Kevin Spacey Is Charged With Sexual Assault. Now Is the Perfect Time to Support Male Survivors of Abuse
On Thursday, news of Kevin Spacey being formally charged with sexual assault in the U.K. presented a challenge for many who think the #MeToo movement dismisses violence against men. Spacey was charged with four counts of sexual assault against three men — and it remains to be seen how the trial will take place across borders.
The context is key here. Last week, #MenToo trended on Twitter. It was purportedly to draw attention to how violence victimizes men too, also playing on the #MeToo movement to point to its apparent blindspot regarding this fact. Except, the hashtag fails to remember what kickstarted the #MeToo moment in Hollywood: sexual abuse accusations made by men against actor Kevin Spacey.
#MenToo, unfortunately, was in support of Johnny Depp, who has become the poster boy for men’s rights activists in their quest to undermine feminism and women’s claim to victimhood by the patriarchy.
Spacey’s charges present an opportunity to advocate for male survivors of sexual violence. They have the potential to start conversations about power, masculinity, and the stifling stereotypes that makes men unlikely victims and more unwilling to come forward. It paves way for conversations about violence itself, and how the patriarchy is an ideological feature of society that harms men too.
In other words, the true litmus test for people who claim to be concerned about men’s experiences of violence is not the Depp case, but the Spacey case. The actor, first disgraced in 2017, attempted to make a comeback with a cringe video impersonating his House of Cards character, banking on a lost charisma in an attempt to win over his erstwhile fans.
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Indeed, it was feminists who advocated for the cultural boycott of Kevin Spacey soon after the allegations against him initially came to light. The emphasis was on accountability regardless of the gender of the survivor — it was also about questioning a culture of masculine power that harms others, men included, through violence.
In making hashtags like #MenToo trend, “men’s rights activists” have already made their stance clear: they are misogynists using male survivors as a cover for their attempts to undermine feminism.
The lack of sustained advocacy from self-proclaimed men’s rights groups with respect to the survivors in the Kevin Spacey case points to an inherent hypocrisy: that these men aren’t worth fighting for. This inevitably brings up questions about the kind of men people would go to any lengths to defend. It is the Johnny Depps of the world — charismatic, powerful, macho men — who make the ideal image of a man wronged by “toxic feminism” or “toxic femininity.” Most importantly, the alleged perpetrator in the Depp case is a woman — making the whole sustained campaign really about demonizing women and discouraging survivors of abuse from coming forward? rather than supporting men.
All of this means that it is unlikely that real, meaningful support shapes up for the men who accused Spacey of assaulting them; at least not from the same people claiming to start these conversations in the wake of the Depp case.
Thus, inadvertently, between Kevin Spacey and Johnny Depp, what receives oxygen is key to exposing something disturbing about our culture today: that, according to the internet, some men make for better victims than others — especially if there is a woman involved.