Catcalls Aren't Rape: Why the #MeToo Campaign Is So Problematic

ashley.rae | October 18, 2017
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If your social media feeds are anything like mine, you’ve probably been witnessing an onslaught of women posting statuses with the simple phrase “#metoo,” devoid of any context of what they’re cosigning. I’ve also seen men joining in, nodding along as if they’re somehow all guilty of heinous crimes because of their gender.

The “#metoo” campaign, also spelled out as “me too,” was started as a way for women bond over their shared experiences of being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted:

Because nothing brings women together more than talking about how all men are bad.

While I've seen some harrowing accounts of alleged sexual assault linked to the #metoo campaign, I've also read tales of women complaining about being catcalled on the street, women talking about how an Amazon employee had the nerve to call her beautiful, and a recount of an apparently traumatic compliment a woman received at age 12.

The #metoo campaign is fundamentally flawed because it conflates and equates sexual harassment with actual sexual assault—even rape. A catcall you received 10 years ago when you were walking home at night is not rape. A man on the train calling you beautiful every morning is not rape. An unwanted compliment by a stranger is not rape. These things are not rape. However, these things have all now, in modern times, fallen under the category of “sexual harassment.” By putting sexual harassment under the same #metoo campaign against sexual assault and rape, it trivializes the trauma of rape.

The reason why you’re seeing such a startling number of women sharing their intentionally vague Facebook posts along with the #metoo hashtag is because, yes, under the modern definition of what constitutes sexual harassment — a compliment, a joke at a party, an unattractive guy asking you out on a date despite you saying no once before — plenty of women can say they’ve experienced “sexual harassment.” But when you call everything sexual harassment, and when you say everything falls under the category of sexual abuse, you’re marginalizing what it means to actually be a survivor of rape, and are instead painting all women as victims of “rape culture.”

This is evident in college survey after college survey claiming, as the talking point goes, that one in four women have been sexually assaulted while in college (or one in five depending on the source). notes a Rutgers University sexual violence survey, conducted at the request of the Obama White House, included questions relating to “sexual violence” and “sexual assault” that happened to include anything that the recipient felt was unwanted:

'Sexual assault' and 'sexual violence' refer to a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient," notes a school summary of survey findings, "and include remarks about physical appearance, persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient, threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior, as well as unwanted touching and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.

Indeed, the definition of sexual harassment, and even apparently sexual assault and sexual violence, have become so broad that they now include anything that made a woman feel momentarily uncomfortable, no matter how minor the infraction is in reality. That moment, now, is seen as something women should be emotionally scarred by for the rest of their lives and commiserate over for “likes” on their posts.

To be clear: words are not rape. Words will never be rape. Saying words are the same thing as rape is the same slippery slope that people embark on when they say “words are violence” to try to silence all dissenting views.

The problem with #metoo is that it equates actual heinous actions — for instance, the abuse Harvey Weinstein reportedly committed against multiple actresses and models in Hollywood — to something like “sexual harassment,” which has become an all-encompassing term for “anything that made me feel uncomfortable because I don’t like who it came from.”

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(Cover photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

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