#MeToo: two words, five letters. So what?
This last week it has been impossible to scroll through Facebook newsfeeds, in particular, and not come across this hashtag or phrase time and time again. In the wake of the disgusting revelations about Harvey Weinstein and other prominent male figures using their positions of power to sexually abuse women, thousands and thousands of individuals have been typing out these words as a signal that they, too, experienced sexual abuse. That no survivor is alone. That what we are facing is an epidemic.
It is an admirable cause. And yet, clicking “post” and allowing these two words to speak for your experience, whatever it may have been, only goes so far. It is not enough to simply raise your hand and join in with a collective virtual voice. If you are just identifying with the problem, you are not contributing to the solution of that problem.
Storytelling is immensely powerful. In particular, the bravery and self-confidence needed for a survivor of sexual abuse to come forward is awe-inspiring. Such stories are so meaningful; telling and hearing them does have an urgent societal effect. The ability for a survivor to come forward and illuminate what happened to him or her, what is still happening to others, and what, sadly, will keep on happening if we do nothing is admirable. These are the voices that need to be heard.
But this is not what saying “me too” is. Posting “me too” on Facebook, while it of course may still take courage for some to do, is an empty form of social activism. It is an example of the millennial tendency to claim stories and victimhood that feels selfish. For it inspires the idea that it is satisfactory to click “post” and be done with the rest of it. To ignore other very real opportunities to combat the issue at hand. There is a proper way and place in which to tell real stories of sexual assault. In fact, these stories are essential and productive. They just do not belong in a status bar.
The problem, more specifically, is that social media has become the primary space of collective thinking, creating, and activism. As a virtual space that allows for intellectual connection across the boundaries of time, place, and culture, social media is the place to go to write down your thoughts and contribute. While, of course, there are several examples of successful online protesting, this instinct to simply log onto Facebook or Twitter to contribute to a discussion has simultaneously bred a lazy approach to social and political problems. Using a hashtag such as #MeToo, while it may indeed create awareness, does nothing physically to fight for a solution to this very real and horrific epidemic of sexual assault. Those who are willing and able to take a stand and work for change need to do so out from behind their laptop screens. We need to demand actual justice and fight in the popular cultural and political spheres. We need to change the power structure that dominates daily life in this country. This is how real social progress will be accomplished. The words start the argument; the actions finish the fight.
To all those women who have taken the huge, brave step to go beyond #MeToo and told their painful story: thank you. Now, let’s really get to work.