Last night, Alyssa Milano put a call out on Twitter: “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.” And understandably, #MeToo went viral, with more than 30,000 women and men joining the campaign.
Which, like, no shit. Of course it did. Do you know a single woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed or assaulted? Have you ever met anyone genuinely shocked by the volume of experiences women have undergone simply by being alive? Who are the people who are surprised by this? Who, at this point, needs to be told (still — still!) that we are entrenched in rape culture? I am genuinely asking. What else do we need to do at this point?
Because guys, I don’t know. I’m genuinely at a loss. If you’re still surprised at the sheer incidences of harassment and assault across the map, I don’t know how else to help. If you’re still shocked, what have you been doing? Genuinely, I am asking. Where have you been? Where are you? What’s going on? Who are you? “I needed a hashtag to understand the prevalence of sexual aggression in our world,” is a thing I guess you’ve said at some point in your life. And to that I say: really? Did you really? You needed Twitter to figure out how shitty it is to be a person sometimes? (And I’m saying person here — because yes, women are harassed and assaulted on the regular, but so are men. Just consult the thousands of responses I got to my own tweet last week.) So what’s happening over there? Did you just not know? Did you just not want to know? What were you doing and saying when someone confided in you or you read the news or you used your eyes and looked around and noticed it happening in front of you? Did you think it was a one-off? Did you just not care? “This only happens sometimes,” I assume you told yourself. “Certainly not all day, every day, everywhere.”
So okay, fine, now you know. Let’s pretend you didn’t know and now you know. Great! So now what? Do we just keep tweeting about it until every single person is aware? Until we decide to do something? How often does everybody have to share their worst memories before it’s finally a “real” problem? Until it’s not just someone asking for it or a one-off or “not that bad” or boys being boys or whatever-the-fuck? This weekend, Jon Kay sent out a tweet (which has since been deleted) saying that the Academy ousting Harvey Weinstein was a “slippery slope” because then what: you get rid of every problematic artist?
Um, yes. That’s a good start, actually. Because while I know it’s inconvenient to enjoy a movie or band or TV show less (or not at all) because someone involved is a sex offender, it was much more inconvenient for the person they assaulted, I promise you this.
But that’s the thing about real changes: they are inconvenient. Changing norms is very inconvenient. It’s going to be inconvenient, now that Twitter finally made you believe that rape culture is a real and terrifying thing, to tell your friends to shut the fuck up when they exhibit predatory behaviour. Or when you have to check yourself and your capacity for stupid jokes. Or when you don’t watch certain comics or watch particular movies or stop going on about the dangers of “political correctness.” Or when you have to engage responsibly with other people, or when you hear that someone did something, and you actually believe the person who’s sharing their experiences with you (without saying “But he’s such a nice guy!”), and now you have to stop engaging with the offending person. It’s inconvenient to dismantle something we’ve been taught to accept as the way things are. It’s very inconvenient. But too bad. It’s more inconvenient to have to re-live incidences of trauma in 140-characters in hopes that this time something’s going to come from it.
The thing is, you knew the world was like this. You knew it was happening, you knew it was everywhere, you know you’ve seen it. You knew that it wasn’t a one-off when your buddy told you about that thing, and that the look you got after making that joke wasn’t because they were “over-sensitive.” You always knew it. You didn’t need anybody to go on Twitter and share anything to get it, but now you can’t un-see it so the responsibility to usher in change is yours. I just hope you actually do. Because while I don’t think anyone’s about to run out of stories of their own experiences with harassment and assault, it’d be really nice if we didn’t have to keep tweeting about them on a daily basis.