I feel like I’m always a little late to the game when it comes to addressing these social topics but I have to tell you, that’s not unintentional. For me, it’s important to digest something and really get a grip on what I believe before I speak out to the rest of you about the thing. And also, these kinds of things are really exhausting. A lot of emotional labor goes into processing and writing all of this out. Some people have a fire lit underneath them early and that’s where you get these brilliant, quick articles. But I go into shutdown mode and come back when there’s a pile of warm ash. That’s okay, it’s still important.
So, I know that #metoo was sooo last week but it’s, heartbreakingly, a timeless story. I would love to talk to you about some problems with the campaign as well as the importance of it and what practical actions we can take in the wake of it. What do you say, can we go there, together?
So, the internet exploded with #metoo after Alyssa Milano posted about it on Twitter. Last Monday, my Facebook feed was filled with #metoo after #metoo. I posted it. I *liked* in solidarity with my sisters who were adding their voices. In private groups, I said “it’s okay” to the people who could only bring themselves to share it in small, safe spaces. It was everywhere. And I do believe that it was/ is vitally important to make sure that people are allowed to put up their hands in solidarity with one another.
Still though, something about it doesn’t sit perfectly in my soul but also, what IS going to feel right when it comes to this subject? It felt… little. It felt tired. Like, how many times do we have to set the world on fire with our screams about how sexual violence is real and happening all the time every single minute of every single day before someone listens? Just a little over a year ago we were all telling our stories when Brock Turner got… what was it… six and a half minutes in prison for brutally raping a woman? It feels like every few months something like this happens and we all feel like, “this time someone’s going to listen! This time, someone’s going to stop this.” I am so tired.
I can’t help but be reminded that if I think that I, a white, cis-gendered woman, am tired–what about the others who don’t have the privileges that I have? I’m not a feminist if my heart and my hands don’t quickly jump to those who are less protected than I. In particular, I can’t stop thinking of the undocumented people among us who are constantly victims of sexual abuse and trauma with no where to go. Where exactly are they supposed to report that? A police officer? Please.
People with disabilities that make them particularly vulnerable to the people who are supposed to help care for them but instead take their advantages. Black women who are fighting, inarguably, harder than anyone in my circles for their own humanity to be recognized. And I think I’m tired?
I make a point to follow a lot of people of color–particularly those who see themselves as educators–on social media to make sure I don’t get stuck in my own bubble too much. I’m grateful every day for these people who are showing me the ways that I’m resting on my privilege–things I don’t see right away. Showing me different perspectives, even if I’m not their target audience. It’s crucial for me to listen and learn.
A few days after #metoo started, I was hearing, here and there, about how Alyssa Milano didn’t start this after all like we all thought. A black woman named Tarana Burke did–ten years ago.
For even a few days after that information came out, I wondered, “okay but why does it matter?” Why does it matter that someone else came up with it if the concept is being utilized right now? I’m embarrassed that it took me days and days to realize this.
It’s because when it was black women trying to be heard, no one paid attention. A rich white woman sends a tweet and the whole world freaks out! That’s the issue. Or… that’s one of the major issues. Why aren’t we listening to and fighting for the black women among us?
Ericka Hart and Ebony Donnley have a podcast called Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast where they talk casually and educationally about everything that I wonder about the most in life. Sex, gender, race, the problem of white people… all of it. On their latest episode, Ericka mentioned kind of… exasperatedly that of course a black woman came up with Me Too ten years ago. And of course no one really paid attention until a white woman decided to use it.
Not only that but in this podcast, I learned that it was a woman of color who brought these charges against Harvey Weinstein in the first place but until Rose McGowan and Gwynneth Paltrow said something, no one paid attention. Why are we making black women pave the way to make space for our white voices?
And no, it’s not our fault that we didn’t know the whole entire history of it all before we participated in it but… gah! Isn’t that how it all is, though? Over and over again, if you go back to the history of most things in America, everything was built on the pain of people of color. And then I can just dance right over it all like everything is so easy but it was never easy–someone else just did all the hardest work for us.
I’m angry that people have to fight so hard to be heard and I’m even angrier that it took a lot of us so long to see that these other people have been doing it for centuries.
“Now that it’s happening to you–now we’re all up in arms? No, we’ve been up in arms! Where have you been?”
–Ericka Hart, Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast, Episode 8
I know that we (“we” being you and me, reader) really and truly believe that unless all of us are free, none of us are free. I know we don’t actively believe that one skin color is inherently better than another. But we need to make that a practice. We need to actively practice our intersectionality if it’s ever going to mean anything (and by the way, even the word “intersectional” as we apply it to Feminism was developed by, who? Say it with me, a black woman!) We need to listen to and believe the marginalized among us. A lot of people keep saying that we need to give these people a voice. No, these people have a voice it’s just that we aren’t listening.
Listen. And pass the mic that you were born with.
Now, I have a lot more to say about #metoo and I’m going to post about that in a few days but I just couldn’t go into this conversation without acknowledging the way that privilege is taking a super front seat in this conversation.
In Part 2 I want to talk about practical things we can do in the wake of this viral movement.
Thank you for listening to me.
As always, please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments or on Facebook.