“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
The #metoo hashtag started by Alyssa Milano is making the rounds on social media, now in the heat of the coming outs of famous women about being harrassed by Harvey Weinstein, Roy Price and Lars von Trier and less well-known women who have come out about harassment by The Gaslamp Killer.
My problem with #metoo is that if men haven’t trusted statistics on this or haven’t recognized #everydaysexism and similar efforts to make it visible – why would they now? It’s no secret that there are large parts of our society that still ignore harassment. Many of us women* have been and still are educated to suffer it silently. So the point is not to make it known, the story is not the sensational revealing of omg how many women’ are harassed.
The point we have to make is that so many people take it for granted, shrug it off, ignore it, and don’t support victims if they get harassed. And I’m not just talking anonymous strangers, I’m also aiming this at many men* I know. It’s why the “safe space” culture so many have started to complain about is so necessary. It’s not to “coddle” people, it’s about starting an effort to normalize consent culture. To inspire the courage to speak out against everything you’ve ever been taught. I think safe space culture makes many people feel uncomfortable because it puts a finger into a wound that we all know is there but are used not to mention. If you need a name for it: rape culture isn’t the worst you could use.
This #metoo thing is fine, as a reminder and for making us feel connected, making us feel that we’re not alone with this. But: It won’t change anything if we don’t build on it, if we don’t call out harassers in the moment, and if we don’t build alternative structures in which our jobs, our reputation and even friendships don’t rely on taking harassment for granted. We need to shift the attention from “it happened to me too” to “this person did this to me and it’s not okay, it’s not harmless, it’s not funny, and it undermines my position how you stick together in looking away” – we need to hold men* accountable for what they do. There is a kind of masculinity that is build on rape culture, that feeds from every moment we don’t counter it.
#metoo gets attention and attention is power but if you don’t use that power, don’t build on it it will just burn out. The trick will be to not let this ‘omg soooo many women* get harrassed?!’ wave fade back into everyday normalcy but to connect it to our everyday lives until not only the sensation of a big number but every single act of sexual harassment counts for itself.