TL;DR: Women, men, activists, allies. If in your life you’ve never felt afraid, uncomfortable, abuse, harassed. If you’ve never been raped, molested, coerced into something you didn’t want but couldn’t stop. If you’ve never identified with #MeToo or the reckoning that’s going down, know that the movement still needs and wants your voice. If you don’t want to speak up, that’s cool too. But for women everywhere, please reconsider speaking out against the movement, or to at least think about why and what you’re speaking against.
For the sake of all the women who say #MeToo and find the courage to tell their stories as uncomfortable as it is, please, do not silence them/us, or publicly dismiss a movement just because what women around the world continue to struggle with every single day has never happened to you, too.
And What If It Isn’t #YouToo?
I’d first like to acknowledge all the different types of feminists there are today. There are more sub-sections of feminism than ever before, ranging from women who just want equality and proper representation in their careers and in the government to those of us who cannot help but see inequality in almost every aspect of life. (Warning: spending too much time in the former leads straight to the latter.)
Whichever path you’re on, this week has been a busy one for outspoken women all over the world. Beyond the high-level Hollywood calling out of men with #MeToo we’re now talking about something that makes everyone a LOT more uncomfortable: the grey area of uncomfortable, avoidable, consensual sex. When you weren’t 100% in but you never said you didn’t want to, and now you feel awful but you don’t have anyone to blame because remember, you could’ve said stop, but you didn’t. You might’ve said oh…. Or you might’ve said meh. You might the next day say, I really wish that didn’t happen. But you didn’t say stop.
So now we’re at a huge crossroads in the movement, and in the world, about consent, and by the movement I mean the large, growing and scattered movement of people across the globe who say #MeToo or #TimesUp or who have said nothing at all, but appreciate that we’re finally, FINALLY, talking about this.
We’re doing it. We are finally doing what too many of us have waited so fucking long for.
What this conversation has also done is to open a billion doors for further thought, study and dismantling, brilliantly summed up by Jameela Jamil here.
But even as we as individuals, as organisers and as members of a larger cause figure out where we’re going with this, cracks are already starting to show. These cracks have always been there: women who are quick to dismiss feminism like Women Against Feminism and #whyidontneedfeminism both of which are unfortunately actual things.
And now perhaps the most important part of the conversation, the everyday things we accept as ‘normal’, is something fundamentally grey, and as a result way too easy to dismiss and speak out against. It’s disheartening, and it’s downright heartbreaking to see fellow women dismiss the assault so many others have struggled with over so long, a movement that has become so vital to so many.
There aren’t any easy answers, but here’s what I think we should do:
For women who are in this to fight, let’s continue to do all we can in our own communities to right the wrongs that have continued for so long and to change the present and the future for women. Let’s rally together and accept our differences of opinions that exist so strongly in the feminist community. Let’s support each other in the main goal of safety for women and equality for all.
For those who are not on board, let’s at least decide to not to actively dismantle the work of our sisters. To listen, instead of to correct. To try to understand instead of to judge. To make each other better, instead of arguing how we could have handled it better ourselves. Even in the wake of #MeToo it is never easy to speak out. Women have become so conditioned to be cautious about how we talk about this. The first thing a victim of abuse or harassment says, is very unlikely to be the main part of her story. If she doesn’t get to speak, maybe her story will never be told, and never be heard.
Even if we are not inclined to take to the streets and march, or to write blogs about feminism, or to identify as a feminist at all, let’s at least agree not to silence each other.
The most important thing right now is to make the world an equal, safer and more inclusive space for each other. We can make this happen. But none of us can do it on our own.
More writing on feminism: