Did you feel the magnitude? Not the uniformity on your feed, like a wall of interminable bricks, of our two-word survival stories, #metoo. No, did you feel the magnitude of our energy? It seeped out of our eyes, hands, and skin, as innumerable survivors turned from our daily tasks to bare ourselves, to grieve publicly, to relive violence that has hit and will hit again. I wonder if the world spun a little more slowly over the past few days as we were lost in loss.
We have, no doubt, been heard. But once again, in the wake of headline-worthy acts of misogyny, the dominant response was not a collective revolt against rape culture: it was a survivor-led movement to offer even more evidence. (Before this iteration of #MeToo, a similarly viral #YesAllWomen campaign was launched after the misogynistic shooting rampage in Isla Vista, California.) More evidence is what a jury requests when it is unable to pronounce guilt—it is as if we survivors knew that Harvey Weinstein’s legacy of assault would go dismissed as an individual case of creepiness, and the cultural backdrop enabling him and all of our assailants would again be acquitted. #MeToo was a preventative effort by a prosecution that knew how easily it could lose, and its strength was in the sheer volume of our stories.
But what if this indisputable outpouring of evidence were our last? #MeToo and campaigns like it put the onus on survivors (statistically women, trans people, and non-binary people) to prove the vastness and inescapability of misogynistic violence and rape culture. As we grieve, perpetrators and those who benefit from misogyny—precisely those who hold the power to end gender-based sexual violence—are asked to…do nothing. In any social movement, heightened awareness of the problem is but a preliminary step that increases potential for change, like adding piles of dry wood to a yet-unlit campfire. The spark we need will come when cisgender men begin to actively reject misogyny as a system and worldview en masse.
Thus, a call for cisgender men to turn to the public and take the following action(s):
- Post ‘#ihave’ if you have harassed, assaulted, or violated anyone. This includes drawing attention to someone’s body, touching them sexually, or pushing a verbal interaction into sexual territory — with no invitation but their gender. Don’t write this off as not you. Refusing to see the perpetrators is equivalent to denying and enabling the problem.
- Post ‘#ihave’ if you have witnessed your peers plan to harass/assault/violate, actually do it, or recount doing it. Then, start a skill-share in the comments about how to effectively intervene. Browse vast online resources about intervention to start off your skill-share, and be sure to include tactics that don’t involve calling the police.
- Post ‘#ihave’ if you have heard your friends refer to other humans as object-like or deserving of assault because of their gender, and start a discussion of effective ways to respond and dismantle their misogyny. Simply telling them to shut up won’t prevent them from such violence in future situations; it is your job to do the sticky work of deconstructing their worldview.
- Post ‘#ihave’ if you ever questioned a survivor’s experience or post-trauma needs.
- If you don’t fall into the above categories (or do this as well if you do), post ways to ask for consent and encourage others to contribute.