Be About Consent: My Thoughts on the #MeToo Movement

23 Oct

Me Too. Yes. Of course. Me fucking too.  I’ve written about it so many times here. Talked about it so much with friends and family. Gotten into deep discussions with people about the nature of consent and the evils of the patriarchy. And in ways I am happy to see that people responded to Alyssa Milano’s call. But at the same time goddamnit am I pissed, and sad, and frankly, in some ways, dumbfounded. Why? Oh, let me count the ways.

***

One. I am pissed that the burden of this has fallen, once again, on women. That always seems to be the case. We are supposed to take self defense classes to protect ourselves when we go about our daily lives. We are supposed to keep an eye on our drinks, never leaving them unattended, even around men who we consider our friends. We are tasked with walking home in groups, with putting our friends in cars, with connecting with each other through apps for our short, yet perilous, rides or walks home. We are supposed to be careful what we wear, where we go, who we smile at or talk to, who we trust. And then, almost inevitably when at some point in our lives something happens to us, we feel guilty, we are blamed, we are tasked with telling our painful stories, reliving horrifying events, walking back through a door we worked so goddamn hard to close. We have to do those things. And we do. And yet here we are, doing them again.

Two. I am saddened by the fact that people, mostly men, seem so surprised by the magnitude of this problem. I guess that was the point. But the thing that this says to me is that a lot of the men out there haven’t been listening all along. That we had to turn our experiences into a hashtag for them to finally be listened to. We go through this shit every single mother fucking day and we talk about it. Oh god do we talk about it! Because it is part of our daily lives. And we aren’t doing it to ourselves. It is being done to us. Mostly by men. And so my logical conclusion is that if most women have experienced some sort of sexual abuse or sexual harassment or sexual assault, then there are A LOT of men who have perpetrated it. It’s not like there are 10 guys out there making the rounds like fucking Rapey Santa Claus, dropping through chimneys, into work places, dorm rooms, company parties, first dates, marriages. If what this hashtag campaign has taught us is that if most women have experienced this, then it stands to reason that at some point or another most men have perpetrated it.

Three. We have a consent issue. And a power dynamic issue. And a huge fucking gender issue. Not to mention a value issue. And what, in my mind, this hashtag has not done, at least in my experience, is force those topics into daily conversation. It’s all well and good to retweet things, write notes of support and ruminate on the number of your friends who have gone through different versions of the same nightmare. It is an entirely different thing to take all of that information and ask yourself one simple question: why. Why is this happening? There are so many reasons but one of them is that women’s stories, our experiences, are not heard, they are not respected and they are not taken as real. How many women did it take to finally bring down Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Larry Nasser? How many Lupita Nyong’os or Angelina Jolies or Rose McGowans equal one Harvey Weinstein? How many victims could have been spared if we were believed, if we felt empowered, if we actually thought that sharing our stories would save others? Because the reality is that sharing oftentimes has the effect of turning our lives upside-down. Just ask Anita Hill.

Four. The number of people who asked why the hashtag only applied to women because men get sexually abused too. Way to “all lives matter” this shit. It is true. Men do get sexually assaulted. And it is an issue that is not discussed nearly enough. It also is deeply rooted in power dynamics, our fucked up way of engaging with gender and sexual expression as well as aspects of shame and control. What I don’t think it is, and correct me if I am wrong, is a massive systemic problem. So please, let’s talk about that. Definitely. But let us not, once again, let the plight of some men overtake the experience of the vast majority of women. I am not arguing that it is less important, or less horrible to experience, or less life altering. What I am saying is that this is not the place for it. This is about systemic and institutionalized sexism that doesn’t only exist in Hollywood. It is in politics, it is at work, it is in our homes, at school. This is about Women, as a group, being undervalued, controlled, disempowered, abused and about it being the year 2017 and all we can do is come up with a damn hashtag.

Five. This is somewhat tangential but I am really sick of people being like “I believe this is bad because I have a mother.” Congratulations, you have a mom. It stands to reason that since, you know, we all exist then probably at some point we all also had mothers. And think about this. Your mother was more likely than not the victim of sexual violence of some kind at some point in her life. Your mother. Because she is a woman and if this hashtag has taught us anything it is that most women have been assaulted in some way. It shouldn’t take you having a mom, or a sister, or a daughter, or an aunt, or a best friend who also happens to be a girl to give a shit. We are people. And we deserve to be treated as such regardless of our decision to procreate or our relation to someone of the opposite sex. We are not important because of the roles we play in men’s lives. We are simply important. Period. End of story.

Six. It is 2017. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN! This has been written about so much. And talked about. And so much of that has been done so poorly but it doesn’t take a genius to know that Brock Turner is a garbage human and so is his dad and so is the judge who let him off easy. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that our President has sexually assaulted women. He admitted to it! On tape! And it doesn’t seem to matter! And really, I know that a lot of big names are being taken down right now. But these dudes are old. They are ooooooold. They have been doing this for so long. And do you know what? There are young, powerful men who are doing the same fucking thing right now. Because while we hashtag and have conversations about Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly, and all the other pieces of shit we are not talking about MEN. We are not talking about toxic masculinity, the patriarchy and what that does to society as a whole. We are not talking about how we raise our boys and how we blame our girls. We are not taking on the bigger issue, instead we just bought a huge Harvey Weinstein shaped bandaid and acted like something really got done. He is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.

***

I don’t think I am offering any sort of new analysis here so I don’t know what the point is. I’m just frustrated. I am frustrated because this has been happening to all of us for so long. So long. And I think that our definition of sexual assault is too limited. There are so many experiences that I have had, that my friends have had, that I believe qualify. It is as simple as your girlfriend, or wife, saying no to sex and you continuing to push and her eventually just giving in. No one wants to just give in to having a penis inserted into her body. It’s incredibly invasive. And I know that men have this experience too. But the difference is the system. The way we value things. The way we doubt women and their experiences. And the way we, as a society, are somehow shocked that this is as big a problem as it is. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the RAINN statistics and thought they were actually too damn low. We have a problem. We have had a problem for a long time. And no hashtag is going to miraculously fix it. Be an ally. Be an ear. Be compassionate. And for crying outloud, be about consent.

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