Shalom Obisie-Orlu
October 24, 2017 5:54 pm
Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

When Alyssa Milano wrote a tweet encouraging women to come forward with stories of sexual harassment and assault, it revived Tarana Burke’s #MeToo  movement, resulting in millions of sexual assault survivors sharing their stories. So many brave people are continuing to tell their stories on a (much needed) larger scale.

However, as with any movement calling for social change, there are negative and unnecessary responses. One of them is #NotMe — a pseudo-movement started by men who have made themselves the focus. In a sentence, this is problematic — but let’s break down exactly why this is such a horrible thing to do.

First off, #MeToo is a space for survivors — not a space for uncomfortable men to shift blame and feel better.

In this instance, #NotMe is to #MeToo what #AllLivesMatter is to #BlackLivesMatter. It is invalidating and unhelpful on so many levels. Refocusing stories of sexual assault away from survivors and back to men seeking some sort of validation for not being an assaulter is absurd and wrong.

#NotMe shouldn’t exist because respecting women should not be an act that merits recognition — it should be the norm.

There is nothing extraordinary about treating people well and respecting their humanity. #NotMe seems to think we should note how many men don’t take part in the kinds of behaviors that result in #MeToo, but it’s not that simple.

Maybe several of the men tweeting #NotMe don’t think they’ve ever gone out of their way to sexually harass anyone — but they’ve been accomplices and bystanders in the face of harassment, and that in itself is unacceptable.

On the morning of the 18th, my news feed was full of women saying #MeToo. Many of my friends chose to speak out about the sexual harassment they’ve experienced, and many chose not to. Reasons for not participating are all varied and all valid. A friend of mine expressed the lack of impact she felt her voice would have, directly relating it to #NotMe.

Her words were sobering, and true. This is far from the first time that women have spoken out about sexual assault.

It’s far from the first time that one perpetrator has been punished (albeit, very lightly). There are still so many vile predators in every industry — Hollywood, gymnastics, music and more — who continue to succeed despite their history of sexual abuse. It is an unacceptable part of our culture that allows them to do so, and it must end.

#NotMe is not useful.

It is not helpful, and it is not welcome. Instead of shifting blame, men should embrace #HowIWillChange, a hashtag that calls for men to own up and take it upon themselves to end sexual assault.

Instead of saying “not me” and removing themselves from a situation that they are systematically part of, men should be looking to change. Our culture gives abusers a pass and allows them to live without consequences. While it’s discouraging, it can change. But we need men to stand up and change — not just say that they will. We need to hold men responsible for their own and each other’s behaviors.

As long as women all over the world are saying #MeToo, responding with #NotMe will never be acceptable.

Sexual harassment is an issue that women continue to face. We need people to believe us, support us, and speak out against it with us. It doesn’t help if your “allyship” is really just men absolving themselves of any responsibility. Instead, men, show us #HowYouWillChange — today and every other day.

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