#MeToo vs. the Danger of Blaming White Men for Abuse

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Yesterday and today an incredibly empowering yet harrowing hashtag has been trending on Twitter. #MeToo is being used by sexual abuse and harassment survivors to share their stories and highlight the magnitude of the abuse epidemic throughout the US and the world.

It’s not only women posting either. A good number of male abuse survivors joined in the conversation, along with a host of sympathetic and supportive voices. However, sprinkled throughout the camaraderie and goodwill, there was a very disappointing (albeit small) undercurrent of racism and sexism. It is in response to this undercurrent that I am writing this article. If we want #MeToo to reach its full potential, we must protect the purity of the messaging.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually abused in their lifetime.
— U.S. Department of Justice

Now, let me be very clear: If a woman is raped by a white man, it can be natural for her to initially fear other white men. If a woman is raped by a black man, she may feel anxiety the next time she sees another black man. The same goes for middle eastern, Asian, tall, fat, old, young, and other descriptive factors. However, just because something is natural and understandable, doesn’t make it ideal or healthy as a long-term pattern. In fact, if this initial knee-jerk reaction develops into a prolonged state of emotional being, it can be a very serious problem.

Rose McGowan, who I applaud for her courage and tenacious determination, recently tweeted:

The tweet reads, in part, “All of you old frat guys that are clinging to the ways of the white male mafia paradigm just need to go.”

Other people have tweeted:

“I’m a white male. I’m not among #MeToo but I am shocked at how many women experience abuse from mostly white men. Thank you for speaking out.”

So a straight white Christian man stepped into my #MeToo post on Facebook and made it the Oppression Olympics. Because of course he did.

For every time you speak up against sexual assault, expect a dozen white men to troll your post ready to mansplain why you’re wrong. #MeToo

As someone who was sexually abused by a white man, stalked by a black man, and sexually harassed by a Hispanic man, I can tell you, evil does not have a race.

Also, while I tweeted #MeToo stories and sentiments quite a bit last night, absolutely no one of any color or gender tried to shame me or “mansplain” anything to me. Maybe I’m a lucky exception. Maybe sexist jerks find my guaranteed wordy rebuttals intimidating. I have no idea.

Whatever the case, there are several reasons why blaming all rape and abuse on white men is wrong and endangers women and girls. Here are a few:

1. It’s just plain inaccurate.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from the years 2005 to 2010, 57% of rapists were white. That’s roughly 6 out of every 10. When one considers that 61.3% of all Americans are white (or roughly 6 out of 10) it becomes evident that this statistic needs to be viewed in the context of America’s demographical makeup.

Sexual predators can be absolutely any skin color. From 2005 to 2010, 27% of sexual predators were black, and 15% were mixed ethnicity, other ethnicity, or of unknown background.

Of the high profile abusers of recent viral infamy, Bill Clinton is white, Bill Cosby is black, Harvey Weinstein is Jewish, Chris Brown is black, Roman Polanski is Jewish, Roger Ailes was white, Anthony Wiener is Jewish, Nelly is black, Alex Da Silva is Brazilian, Darren Sharper is black … their commonality is not their skin color, but rather their lack of honor.

I’m just pulling names off the top of my head here. Unfortunately, if I were to list everyone, we’d be here all day. I’m sure you can name at least a few I’ve left out, and I’m sure they’ll also be ethnically diverse.

My point is, evil comes in all colors. You can accurately say that over half of rapists in the US are white, but that’s because over half the people in the US are white. The statistic reflects the ethnic demographics of America. It does not indicate that white men, by virtue of being white, are more prone to being perverts.

2. If we perpetuate a myth that rapists are almost always white, we do women and girls of all ethnicities a grave disservice.

Females should always use common sense precautions wherever they are, whoever they’re with, regardless of skin tone. While precautions won’t always protect us from assault or harassment, they can lower our risk and empower us by making us feel safer.

Should we encourage our daughters to only use caution while around white men? Should we discourage any woman from accepting help from a white man if she’s in danger? Unfortunately, females should be aware of their surroundings anytime they’re alone in a strange place, or in a vulnerable situation with a guy of any hue. I don’t care what shade of Cover Girl foundation they match, if a person is evil, they’re evil.

If a woman is at a bar, she should not leave her drink unattended with a guy she hardly knows, just because he’s not white. If a woman is in danger, she should not feel frightened to flag down a white guy for help, just because he’s prone to sunburn. If a girl is dating, she shouldn’t limit herself to certain races just because of a misguided phobia that certain colors of people are more prone to evil. This goes for black guys as well. Skin color does not equal soul color, and visa-versa.

