Weinstein, #MeToo, and the Culture That Never Lets Survivors Forget
A longtime Hollywood secret was made public by a pair of features in The New York Times and The New Yorker, detailing decades worth of rape and sexual assault allegations against multi-millionaire producer Harvey Weinstein.
The backlash against Weinstein has spawned a hydra of conversations on rape culture in Hollywood and the media, survivor’s guilt, the performance of male allyship, and more.
On one hand, these conversations have yielded tangible benefits. There is no doubt that the severity of the backlash against Weinstein gave others the confidence to speak up and be treated with legitimacy. Björk penned a letter on her Facebook page citing abuse by a “Danish director” (she has only worked with one Danish director in the history of her acting career). Indie band Real Estate revealed they fired former guitarist Matt Mondanile due to allegations of sexual misconduct with various women. Twitter is littered with rumblings of similar high-profile allegations against individuals yet to be named.
The tide is, in some ways, turning. No, the culture at large is far from remodeling itself into anything remotely safe for women and marginalized identities. Yet, now more than ever, women are aggregating their strength and using it to demand consequences for those who have repeatedly wronged them.
Therein lies the issue at hand: survivors’ stories are more amplified than ever, but only because it is the survivors performing Herculean feats of emotional labor in order to give even their simplest stories legitimacy.
The phrase “me too” was originally coined by activist Tanara Burke as a means of expressing solidarity with other individuals made victim by rape and sexual assault. On Sunday night, actress Alyssa Milano breathed new life into the slogan with a now-viral tweet.
Milano’s social experiment asked survivors to use the hashtag #MeToo in order to quietly add their name to the exponentially growing list of those who have faced abuse at the hands of the patriarchy. Now, #MeToo is filling up Twitter streams, Facebook feeds, and Instagram captions. It’s a staggering representation of just how pervasive and insidious this culture truly is. What’s more, it’s all too easy to imagine that those making use of the #MeToo hashtag are even close to representing the total number of those affected.
While #MeToo can be worn as a badge of solidarity, I argue that the world has enough badges of solidarity. Survivors of rape and assault have been attempting to bring their stories to the forefront for years. We know the traumas, we know the perpetrators. And yet, when a “scandal” such as Harvey Weinstein works its way into the press, one is asked to perpetuate their traumas for the sake of such solidarity.
Should a survivor of rape really have to make a decision about whether or not they want to encapsulate a horrifying experience(s) from the past into a hashtag? Will the guilt may survivors already feel be built upon if they make a choice to abstain from such a triggering dialogue? When so many abusers walk the streets freely, can one even feel a sense of personal liberation crying out “me, too!”?
Harvey Weinstein may be facing (some) consequences. He is all too conveniently attending “sex rehab” in Europe, where he can avoid extradition for any potential court proceedings, but I digress. Yes, the man was fired and will hopefully never work in Hollywood again.
Yet Bill Cosby is a free man. Woody Allen continues to work with the top talent in Hollywood. And yes, the President of our United States is quite literally on tape describing his penchant for grabbing women by their genitalia.
For some, social trends like #MeToo can be valuable. But the “Me”’s in question need not be the focus of this conversation. It is unfair to place so many survivors in the spotlight when our culture at large spends so much time scrutinizing those who openly accuse their abusers.
To those who truly wish to combat rape culture, see rapists and abusers imprisoned, and allow individuals to live their life without fear of assault? I offer you this simple step that you can take this very moment in order to make that utopian vision a reality: