#HimToo is Conservative Twitter’s dangerous new hashtag

One year after #MeToo gave sexual harassment and assault survivors room to tell their stories, a conservative mother just penned a meme with a hashtag that’s earning feminist scorn across Twitter. Welcome to #HimToo.

The hashtag caught fire after Twitter user MarlaReynoldsC3 tweeted about her son Pieter Hanson, a Navy veteran who “graduated #1 in boot camp.” While he’s “a gentleman who respects women,” Hanson’s mom says he refuses to go on dates alone because of “false sexual accusations by radical feminists with an axe to grind.”

“I VOTE. #HimToo,” the now-deleted tweet concluded.

Twitter quickly responded with a slew of memes making fun of the original, extremist post.

But the memes aren’t the greatest punchline to come from the mom’s misguided tweet. Now, thanks to a sweet twist, the hashtag is being turned on its head.

What is #HimToo?

MarlaReynoldsC3 used #HimToo to suggest men are afraid of being called out for false sexual assault accusations. In her eyes, “radical feminists” are terrorizing all the good men who simply want to marry a young girl and have 2.5 children together. In short, #HimToo tries to challenge #MeToo by recentering the entire movement around men’s fear that women will randomly accuse them of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse.

MarlaReynoldsC3 isn’t alone in her beliefs. While the viral tweet brought #HimToo into the public spotlight, the far-right penned the hashtag long before this weekend. Conservative figurehead Candace Owens used it after the FBI concluded its investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and others gravitated to the hashtag to express their support for the judge.

https://twitter.com/RealMarkKennedy/status/1049464445422964736

But whatever momentum #HimToo built up in the past few weeks is being squashed. In an unexpected twist, Hanson spoke out against his mom’s tweet, explaining that he believes survivors, rejects #HimToo, and isn’t afraid to go on solo dates with girls.

“That was my Mom,” Hanson tweeted late Monday night. “Sometimes the people we love do things that hurt us without realizing it. Let’s turn this around. I respect and #BelieveWomen. I never have and never will support #HimToo. I’m a proud Navy vet, Cat Dad and Ally.”

Why #HimToo is bad for sexual assault survivors

Hanson is right to call out #HimToo and reject it. As it turns out, false sexual assault accusations are incredibly rare. Approximately only eight to 10 percent of rapes are reported to the police, and among those, only five percent are found to be false, the Cut reported. Because that five percent figure only applies to less than 10 percent of rapes, sociologist Joanne Belknap argued that false rape accusations only happen 0.0005 percent of the time.

She also stressed that some police officers label rape accusations as “unfounded” even if a sexual assault did take place.

“Just because the police say something is an unfounded rape, because they don’t think it happened, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” Belknap told the Cut. “There are plenty of police officers who are getting trained on this, and then there’s a whole history of police perpetrating sexual violence, including while on the job.”

Then there’s the anatomy behind a false accusation. While defending Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh, author Sandra Newman wrote for Vox that false accusations aren’t just rare, they tend to “have a lurid quality, often involving bizarre forms of cruelty that don’t always strictly make sense.”

“The reason for this dramatizing tendency is clear,” Newman stressed. “There’s no point in making up a rape story that may cause people to minimize the seriousness of the allegation or make them think, ‘So what?’ It’s crucial to a false accuser to tell a story so horrific that no normal person could fail to be moved.” She also argued that false accusers tend to have a criminal background, have a factitious disorder marked by repeated lying about assaults, or may be a young teenager who uses a false accusation “as an alibi to get out of trouble,” such as a teenage girl who may be punished by her family for having sex.

Suffice to say, that doesn’t necessarily mean all sexual assault accusers that fit into those four categories are making false accusations. Plenty of survivors are young, have a criminal background, and may have experienced particularly cruel treatment by their abusers—a survivor doesn’t have to be perfect to be believed.

Also, “solo dating” isn’t a minefield filled with women flinging false sexual assault accusations against men left and right. Men don’t have to lawyer up and wear surveillance every time they take a woman out just in case they falsely accuse of them rape. Men are not in danger here. They never have been the ones in danger. All men have to do is not harm women.

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Why Conservative Twitter gravitates toward #HimToo

The bottom line: The people who use these hashtags don’t want to admit that we live in a rape culture. Men are taught to see women as sexual conquests that should be won by any means necessary, and for that reason alone, their victims aren’t entitled to consent or boundaries. Unfortunately, when rape culture normalizes sexual assault, this means that any man can hurt women, from police officers to the president himself.

“People don’t want to believe that wealthy, entitled, white men who are judges, who are coaches of their daughters’ basketball teams, would do something like this,” Belknap told the Cut. “And they do.”

As for why Hanson’s mother turned him into a conservative meme, Hanson and his brother suspect it’s because their mom tends to be a “loose cannon” on social media and writes adoring posts to a fault. In other words, Hanson’s mother made a false and unfounded statement about her son that was wildly believed by conservatives because it was convenient.

“It doesn’t represent me at all,” Hanson told the Washington Post. “I love my mom to death, but boy… I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this.”

Ana Valens

Ana Valens

Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.