Are we all on the same page here? I hope so. Hate doesn’t discriminate. Evil doesn’t relegate itself to certain skin tones. This should be a universally accepted fact. I really wish it were. I feel ridiculous even explaining this.

3. Fear of men and living in anger is not healthy.

Yeah, you’ve got to be smart and use common sense precautions, but not all men are predators, and not all predators are male.

Once in my early 20’s I blew a tire in a seedy area of downtown Houston. For whatever reason, the street I was on was completely deserted. It was an early morning on a weekend and there was just no one in sight.

Needless to say, I was more than a little anxious when a beat-up van with no windows (AKA a “kidnapper van”) pulled up and a bunch of men I didn’t know hopped out. Thankfully, those guys were very kind and helped me. They replaced my tire and got me out of a potentially risky situation.

One of them said, in broken English, “You should not be here by yourself. We’ll fix your flat.”

Should I have turned down their help just because they were male? Of course not. Should I have shooed them away just because they were Hispanic? Heck, no. They saved me from a whole lot of trouble on a very hot day.

Another time, I was in a courthouse and overheard a black rapist bragging to a couple of his friends that he’d gotten off scot-free because a rape kit had come up negative for his DNA. I was extremely upset, and began to have a panic attack. A black gentleman, who I assume was a lawyer, picked me up and carried me to a safe place where I could recover. So you see, while those men may have shared a similar skin tone, their characters were completely opposite. While one of those men was a predator, another was a gentleman.

I don’t think I need to tell anyone why living in a state of constant fear, anger, and bitterness is toxic. Yes, when you’re living in an abusive situation, fear is entirely justified. When you’ve been victimized, especially violently, anger is 100% expected and rational. However, if you feed that pain with erroneous assumptions, misleading statistics, and dishonest rumors, it can develop into crippling emotional dysfunction.

Obviously, I’m not saying fear is abnormal. I’ve felt it. I still feel it. I’m also not saying that anger isn’t understandable, or that outrage isn’t justifiable. What I’m saying is, these feelings, if left to fester, will eat away your joy. They can make it difficult for you to value yourself. They can make it hard to be at peace and relax. They can impede your ability to have relationships and trust others. Don’t let fear and anger rule over you. Somehow, we’ve got to break free.

4. Don’t let sexism and abuse turn you into a sexist abuser.

This one hurts, but it needs to be said. Telling men and boys that they are naturally prone to be sexist and abusive, is in fact sexist and abusive. Manipulating men into thinking that their natural feelings of attraction and healthy expressions of sexuality are deviant and oppressive, is wrong. Shaming men into thinking that their masculinity makes them by nature sexual predators is severely messed up.

When I was in college I was chased to my dorm room by three males in hoodies and basketball jerseys. For about a week afterwards, I got jumpy every time I saw a guy in a hoodie or basketball jersey, wondering, “Is that one of the guys who chased me?” I couldn’t be sure. It had been very dark, and I’d been running away, not taking notes. It did strike me as humorous though that my brain assumed that they’d never change their clothes.

This is a natural instinctive reaction. It is not racist or sexist or bigoted to feel jumpy around people who resemble your attacker. However, if we allow that instinct to grow into something more — if we fan the flame so it develops into racism, a resentment of all men, or an anger that dictates our emotions and damages our relationships — then we have a serious problem.

One of the most infamous forms of emotional abuse is called gaslighting. It’s when an abusive and manipulative person tries to convince their victim that they’re imagining things, mentally unstable, or lying. Convincing men that they’re dirty or abusive just because they’re male, or white, or black, or whatever, is a very similar abusive tactic with equally damaging emotional consequences.

We should not strive to make men feel ashamed of their manliness. We should never teach boys to fear their strength. Rather, we should be encouraging males to respect and love females, to use their manliness to protect the weak, and leverage their power to stand against perversion. Like femininity, masculinity is a beautiful thing when it is valued, empowered, and used for good.

As C.S. Lewis says in The Abolition of Man, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

As survivors of abuse, it is paramount to our own healing that we resist any urge to stereotype people based on our own horrible experiences. It is also paramount that we fight against abuse and sexism by refusing to perpetuate lies and bigotry against anyone, whether male or female, white or black, rich or poor.

Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged.
— Jessica Valenti

She's a Texan stay-at-home mom of three who listens to heavy metal and likes black licorice. She's baking, piano-playing poet who loves fantasy literature, Star Trek, and will slay you at Scrabble. But even as she's changing diapers, sweeping up Cheerios, and cleaning peanut butter off the cat, Jennifer is thinking about writing. Whether she's crafting her next humorous parenting anecdote, composing a new song, or contemplating a profound theological concept, 87.42% of Jennifer's writing is done in her head.
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