#MeTooDoesNOTStartWithYou

In days after J-Lo and Shakira’s Superbowl Halftime performance, my social media feeds were littered with wide-ranging reactions to the women’s performance.  I was heartened by many of the responses (see my recommended reading list at the end of this piece). Others infuriated me. 

One commentator wrote:

 “Jennifer, you shared your talented daughter with the world. But that performance couldn’t begin to teach her that she’s worth everything. That maybe, just maybe, a man’s eyes — when they rest on her breasts, should rise to her eyes. Or maybe that some men shouldn’t even be looking at her at all. You have the world’s attention. #MeToo starts with each one of us. In addition to holding predators accountable, we need to act in ways that don’t demean ourselves. We weaken our voices when men treat us the way we’ve taught them to even though they have no right to. Actions speak louder than words. Given your incredible talents, privilege, and power, #MeTooStartsWithYou.” [1]

There’s a LOT to unpack here. Two quick points: 1) Worth is not dependent on action. Worth is inherent in the being; 2) The mere presence of a female body does not give males some kind of pass to reject all decency or self-restraint. Men are not animals. Suggesting that men can’t control themselves is degrading.   

The main point, however, that I want to address is the idea that #MeTooStartsWithYou. In one sense, #MeToo does start with me and you. Everyone should combat sexism and misogyny when they see it and when they’re able. I definitely understand that there are some situations in which it may not be safe to do so or some situations in which individuals are dealing with trauma that may prevent them from having these conversations.

Yet, I am NOT responsible for the #MeToo – worthy acts that men commit against me. I am not responsible for the catcalls hurled in my direction. I am not responsible for the random male gaze exploring my body on a regular basis. I am not responsible for the unwelcome hand creeping up my thigh. 

Suggesting that women have a role to play in preventing #MeToo stories is a blatant perpetuation of rape culture (see WomanStats variable LRW-PRACTICE-1). And rape culture perpetuates the environment that tolerates and breeds #MeToo stories. 

Some of the reactions that I saw regarding J-Lo and Shakira’s performance revolved around what we were teaching our children with this performance. In that vein, what are we teaching our children when we perpetuate rape culture? 

We teach them to fear coming forward with stories of abuse. We teach them to doubt themselves when such abuse occurs. We teach them to ask and think, “Could I have reacted quicker? Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at him that way. Why didn’t I fight back harder? Did I want it?” Or, “Why was she out so late? Well, she shouldn’t have gone alone. If she hadn’t been drinking so much, that wouldn’t have happened.” 

Insidiously, rape culture destroys empathy for victims and survivors, and this breeds isolation, fear, and shame. Rape culture decreases reporting rates, decreases conviction rates, and increases instances of abuse. If we are going to create a society free of #MeToo stories, we must remove the idea that #MeTooStartsWithYou. 

– M.D.

Suggested Reads: 

https://beautyredefined.org/j-lo-and-shakiras-halftime-empowering-and-objectifying/

https://whatsupmoms.com/parenting/super-bowl-halftime-show-teaching-girls/?fbclid=IwAR2ZA-w3R-7jKUvgiQumKh1e5QAix8OwkugkvTc-ppl3lem7nQLAF8EO8Jk

https://lettersfromshelby.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/the-case-of-the-no-good-dirty-rotten-super-bowl-halftime-show/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/04/opinion/jlo-superbowl-performance.html

Citations:

[1] Solenni, P. de. (2020, February 9). An Open Letter to Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://stream.org/an-open-letter-to-jennifer-lopez-and-shakira/?fbclid=IwAR1oyAAgCznEK17Gqnn66C070pxi4tY7HKeJMv3g2jk6PfhDZooTFkUAz4g

 

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