I am reeling too. I am reeling at the sheer enormity of the #metoo movement. I am reeling at the realization that being female is pretty much an invitation to a life where you will be assaulted and harassed. To be female means you are considered the domain of men. To be female means that at least a small part of your mind is continuously assessing risk, and balancing staying safe with staying “nice”.
It is a lot of work.
What would it look like if every woman were free, to have her entire mind to herself? What if she could sit and contemplate instead of making sure she smiled enough to avoid angering the men around her?
And then it occurs to me. This #metoo movement is going to be terrifying. Terrifying to those interested in keeping women down. Keep smiling. Terrifying to those clinging desperately to the current power dynamic, where one only needs remind women of the constant danger they are in so they keep quiet. Keep smiling. Terrifying to those who know they can only continue to get cheap thrills with “unintentional” contact, salacious “jokes” and unsolicited backrubs when women feel scared and alone. Keep smiling.
#metoo is about NOT feeling alone.
And then it really occurs to me.
How are all these beautiful women going to be shut down?
How are all these strong women going to be shut up?
Because this is powerful stuff. Sexual power is exerted over all women. ALL WOMEN. There are so many ways to exert this power:
- Workplace environments designed to make us feel less worthy.
- Subtle comments that emphasize our vulnerability.
- Even being rated for your very worthiness to be sexually harassed.
It is what we all have in common. It is the one area where we are united, without influence of race or religion. Young, old, trans, fat, thin, wealthy, poor, queer, powerful, ALL women.
Usually it is possible to divide and conquer women. To turn them against each other, To remind them that they are probably at fault for whatever happens to them. Make them feel insecure. But now that we can scroll through social media and see that ALL WOMEN, even the ones we know are noble and good and smart and strong - ALL WOMEN have been frightened and uncomfortable at best, devastated or murdered at worst. When we see that sexual assault and manipulation is universal, we begin to think maybe this isn’t about the individual being targeted. Maybe something else is happening....
Maybe through this solidarity, we are starting to realize our collective power. `
This time, as women stand together, they can not just be threatened with violence or called fat to shut them up. This time, pushing down the power of women will be a bit trickier. The movement itself will need to be attacked.
To shut down #metoo, women must be made to feel like they have no right to talk about it. Like their actions are hurting the movement. Like they are making it all about them, the worst thing a woman can do.
As someone looking to shut down the #metoo movement, you will need to:
- Tell women their experience is not as bad as others, so they should be quiet and let others who have been more obviously assaulted come forward.
- Tell women that they need to be talking about the assaulters, not talking about themselves.
- Tell women that calling attention to themselves as victims will not do any good.
Be careful of calls to shift focus, Sisters.
Yes, assault and harassment are the fault of the perpetrators and the bullies and rapists, and this should be called out EVERY SINGLE TIME. And yes, there is a difference between crude jokes and rape or molestation.
But, this is not about that. This is about you. This is about us. This is about not feeling alone and feeling the courage to say #metoo with the power of half the planet behind you, not to mention all of the allies standing with us from the other half of the planet. This is about knowing you are not alone and you are not at fault. This is about realizing the scope of the problem. This is about the far-reaching arcs of toxic masculinity and female suppression.
So, should we let them pick apart this six-character sentiment because it fails to recognize every level of a complex problem? Should we let them split hairs about degrees of harm and take the wind out of the sails of a powerful movement of solidarity?
Do you want to feel in unity with every woman and pull from the strength you know they have in them? Do you want to allow the universal experience of women help you sit in your own strength? Do you want to gather this bravery to allow you to be comfortable in your own story?