You’ve probably seen “Me Too” trending on social media over the past few days. Victims of sexual assault and harassment, particularly, though certainly not limited to, women, have been coming forward about their experiences in droves. This is all a result of the rampant stories about sexual abuse and harassment in the media, with film producer Harvey Weinstein in the spotlight.
It all started with a tweet from Alyssa Milano:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Since then, people have been flocking to Facebook and Twitter to share their own statuses. Of course, not everyone is ready to share what they have gone through – nor should they have to.
Reminder that if a woman didn’t post #MeToo, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don’t owe you their story.
— Alexis Benveniste (@apbenven) October 16, 2017
But that’s what makes this simple movement so important and empowering. I myself am a victim of sexual assault, and though I’ve written about it for Slutty Girl Problems, it’s not something I’ve disclosed with all of my family, and certainly not with many of my Facebook friends. Seeing so many of my Facebook and Twitter friends share “Me Too” made me realize that I was not alone, which was both saddening and inspiring. Saddening because rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment shouldn’t exist. Inspiring because if they could, in some small way, share their truth, then so could I.
As Alexis Benveniste said, not everyone has to share her (or his, or their) story. They might not be ready to, and they certainly don’t owe it to anyone. Rather, we owe it to one another to work together to end rape culture.
But when does sharing a statement go from being empowering to not helping the issue at all? In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, some celebrities have come forward with not-so-helpful statements. I’ll refrain from sharing useless comments about witch hunts shared by celebs like Woody Allen, who himself has been accused of inappropriate sexual advances. When it becomes too much is when a non-victim makes the issue about them and about their suffering. For instance, take Quentin Tarantino’s statement. The director claimed to be “stunned and heartbroken” and having to take some time “to process” his “pain, emotions, anger and memory”. Whether or not he knew of his friend’s behavior (which he almost certainly did, since it appears it was Hollywood’s worst kept secret), drawing light to his pain instead of the pain of the victims is completely backwards and helps no one. His anger should be directed at Weinstein, and his pain towards the victims.
Other male celebrities have also come forward with statements that walk the line between helpful and unhelpful. Colin Firth, for example, spoke to the Guardian:
He spoke out after Sophie Dix, who starred with him in one of the first cinema movies he made, went public with details of an alleged sexual assault involving Weinstein.
“She told me she had had a distressing encounter with Harvey Weinstein,” Firth told the Guardian. “I don’t think she went into all the horrific detail I’ve read in her interview. But I remember her being profoundly upset by it. To my shame, I merely expressed sympathy.
“I didn’t act on what she told me,” he went on. “It was a long time ago and I don’t know if she remembers telling me, but the fact that I had that conversation has come back to haunt me in the light of these revelations. It’s the only direct account of this kind of behaviour by Harvey Weinstein that’s ever been told to me.”
On one hand Firth’s lack of action did nothing to stop events from unfolding again. On the other, the statement of regret by a high profile actor might inspire other “good men” who were merely sympathetic in the past to extend that emotion to empathy and actively work to say or do something when they see or hear something.
But was it surprising for Harvey Weinstein to get away with this for so long? After Bill Cosby essentially said, “Yep, I did it” and some of your social media friends still rallied for him… After various inappropriate comments and behaviors made by Donald Trump were shared with the world and he still became America’s president… Of course it doesn’t surprise me that Weinstein did what he did for so long. And it disgusts me to know that there are others out there who did the same thing and are still getting away with it.
So men, I challenge you: What will you do to end rape culture? I know some of you are victims too, but the reality is that men have the privilege here, and it is up to you to wield it for good. Women, I applaud you for your work and strength. It will take time, and it will take effort, but I know one day we will live in a better world.