that false reporting does not exist, it certainly does, but not enough for it to become a national issue. What #MenToo is addressing is just this: the criminality to false reporting, and the lack of ‘awareness’ around it and men who get harassed in the process.
Whatever the criticism may be, #MeToo rose as a space that allowed for more conversation on the subtlety of sexual violence – how it cannot, in fact, stare you in the face. However, when the movement began and women claimed the hashtag, a popular question was, “where are the men?”
What is the premise to the Men’s Rights Movement or #MenToo?
This is still confusing, because it is actually not just about defending men who face abuse from women, but it is a complicated statement against feminism. Feminism includes men as they should be – by bringing to discourse masculinity and its patriarchal construction. Why this has become a sore subject amongst men is because it questions their aggression, their ego and the structures these are nurtured in. ‘Mens rights’, then, as a stand against women’s rights and feminism is a farcical defence, a gross exaggeration and a total disregard of the victims of sexual violence.
The claim that false reporting is at a rise and requires some legitimacy in mainstream media and courtrooms feels like an attempt to draw attention away from sexual violence entirely. India does not have a problem of false reporting. Men’s rights groups have been advocating that there are statistics showing 53% of rape cases as false, but a 2018 statistic showed that 99% of rape cases in India go unreported, given the frequency of rape cases that are reported. So arguably there is a connection between the two statistics, and there is a complexity to what is defined as a ‘false report.’
There is a whole process behind a case that gets dismissed as false – when a victim files a complaint, they have to meet investigative requirements and ‘due process’ for them to have any hope for justice. It is no news that police investigation is still lacking in motivation and professionalism with regard to sexual violence. To understand the possible explanations behind false reports, it is important to understand why victims don’t come forward at all. Several research studies on cases of sexual violence have claimed that victims are overcome with fear of humiliation, shame associated with the consequences to their identity, trauma, and pressures from family when deciding whether to report a crime.
These are primarily a result of a due process that is infamous for harassment, victim blaming and approaching victims with indifference instead of sensitivity. If 99% of rape cases go unreported and 53% of all cases are false, then can one not deduce that of the 53%, there are several cases that are dismissed without investigation? And is it not possible that most victims who approach the police are confined to an investigation that destroys their mental health, and are eventually compelled to withdraw from the case?
The claim that false reporting is at a rise and requires some legitimacy in mainstream media and courtrooms feels like an attempt to draw attention away from sexual violence entirely.
It is disheartening that people co-opt and belittle the suffering of victims when they file a false report, and why they do it is another conversation. But what #MenToo has instigated is more anger towards victims of sexual violence, instead of the need for more anger towards sexual violence. It translates into a distraction from the requirement to access these cases with concern and thorough investigation, instead of the laziness and withdrawal with which they are approached now. A distraction much like the #NotAllMen movement that served little to no purpose.
The movement has allowed men to sit back and relax, not be afraid of #MeToo and ‘justify’ sexual violence. It has allowed men to reiterate power dynamics by shifting the narrative of abuse onto their gender. It is also trying to distract from why men rape in the first place, which in fact is not gendered. Of the cases that are reported, some of them are by trans folx, queer folx and men (During #MeToo their voices were louder because of the sensitivity of the movement). It is possible, also, that a large percentage of dismissed cases are by people belonging to these groups, given the prejudice associated.
Similarly the movie ‘Section 375’ was another contribution to the #MenToo movement. It validated the voices of those proclaiming that men have been victims to women speaking out and finding independence, and those who believe that lower class women ‘frame’ influential men for financial gain. It was again a pathetic attempt to build a case for men to believe that they are victims here and that ‘crime has no gender’, therefore, building the case that toxic masculinity is not a problem.
When looked at logically, men’s rights activism and all the hashtags it has inspired does not provide men with the rights they are fighting for. What those rights are, remains a thing of amusement, but if men are trying to fight for their rights when brought with the hurdle of a false rape case, they need to understand that rape laws in the country may have been tightened because of women, but they cannot be biased. Anger that is once again misdirected to avoid finding solutions for the real cause – prejudiced and corrupt police investigation. Only 7.28% of police officers in India are women and they (along with other minority categories) are underrepresented. Of this niche, there is no saying whether they are appointed to cases of sexual violence, and given the reality of the police, it is highly unlikely.
So what really is #MenToo trying to accomplish? Is it trying to ‘humanise’ men? If so, why is that the point? Why are we constantly looking for more reasons to belittle the trauma sexual violence leaves behind? It leaves you unable to identity with yourself and it leaves you unable to navigate through the dynamics of different relationships. #MeToo was more than an attempt to come to terms with sexual violence, it was almost redemptive in how it brought people to confront themselves.
It was possibly the first time so many people shared with the world their vulnerability with such intricacy and sensitivity not only towards themselves but anyone who was going to read their story. Men’s rights activism, in contrast, is as aggressive as masculinity is, and just as performative. It is only noise – it achieves nothing and continues to humiliate itself into insignificance. It is also petty. In fact, I would argue that it is because of #MenToo that we need more of #MeToo.
Featutred Image Source: Twitter