Social media users dreadfully scrolled through their newsfeeds upon seeing the posts from family, that old friend from high school, muscle-bound actor Terry Crews, and several others they might never have expected sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault.
Victims calmed down the quiet storms of fear and rage within their minds and went on living their seemingly content lives. Maybe you weren’t so shocked. Maybe you’ve been one of those quiet storms yourself. #MeToo. Ever since the “#MeToo” posts began flooding social media feeds across the globe, inquisitive minds have begged the question, ‘have this many people really experienced sexual assault? What is the premise and/or “point” of this hashtag..? Who are the real victims, and what constitutes a real victim?’
The current state of this movement neglects to differentiate between harassment, rape, and groping, labeling many people as survivors, without evaluating their accusations. The truth is, none of these unwelcome advances are acceptable, and expecting #MeToo posters to elaborate their experiences is a form of victim blaming. If we dismiss the voices of those who step forward, we are destroying the very platform needed to maintain this crucial dialogue that has finally surfaced within our society. The conversation is not threatening equality in the least. The fact that people (men, women, and non-binary folks alike), are being brave enough to bring attention to issues that are all-too-often swept under a giant, smelly, patriarchal rug is what really matters.
Unsurprisingly, certain men have found a way to make this phenomenon about themselves. Self-glorifying, “apologetic” posts in response to #MeToo appeared on newsfeeds during the weeks the movement was starting to gain serious momentum. Writer Benjamin Law started a counter #HowIWillChange movement after encouraging men to reveal how they will support women who have been “abused, assaulted, and harassed” by other men. He gave several suggestions in a Twitter thread, each listed under the hashtag #HowIWillChange. His promises include donating to local women’s shelters, calling out misogyny, reporting sexual assaults, and supporting women who have experienced sexual assault.
Law appears to be well-intentioned, and it’s good to see men calling themselves out and promising improved behavior. If #MeToo has suddenly transformed even a handful of men into champions of women, then the hashtag has exceeded our expectations as women. The real question is—will these men step off their social media platforms to do some real work? Are they ensuring themselves against potential future accusations? Sure, a half-assed apology is nice and all, but why should we have had to tolerate toxic and predatory behavior in order to help them evolve into better men? The first step towards tangible change should be reaching out to those they’ve hurt, not making blanket apologies.
Society is low-key quick to claim certain #MeToo posters are crying wolf, but have no interest in examining the pining apologies of men who claim they’ve changed their skirt-chasing, ass-groping, sexually harassing ways. Some men claim they’re genuinely confused as to what is acceptable behavior, both in the workplace and beyond. Good old common sense, workplace sexual harassment training, and generally trying not to be a piece of shit are good rules of thumb to follow whilst treading those “uncertain,” murky waters. While rape and catcalling shouldn’t necessarily be equated, neither behavior is acceptable—and that’s the broader point of this movement.
In the world of feminism, there is a sort of beggars can’t be choosers mentality—that we should be complacent and accept that a platform finally exists at all. “Just ok,” is not good enough. Our fight for equality and bringing the actions of assaulters to light cannot stop with the acceptance of self-glorifying social media apologists.
Bringing equality a step closer to Richmond is Ali Greenberg, founder of female-friendly co-working space The Broad. Greenberg believes that “The #metoo movement has shown that the powers that be will not make space for us, in fact, they will take it from us. As we see the foundations of just about every industry rotting from within, it is more important than ever that we have our own spaces to learn, grow, connect, and heal. And, since they aren’t being built for us, we will build them ourselves.” Opening in 2018, this space is slated to become exactly what the women, (as well as non-binary folks) of Richmond have needed.
In dark times, folks come together. It is a silver lining amidst the shit storm. Time Magazine named the silence-breaking #MeToo posters as 2017’s Person of the Year. The #MeToo posters are of varying ages, ethnicities, occupations, incomes, etc. They are worlds apart, yet one in the same. For some reason, when a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier for society to digest.
A Time Magazine/SurveyMonkey online poll of American adults conducted Nov. 28–30, 82 percent of respondents said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations. From Richmond to Hollywood and beyond, silence is being broken. Glass ceilings are shattering. We are not complacent. We are taking up space in the world. This is the beginning of true equality, and I’m damn happy to be here for it.