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
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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.


Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

Updated 25 April 2019
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Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

  • Intelligence officers ignored warnings, says Islamic body
  • There have been reports of attacks on Muslim homes and businesses

COLOMBO: The people of Dharga Town, Sri Lanka, are familiar with violence and loss. In 2014, anti-Muslim riots killed four, injured dozens and left behind a trail of torched homes and businesses.
Now, almost a week after deadly terror attacks devastated the tropical island, the Muslims in Dharga Town are afraid following Daesh’s claim for the bombings.
“At the end of the day, we have to think about what they (the terrorists) are going to get from this. What have they gained? They’ve lost everything,” 38-year-old businessman M. Imthias told Arab News outside Meera Masjid. “We’ve already been through this, and we know the pain, fear, and emotions they (the Catholics) are going through.”
The Daesh claim, issued through the group’s AMAQ news agency, was made after Sri Lanka said two domestic extremist groups with suspected links to foreign militants were thought to be behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels. More than 350 people were killed and around 500 were wounded in the Easter Sunday violence.
Muslims in Dharga Town fear that efforts to rebuild after the 2014 violence are in vain. Anti-Muslim sentiments are emerging and are fueled by remarks from government officials, such as Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena saying the bombings were retaliation for last month’s New Zealand mosque bloodshed.
There have been reports of attacks on Muslim-owned shops, homes, and a mosque in Sri Lanka. There have also been renewed calls to ban the burqa, citing security reasons and Islamist extremism.
But there is also anger toward the National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ), the group initially identified as being responsible for the attacks. Dharga Town residents told Arab News they believed the perpetrators carried out the attacks for personal reasons, not religious ones, as Islam forbids suicide.
The mood in the town is sombre. Shutters are drawn across windows and stores, including supermarkets, are closed. Men gather in small groups along the road, and the area has an increased military presence. People say perpetrators of the assault should face the death penalty.
Around 20 people in Dharga Town belong to the Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaath (SLTJ), a faction unpopular with the wider Muslim community. Six SLTJ members were arrested on Tuesday afternoon. The mosque — a shack-like structure — did not open for prayers afterwards. Dharga Town residents opposed the SLTJ establishing a community in the area because of their orthodox ways.
“They wanted to build a mosque, but we didn’t allow it. In the end, they built that place with the iron sheets, and conduct their prayers there,” a village elder, who did not wish to be identified, told Arab News. “If they come for prayers, or engage with us in anything, they always try to push their beliefs on us. What they call Islam is completely different from what we practice.”
The NTJ was ostracized by the All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s highest body of Islamic scholars. The organization relayed its suspicions about the NTJ to authorities.
“On Jan. 3, we visited intelligence officers and handed over files with all the details of the perpetrators urging them to take necessary action to stop the NTJ. This was completely ignored,” an ACJU scholar said.
The situation in Sri Lanka remains tense, with nightly curfews and reports of bomb threats. There is also confusion after the Defense Ministry said the NTJ was not behind the attacks, leaving the public afraid about the possibility of another splinter group.
But there are calls for calm, too.
“There is no such anger among us,” Sister Manuja, who survived the St. Sebastian Church bombing, told Arab News. The Catholic community would not seek vengeance, she added. “We are very quiet, very simple people.”