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.

Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

Updated 7 min 19 sec ago

Taliban rule out cease-fire until it is agreed in talks

  • President Ghani’s order to release 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners opens way for negotiations

KABUL: The Taliban have rejected calls for a truce before the long-awaited talks with the government get underway. They said that the possibility of a cease-fire could be debated only during the talks.

“When our prisoners are released, we will be ready for the talks,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“A cease-fire or reduction of violence can be among the items in the agenda of the talks,” he said.

This follows President Ashraf Ghani signing a decree for the release of 400 hardcore Taliban prisoners on Monday — who Kabul said were responsible for some of the worst attacks in the country in recent years — thereby removing the last obstacle to the start of the negotiations set by the Taliban.

However, Kabul has yet to announce the date of their release.

Feraidoon Khawzoon, a spokesman for the government-appointed peace council, said that Doha, Qatar, would be the likely venue.

“Deliberations are continuing, and no decision has been made on a firm date yet,” he said.

Ghani pledged to release the prisoners after the Loya Jirga, or traditional assembly, voiced support for their freedom.

After three days of deliberations the Jirga, which comprises 3,400 delegates, said that its decision was for the sake of “the cessation of bloodshed” and to remove “the obstacle to peace talks.”

After the Jirga’s announcement, Ghani said that “the ball was now in the Taliban’s court” and that they needed to enforce a nationwide cease-fire and begin talks to bring an end to more than 40 years of war, particularly the latest chapter in a conflict that started with the Taliban’s ousting from power in the US-led invasion in late 2001.

The exchange of prisoners between the government and the Taliban was part of a deal signed between the insurgent group and the US in Doha in February
this year.

The prisoner swap program — involving the release of 5,000 Taliban inmates in return for 1,000 security forces held by the group — was to be completed within 10 days in early March, followed by the crucial intra-Afghan talks.

February’s deal between the Taliban emissaries and US delegates, led by the US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, came after 18 months of intensive and secret talks, amid growing public frustration in the US about the Afghan war — America’s longest in history.

Ghani, whose government was sidelined from the February accord, initially voiced his opposition to freeing the Taliban inmates.

However, faced with increasing pressure from the US, Kabul began releasing 4,600 prisoners in a phased manner.

The intra-Afghan talks are also crucial for US President Donald Trump, who is standing for reelection in November and is keen to use the pull-out of forces and the start of negotiations as examples of his successful foreign policy. However, experts say the next stage will not be easy.

Analyst and former journalist Taj Mohammad told Arab News: “The talks will be a long, complicated process, with lots of ups and downs. It took 18 months for the Taliban and US to agree on two points; the withdrawal of all US troops and the Taliban pledging to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda. Now, imagine, how long it will take for the completion of a very complicated process of talks between Afghans who will debate women’s rights, minorities rights, election, Islamic values, … the form of government and so on.”

For some ordinary Afghans on the streets, however, the planned talks have revived hopes for peace and security and “are more needed in Afghanistan than in any other country.”

“I am more optimistic now than in the past. All sides have realized they cannot win by force and may have decided to rise to the occasion and come together,” Fateh Shah, a 45-year-old civil servant from Kabul, said.

Others spoke of their dreams to “go back home.”

“I have been away from my village for 19 years, and as soon as peace comes, we will pack up and go there,” said Rasool Dad, a 50-year-old porter who lives as a war-displaced person in Kabul, talking of his desire to return to his birthplace in southern Helmand province.

However, 30-year-old banker Sharif Amiri wasn’t very optimistic about the future.

“Even if the talks turn out to be successful, that will not mean an end to the war or the restoration of security. There are spoilers in the region, at home and at an international level who will try to sabotage peace here,” he said, hinting at rivalries among countries in the region, including major powers such as Russia, China and the US, who have used Afghanistan as a direct and indirect battleground for years.