Students spoke in front of a crowd outside the Student Activities Center. GARY GHAYRAT/THE STATESMAN
Students spoke in front of a crowd outside the Student Activities Center during a #MeToo march on Feb. 28, 2018. GARY GHAYRAT/STATESMAN FILE

In the wake of #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh, feminists have become increasingly vocal that men should be held accountable for sexual misconduct and discrimination. Some refer strictly to the perpetrators of those ills while others refer to inactive bystanders as well. However, a growing trend has been to hold all men collectively responsible for them.

“It is our responsibility in particular to support the #MeToo movement,” said a male feminist in praise of last year’s #MeToo campus rally. “[Rape culture] is a problem caused by and perpetuated by men, and it’s men’s job to be part of this movement.”

Some have openly expressed this opinion with outright hatred. As Suzanna Danuta Walters, director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University, wrote for The Washington Post, men should account for “all the millennia of woe [they] have produced” by “pledging to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power… We have every right to hate you.”

I am not blind as to why #MeToo exists.

I know several women who were stalked and sexually assaulted. Rather than arresting the perpetrator, police officers asked one of the victims why she didn’t fight him off. In other incidents, which took place on campus, Title IX and other university authorities took no effective action.

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Last year, I was sexually harassed by a male student at work. My boss told me it was my fault when I reported it to her. After the semester ended, I was laid off. I have also been sexually harassed throughout my public school years. At parties, I’ve seen people of both sexes groping others while bystanders condoned and even encouraged the acts.

Society has failed to prevent sexual misconduct and provide justice for its victims. However, this does not justify the vilification of men. Misandry has caused harm in my life and will continue to do so in many others if more feminists help normalize it.

In the 2018 midterm elections, one of my family members voted Letitia James for Attorney General of New York solely because she didn’t want “any more men in office.” When I first started college, another family member had lectured me about “how horrible guys are,” demanding that I take responsibility for it in all of my interactions with female students. “Never approach girls,” he told me forcefully. “Let girls approach you.”

That didn’t help me cope with the hostility I’ve received from several female students for trying to befriend them. I’ve heard other feminists justify it with the argument that all men are potential predators to women. One woman close to me praised the “SCUM Manifesto,” which calls to “destroy the male sex.”

Feminists who scapegoat men ultimately shun many of the people they claim to support. Those who blame gun violence against women on “male entitlement,” for example, disregard the men who die from gun violence and the influence of fatherlessness on men who perpetrate it. 

Meanwhile, by stigmatizing male behavior, some feminists in power have already influenced policy to the detriment of men. Under the influence of organizations such as the National Coalition for Sex Equity in Education, the Department of Education and schools across the U.S. have tried to combat male aggression by policing how boys play, targeting games such as dodgeball and tag. 

Male health and academic performance are declining, and two education researchers are worried that such initiatives would exacerbate this fall by undermining boys’ psychological development. Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo attributed the decrease in part to “political correctness,” explaining that men are given “a set of rules about what not to do, but no guidance about what they should do.”

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Boys need to express themselves in school on terms they can relate to, especially through interactive and technical coursework. Many feminists in the U.S., however, have resisted attempts to promote male students in career and technical education.

Some men would try to rectify women’s issues by externally overhauling femininity and creating new standards of permissible female behavior. Feminists would most likely — and rightfully — resent that. Most men do not share women’s perspectives; hence, they should not make those dictations.

However, attempts to fight “toxic masculinity” by feminizing men are equally wrong. Males are not inoculated from such measures or institutional discrimination. Stoicism, competition, strength, assertiveness and many other qualities associated with masculinity are not toxic.

Feminism, meanwhile, has an image problem; most women, despite believing in gender equality, do not identify with the movement. Many of them associate it with misandry and substantiating that stereotype would only drive them further away. 

Many men, meanwhile, have valuable perspectives on sexual violence and gender issues — both of which are complicated subjects. If feminists want productive public discourse about them, they need to acknowledge that doing so requires more than one participant.

Correction:  Sept. 22, 2019
A previous version of this story read “In other incidents that took place on campus, Title IX and other university authorities took no effective action.” It was clarified and edited to “In other incidents, which took place on campus…” to avoid the possibly wrongful impression that the previously stated incident happened on campus.

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