Millions of people have tweeted #MeToo and Facebook shared that 45% of people’s friends have posted it on their timeline to indicate they have experienced some form of sexual abuse (rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment at work or school or street harassment). The hashtag was started in 2007 by Tarana Burke and brought forward again a few days ago by actress Alyssa Milano in the wake of women coming forward revealing sexual abuse they faced from Harvey Weinstein, a very powerful man in Hollywood who could make or break people’s careers.
I began receiving google alerts about the story before it really got going but it took me days to finally engage with it on my own social media accounts, let alone here for Stop Street Harassment.
I know that the hashtag has done a lot of good and it’s created space for more people to share stories and others to read them. But my knee-jerk reaction was not positive. This is what I wrote on my personal Facebook page two days ago, at the height of people sharing #MeToo online:
While I’m glad #MeToo is trending and blah blah blah people are paying attention to sexual harassment and assault again for a minute, I just honestly feel TIRED. Do any of my other activists allies who’ve been working on this issue for a long time feel similarly? I feel worn down from the accumulation of stories I hear daily and have heard nearly daily for 10 years and periodically for years before that and by my own 100s of experiences of sexual harassment (school, work, public spaces, online, interpersonal), including 3 street harassment incidents in the past 9 or so days. I just wish sexual abuse would STOP. Don’t make us have to keep telling our stories and living through this and then when the new cycle shifts, forget about us. I just wish and wish it would stop. Just STOP.
It received over 165 likes (one of my most popular posts all year) and nearly 50 comments, mainly from people who also work on sexual abuse issues for a day job or as a volunteer activist. So many of them voiced fatigue, too. Like literal fatigue of their bodies shutting down. Many said they were getting triggered by seeing so many stories and others just felt too overwhelmed to engage. Yes, they said, they too felt tired.
Those of us working on these issues know all about the problem and I know the hashtag wasn’t for us. But we’re still impacted. Who will be the ones continuing with the work once the hashtag fades away? Who will still be facing sexual harassment and abuse in our day-to-day lives and having to figure out ways to cope with it and keep moving through our day? Us. Us. Us. Us. Us.
Don’t get me wrong, at an individual level, I think story-sharing is the best way to raise awareness about this issue. But at a community, national or global level, I’m tried of us having to pour open our souls and then seeing the attention end there. WHERE are the policies that can actually make a dent in stopping this? WHERE are the male allies who are vowing to speak up and do something proactive to stop this?
Yesterday and today I noticed several articles asking similar questions and challenging additional action, like Jessica Valenti who suggested in her Guardian piece that we now call out the perpetrators.
Or wrote at BBC, “I’d love to see a counter trend of men posting ‘I’m sorry and I’ll do better’ if they feel they’ve ever made a woman uncomfortable, unheard or unsafe. This one’s on you, dudes, and yet I still see all the mobilisation and conversational labour being held by woman.”who
Or Wagatwe Wanjuki who wrote for Daily Kos, “If we really want to reduce sexual violence, we need more than social media statuses by survivors. We need more than just our stories of trauma to stop sexual assault. We’ve had many similar efforts (#BeenRapedNeverReported, #YesAllWomen, #IBelieveHer, etc.) in the past, but gendered violence remains a serious issue. It’s because we need more. Listening and believing survivors is great, but it should be the first step of many in doing our part to end sexual violence. We need everyone to participate in raising awareness and taking concrete actions against rape culture, rather than leaving it to survivors to do the heavy lifting.”
I agree with them. And I will add this:
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