The #MeToo movement has illuminated a problem that has existed since the beginning of time. This problem runs rampant in our daily lives and is rooted in both physical and social power dynamics: men objectifying women.
This warped view of women often results in gender-based prejudices and biases, and verbal and physical sexual assault. It happens on every continent, but the #MeToo movement started in the U.S. and has raised awareness of women's rights, and how we -- as men and as a country -- should better protect women from sexual harassment.
It's no surprise that the #MeToo movement has spurred several conversations. One, in particular, focuses on the rights of men and how men should protect themselves from false accusations of sexual harassment. Cases of wrongly accused men, and the destruction of their careers and livelihoods are often used as a battle cry to support men's rights, and to provide a platform for men to express their concerns over the growing divide between men and women.
There is even a movement entitled "Men Go Their Own Way (MGTOW)," which supports a lifestyle without women where men no longer pursue friendships or any relationships with women. The movement consists of a collection of websites and social media presences that caution men against romantic relationships with women, and encourages men to avoid marriage. The “official” MGTOW website says: "MGTOW is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else."
Men are not suffering. People who believe that men are somehow being mistreated by society or women are misguided, and do not fully understand the severity of misogyny, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment. These men fail to acknowledge that women are not our competitors. They seem to harbor little respect for the rights of women, and don’t see women as equals. Men who follow this mantra have resorted to a ridiculous form of self-pity by placing themselves in a self-imposed "time-out."
The movement has largely been disguised as an effort to avoid false accusations by women; in reality, it's really nothing more than a nonsensical ploy to disengage and deprive women of male presence. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified MGTOW as a male supremacist group -- which it clearly is. The solution to sexual harassment is not segregation or disassociation. The solution lies within the hearts and minds of men who must choose to be mature, mindful, respectful, and civilized -- regardless of their own self-serving desires, expectations, feelings, or any misplaced ideas that suggests men are superior to women.
As stated by the National Institutes of Health, sexual harassment is about power. The goal of the perpetrator, most commonly but not exclusively a man, is to objectify, exclude, demoralize, diminish, and coerce the victim, most commonly a woman, to exert power over her. It's morally indefensible, it's unacceptable, and it presents a major obstacle that is keeping women from achieving their rightful place in the world—as equals, in every facet—to men.
While some men fear false rape or sexual assault allegations, the accusations are not as prevalent as you might think. According to the authors of a 2010 study on Violence Against Women at the Symposium on False Allegations of Rape, over a 10-year span, between 2% - 10% of rape accusations have been proven to be false or unsubstantiated.
False accusations garner a lot of attention because the innocence of the perpetrator -- in most cases, a man -- is seemingly ignored. Men often point out that an accusation can easily be made, but is difficult to prove and even harder to defend oneself against.
Two glaring cases involving the Duke University Lacrosse team in 2006 and the alleged University of Virginia gang rape case in 2014 were covered extensively by the media, and allowed us to closely examine the dynamic between the accuser and the accused, and how men can be falsely accused of heinous crimes. While both cases were instances of women crying rape through maliciously concocted stories for revenge or other self-serving motives, these cases are not representative of most rape and sexual assault allegations. Moreover, statistics have suggested that the number of unreported rapes and sexual assaults far outweigh the number of men wrongly convicted due to false rape or sexual assault accusations.
While the accusations levied against high-profile men Brett Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and a host of others often appear to be rooted in the desire for money, celebrity, or attention, the allegations are more likely to be true than false.
It is clear that we must do more to change the culture of male/ female interactions in our institutions, schools, and work places. Men do have rights; we have the inalienable right to exist as human beings and not be prejudged or discriminated against because we are men. We (men) also have a right to defend ourselves if we are falsely accused of harassment, assault or any crime.
Women have the same rights. And, it is incumbent upon men to know the boundaries that exist between men and women, respect those limits, and call out any man who crosses the line.
Our law enforcement agencies and legal apparatus must conduct more detailed investigations of legitimate and false claims of sexual misconduct.
Instead of worrying about being falsely accused, every man should understand that he has a legal and moral obligation to respect women. We have to teach our boys that girls are not property or objects who exist for male pleasure.
We must hold ourselves accountable, as men, and work intensively to understand the rights of women so that we can better address, report, and prevent sexual harassment. For black men, this means strengthening relationships with black women, which is not only necessary for establishing boundaries and preventing sexual harassment, but also critically important for supporting the future of the black family.