We all know what those words refer to by now. A simple idea started by an activist, Tarana Burke, to highlight the scale of the sexual abuse and harassment of women.
The campaign has been around for a decade, but went viral several weeks ago, parallel to the Harvey Weinstein revelations, a real life Jabba The Hutt who has been sexually abusing women for decades in the guise of a Hollywood film producer. Now his survivors- Rose McGowan and Asia Argento among them- are choking him out with his own chains and calling out anyone who has been trying to minimise or feign ignorance of his actions. He’s been allowed to fuck off abroad to get counselling to help him through the trauma of being a serial rapist though, so it’s okay.
I chose not to use the hashtag. For many reasons, none of which I’m obligated to explain to anyone.
I know of several people that the metoo hashtag has been unintentionally but horribly triggering for, and for all those it has given the courage to speak out, there’s those who it’s too much too soon to find their voice yet.
It’s revealed some horrifying stories and some inspiring ones.
It’s been witness to beautiful expressions of solidarity between strangers.
As with most of these things though, it has also been a rock, in which the very worst of humanity crawled out once it was lifted.
There’s the usual, boring trollish memes and comments, mostly implying that women falsely use the hashtag just for ‘attention’. Because of course, recalling the very worst things that have happened to us is exactly the kind of attention we all strive for. Like dyeing our hair or screeching out Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’ on karaoke every time we’re pissed.
There’s the attacks on men using the hashtag. Look, I get that the intent of #metoo was to show that the sexual assault/harassment of women in their lifetime is not just common, it’s inevitable, but if you are honestly attacking male survivors of sexual abuse for using metoo then you need to have a word with yourself, stop being an arsehole, and understand this isn’t supposed to be a race to the fucking bottom.
Then there’s the likes of Peregrine Honig, an American artist who allegedly tried to copyright the metoo slogan and has been selling baseball caps with the words embroidered on it… caps which also happen to look suspiciously like the Make America Great Again hats, that I’m sure Peregrine thinks makes her a controversial edge lord artist, but really just leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you think people who have survived sexual abuse will have to suffer seeing it (note: Honig now claims all profits for the hats are now going to Madi Apparel, a lingerie company that also provides underwear to women who have been raped and have had theirs taken as evidence after examination).
Metoo has angered me. Not because I disagree with its aims. But because it’s the end of 2017 and this shit is still endemic everywhere. Talking about it is still relatively taboo and victims are still blamed, while perpetrators are protected.
We still have a situation where most reported cases don’t make it to court. Here in the UK the government is still slashing the resources of survivor support services, despite the need for them. The Tories introduced a fucking rape clause in Child Benefit claims where women are expected to disclose rape to someone completely unqualified to deal with it in order to feed their children. We had a Home Secretary who ‘lost’ 114 files concerning child abuse allegations within Westminster and then made that person the fucking Prime Minister.
Anyone else fucking furious?
Yeah, me too.
But we can use our fury wisely. Anger can be fire that burns away shame, fear and apathy and have strength grow in the ashes. We can each become beacons who expose the monsters hiding in the shadows and give warmth and light to those who have spent too long in the dark. And to all those who have suffered, whether you found solidarity in being able to publicly say #Metoo or whether you just whispered it under your breath when you were sure no-one was listening- we’ve got you, you are braver than you will ever know, and stronger than anyone who dared to hurt you.
A bit of nineties grunge in the form of Hole for you. Not only is this song, Asking For It sadly relevant and was pretty much top of my playlist in my late teens, their front woman, Courtney Love, was shunned for years by the CAA (Creative Artists Agency) for daring to speak out about Weinstein 12 years ago (see second link).