I’ve seen a lot of reactions to the #MeToo campaign over the last couple of days. Some were heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and others filled me with white-hot rage. Two days ago, I posted my own #MeToo on my facebook with a strange mixture of emotions I’ve yet to pick apart. I’ve seen two family members, and some very dear friends post their own, my heart breaking with every new post. My heart swelled seeing men reply to their friends and family with #IBelieveYou, and was shook again when I saw male acquaintances bravely admit #MeToo.
And then there are the ones who somehow manage to make something already unbearable to begin with even more ugly.
Not only were there the predictable victim-blamers, men throwing angry tantrums about divisiveness between the sexes, and people trying to demean what it is these people were saying, but there were women–who had moments before cried #MeToo!–invalidating men who joined the movement with their own stories of abuse. I don’t know which one pisses me off more.
“If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture—which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle—then we will NEVER find a solution.”
So here is my opinion on the subject, broken down by each horrible response I have seen so far:
“This is an issue of men preying on women! Men, sit your ass down!” or “I get that men can be abused, too. Or that women can be the abusers. But this is a largely MEN attacking WOMEN problem!”
#MeToo is for SURVIVORS of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. Survivors—not men, not women. It was originally created in 2007 by Tarana Burke, founder of Just Be Inc. as a succinct and powerful way for survivors of abuse to connect with one another, and has evolved into a battle cry over the last week.
This is about people, of any demographic, making their voice heard as loudly as they are comfortable. This isn’t just about men attacking women. The larger issue, which includes all sets, is the predatory preying on the victims. People hurting people, and that pain being considered “the norm.” If we can’t step back and take in the ENTIRE picture–which may or may not resemble our own personal struggle–then we will NEVER find a solution.
“This whole movement is STUPID. What the Hell do you think you are going to achieve by posting two words on your facebook page? Do something WORTHWHILE!”
This is a perfect example demeaning or dismissing the victims. You have no idea how many years it took some of these people to share that they were hurt. For many, this is the very first proclamation from a childhood of sexual abuse. This is the first time they are letting go of the shame, the guilt, and the fear. They are finding support through recognizing each other.
For others, they have shouted from the rooftops what they had gone through and no one ever believed them. How many years of second-guessing, of shouldering blame for something they had no control over, do you think some of these people suffered? By telling the man or woman who responds to their cry with #IBelieveYou that their support is useless not only demeans them, but it also belittles the overwhelming relief that survivor felt by FINALLY hearing those words.
The hope is that, with a wall of #MeToo’s pouring into people’s newsfeed, it will stop being some far-off epidemic. We can finally see just how close it hits to home. It will no longer be some intangible issue that couldn’t possibly effect my little world. Not only that, but the more people that post it, the more likely it will cajole that one victim into speaking up. You never know how many predators will finally be outed.
“The whole ‘Casting Couch’ trope has been a fixture of Hollywood for decades. Why start screaming and crying about it NOW?” or “They knew what they were getting into in that business. They should have found another career if they didn’t like it.”
God give me strength on this one…
“We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a ‘risk of being in the business’.”
Let’s just pretend you aren’t assuming this ONLY happens in show business or to young, naive actresses.
Imagine you are working your dream job, whatever it may be. It’s what you’ve worked your entire life towards. Thousands of dollars in school, classes, resources. Exhausting hours, long commutes, starting from the bottom and clawing your way up, fighting to prove yourself over and over again until finally you land and interview at the company you’ve had your eye on since you decided you wanted to be in that field. Except, when you finally start the interview with your future boss, they aren’t really interested in how hard you worked, your experience, or your ability to do the job. They want something from you if you want the job, a job thousands of others have gotten because of what was on their resumes rather than what was on their bodies. They dangle this job in front of you because they have the power and they know you would do just about anything for the break you’ve been fighting for.
Would you give up everything you lived for or just lie back and take it? If you were young and desperate and did what you had to do, would you not feel shame or disgust for what they put you through? Do they, then, get to just continue their predatory ways because you didn’t speak up right away?
I don’t care if it’s acting, medicine, education, law, or just a babysitting gig. No one has the right to exert power over someone like that. We should NEVER accept sexual abuse and harassment as being a “risk of being in the business.” To suggest such only lets survivors know that you aren’t someone they can run to for help when these situations arise. Because that is what we are hearing when you say that. We hear you saying what we went through is not a big deal. Which is the very reason many of us take years to come forward—if ever.
Why are we all screaming now? Because we didn’t always have a platform from which to let our voices be heard. Back when the “Casting Couch trope” began, there was no Facebook or Twitter. There were no readily available outlets that allowed us to speak up on a large scale, to find support in one another, and to let us visibly see that we aren’t as alone as we were years ago. We can find one another, we can find help, and healing can finally begin.
“If they aren’t willing to name their attackers, then their voice is useless.”
Some victims still won’t be able to speak up. Some will remain silent because they still fear the consequences. My heart goes out to them. They are still allowed to count themselves as survivors. If they have the strength to let people know, “Hey, me too,” and not call out their attacker by name, guess what? That doesn’t invalidate them. Who are you to decide which survivor is worth their story and which one isn’t?
Yes, it would be a better world if everyone was strong enough to lay it all out there but this is reality. Some are still very much in their abuser’s lives. Some have close family who have grown up from whatever kind of kid they were when they assaulted or harassed them. Some are too kind to destroy people’s lives, even when those people have hurt them. There is no end to the reasoning behind not naming your attacker, and I for one am not going to harass someone over it or make them feel small because they can’t bring themselves to. They’ve already gone through that once (or more,) I refuse to add to their pain.
#MeToo can effect anyone of any gender, orientation, class, or creed. Just because it happens to a male, or a rich person, or a polyamorous person doesn’t make it any less life-altering. Whether or not you have personally experienced sexual assault, your life is likely to have been affected by it. If your girlfriend is afraid to walk put the trash to the curb at night, or your husband is twitchy when it comes to being intimate, if your once-outgoing children shut down out of nowhere, talk to them. Ask them questions. If you find out the worst, will you tell them it’s a risk of being small and helpless? If even ONE predator suffers the consequences of their actions as a result of this movement, I will call that a good day. And even more importantly, tell them #IBelieveYou.