Men as the real victims? After Kavanaugh, #HimToo gains attention

During the tedious debate over Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court, some have expressed how “dangerous” it is to be an American man in the #MeToo era. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2018

Men as the real victims? After Kavanaugh, #HimToo gains attention

  • Research shows that “men think they are experiencing bias now more than they ever have before.”
  • One lawyer said “it’s very difficult for young men to get a fair opportunity to be heard”

WASHINGTON: The notion that it is dangerous to be an American man in the #MeToo era took off during the angry debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
But tossing more fuel onto the fire were a sarcastic tirade from Donald Trump and a painfully awkward tweet from a seemingly over-anxious mother.
On the day Kavanaugh was sworn in as the junior justice to the high court, Pieter Hanson’s mother posted a message on the social media network comparing the plight of the jurist — who had vigorously denied allegations of sexual aggression — to the dating challenges facing her 32-year-old son.
Under the hashtag #HimToo, she said her son was refusing to go on “solo dates due to the current climate of false sexual accusations by radical feminists with an axe to grind.”
To emphasize her point, she posted a photo of the good-looking young man, an angelic smile on his face, posing in his crisp, white navy uniform.
The post immediately went viral, inspiring hundreds of mocking memes, most of them having fun with the seemingly overwrought concerns of Pieter Hanson’s hovering mother.
The young man, now a navy veteran, responded by quickly posting a new photo of himself, in the same pose as the first one but in T-shirt and jeans, to gently take exception with his mother.
“Sometimes the people we love do things that hurt us without realizing it,” he tweeted. “I respect and #BelieveWomen. I never have and never will support #HimToo.”
In a series of subsequent TV appearances, Hanson, joined by his brother Jon, made good-natured sport of the whole matter.
The US president himself took up the same theme early this month before reporters at the White House.
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of,” said Trump, himself the target of multiple allegations of sexual aggression, which he has denied.
Then a few days later, Trump mercilessly mocked Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, during one of his big political rallies. Pretending to be Blasey Ford, he sneered at her lapses of memory over the alleged aggression dating from the 1980s, drawing uproarious laughter from supporters.
Pieter Hanson’s mother didn’t invent the #HimToo hashtag, which gained steam during the bitter debate between Blasey Ford’s supporters and those who see Kavanaugh as a poster boy for men falsely accused of sexual misconduct.
“Men perceive that if women gain, men lose,” Clara Wilkins, a social psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, told AFP.
She said research shows that “men think they are experiencing bias now more than they ever have before.”
“The fact that Trump said this guy (Kavanaugh) has been unfairly accused is increasing men’s belief that men are victimized,” Wilkins said.
Men’s fears have “a rational basis,” insisted attorney Andrew Miltenberg, who told AFP he has defended “hundreds” of young men from allegations of sexual abuse, most of them arising in university settings.
“In most cases — not all — women are seeking revenge on ex-boyfriends or young men they found have played around too much,” he said, adding that “it’s very difficult for young men to get a fair opportunity to be heard.”
“It’s a very frightening time” for men, Miltenberg continued. “I don’t really believe you can be alone in a room with a young woman now in this climate,” at a time when such allegations can “destroy” a man’s life and career.
A US Justice Department study, however, found that such false accusations are rare — comprising no more than two to 10 percent of all complaints.
Moreover, one rape victim in 10 is a man, and an estimated three percent of Americans have been raped or sexually attacked.
Victims’ rights groups thus stress that American men are at around the same risk of being the victim of sexual aggression as of being falsely accused — meaning the #MeToo hashtag would apply to many more than the #HimToo.


Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

Updated 22 August 2019

Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

  • Macron has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement regarding Ireland
  • The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints in Ireland

PARIS: French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday.
Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.
“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside Johnson who insisted that solutions were “readily available” to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.
But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.
At stake is the so-called “backstop,” which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.
Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.
“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”
The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.
“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the Elysee palace in central Paris.
Since Johnson’s ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.
“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a ‘no deal’ outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.
The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip as prime minister.
On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.
“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”
He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. “I admire that ‘can do’ spirit that she seemed to have.”
But many Brexit watchers see Merkel’s remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.
“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”
“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.
Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31 — “do or die.”
Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no deal” Brexit.
Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.
But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side during a press conference on Wednesday before Johnson’s arrival.
“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.
Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.
At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.