How to be a feminist in the #metoo era

How to be a feminist in the #metoo era

This feminist is all the more vital and needed.

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I've said it once and I will say it again: the #metoo movement still matters, and not just for women. Men and individuals from marginalized communities, too, are coming forward and identifying abusers as part of the nascent and much-needed #ustoo movement.

I wrote recently about the great need to validate, seek, and honor survivors' stories as this movement (these movements) continue to evolve and shake up what needs to be shaken. Yet part of that validation process also involves some identity management, namely what it means to be a survivor, a feminist, and a fighter in this era of powerful revelation and truth.

I have always been a self-professed feminist. I claimed this title gradually, thanks to the "life slap" college often delivers its graduates—exposure to new cultures, narratives, and philosophies opened my eyes to sexism, misogyny, and marginalization present even in my own family.

Let's just say I graduated from college with what felt like a flaming sword—I wanted to defend women to the ends of the gray old earth!

I am only recently a survivor, yet that title has exposed what sometimes feels like everything but, in reality, is a mere shaving of the icy turbulence beneath the surface floes. I've struggled to claim both of these titles gracefully, without bitterness, anger, and the desire to shout.

I think it is possible to be a feminist in the #metoo era, and it is urgent. Yet what does this feminist look like, and how do we become her/him/them? This feminist is not a stereotype or very similar to the feminism of the prior decades. This feminist is all the more vital and needed.

The #metoo feminist listens.

The #metoo movement is about expressing vulnerability and triumphing over victim shame and guilt. It also honors that shame, giving it a venue for expression and validation.

The movement's greatest risk lies in its capacity to re-traumatize; I know my greatest grief of the movement resulted from its overwhelming revelation that my story was far more ubiquitous than realized. I wanted—hoped, prayed to Buddha—that my story was an exception. I felt that it was the norm.

For this reason, the feminism of the #metoo movement goes beyond the initial, empowering surge of claiming our truth. It is not just about mustering the courage to claim the hashtag, although I'm not belittling that action in the least. (Claiming that hashtag myself took power, bravery, and immense pride.)

Feminism is, in some definitions, the philosophical and social wave intent on recognizing women's equality, unabashed worthiness, and right to power, truth, and selfhood. Feminism honors women and forbids the kinds of boundaries, judgments, and falsehoods that limit them from their true capacities.

This should still hold true in the context of the #metoo movement. Beyond supporting survivors claiming this hashtag, the #metoo feminist is committed to listening—to what the survivor has to say, to what has brought her (him/them) to this point, to all of the words and actions.

This listening should be bipartisan, unbiased, and profoundly present. It can be hard to do this in such a charged era—and with such charged narratives—but this kind of active listening is vital for empowering communities and driving change, because it looks beyond boundaries and emphasizes equality and worthiness of expression.

The #metoo feminist listens regardless of personal opinion, particularly when it comes to listening and honoring the stories of survivors within families, friend groups, and close social circles.

Commit to full, comprehensive revelation.

I celebrate all men, women, and non-binary individuals who have shared their #metoos with me. I commit to this revelation, and as a #metoo feminist, I commit to even more.

Full revelation does not have to end in prosecution or conviction, although for some survivors, this is a vital component of their healing journeys. I simultaneously support these survivors and those who decide not to ultimately prosecute.

Yet comprehensive revelation means keeping the momentum going. It means the right kind of exposure, and it disdains "running away" from accusations. It also means checking in with survivors to ensure they are receiving the support they need in the wake of their own expression.

This is where the #ustoo movement becomes pressing. Comprehensive revelation requires giving everyone an opportunity to claim this mighty hashtag, regardless of ethnicity, identity, gender, or origin.

This is where higher levels of consciousness emerge—when everything is revealed. And a more conscious earth is a safer one.

Challenge the witchifying and wolfing.

I've despaired at the requisite witchifying of accusers, when those in power accused of sexual assault, violence, or harassment turn their accusers into "witches," "crazy" people, or "liars." I've seen women turned into wolves, intent on the destruction of all men.

Let's challenge this nonsense! Witchifying is anti-feminist and undermines all that the #metoo movement is about. It suggests that women are only capable of being malicious and fanged, that they are "too sensitive" or "immature."

This is rote misogyny—this is rote sexism, and I will not, cannot, tolerate it.

The #metoo feminist challenges these claims with rigor. The #metoo feminist validates the experience of the accuser and realizes that it's all too easy to generalize the full, authentic narrative. It is impossible to cast judgment without intimate knowledge of the case itself, and that knowledge is reserved for the accuser and the accused.

It's not just about women (although women matter).

Lastly, I've spoken at length about the women behind the #metoos. Yet there is more to this movement than women. We must also listen to the men, non-binary individuals, members of the LGBTQ community, and individuals living in marginalized and oppressive conditions.

The #metoo feminist is therefore not merely a champion for victimized women. He/she/they are an activist for every single #metoo out there. This is because the #metoo movement rests on bedrock of claiming our rights—rights to personhood, safety, and a life free of victimization.

Let's commit to listening to every single one.

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R. Kelly Faces New Accusations And Hopefully This Means The End Of His Reign Of Terror

"Surviving R. Kelly" shed light to what was in the shadows for too long and now consequences have just been dealt.

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R. Kelly is one of the most prominent R&B; artists of the '80s and '90s. However, his business as an artist is not the main reason his name is now resurfacing. Due to the attention brought on by a documentary, "Surviving R. Kelly", many started realizing what others tried to mention years ago.

In the documentary, the stories of numerous women who all have had contact with him talked in great detail about the terrors they encountered and horrors they still face. Included in those who took part in the documentary are Sparkle, Wendy Williams, Tarana Burke, and 50 others. Many talked about his obsession with pedophilia while mentioning his and predatory behavior toward women and abuse (physically, verbally, and sexually).

As of February 22, 2019, Robert Sylvester Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

These charges are criminal, felonies, and were filled through Cook County in Illinois. "Surviving R. Kelly" shed light to what was in the shadows for too long and now consequences have just been dealt.

In the past, R. Kelly and his team have been able to slip through the grasps of justice. He was acquitted in 2008 for child pornography charges and numerous other incidents throughout the years. This time around, the R&B; artist is being investigated by three different federal law enforcement agencies surrounding evidence, testimonies, and statements made by those involved in the filming of Surviving R. Kelly.

A 45-minute tape including an underage 14-year-old girl and R. Kelly has been presented to prosecutors leading to the filing of charges. To note, this video is separate from the videos in which previously were used in cases on different charges. Along with this new video, two additional accusers have stepped forward to detail their encounters with the artist. These two women are a former protege and mother of a daughter who is presently involved with him.

Former protege, Lizzette Martinez went on to say when she was 17-years-old and forced into sexual acts numerous times with Kelly. Eventually becoming pregnant with R. Kelly`s child, Lizzette Martinez felt pressured by him to have an abortion; she ultimately miscarried later on. The other accuser, Michelle, explained her daughter`s ("N's") relationship with him. Michelle said that communication between her daughter and her is limited because R. Kelly`s enforced restrictions. R. Kelly and his team have denied all allegations multiple times as he is a "God-fearing man". While some still question the authenticity of these charges, others question if R. Kelly will actually face the consequences of his actions.

With these new charges and "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary, there is an important factor society must understand before his case continues and similar ones are filled. Between lust, fame, money, power, and more, there are hundreds of reasons why R. Kelly did not face convictions others would have easily. Yes, he is profitable, rich, and all of those hundred reasons but they are not suitable reasons that can come close in justifying these allegations.

AND EVEN MORE IMPORTANT there is NO reason for ANYONE to commit such crimes.

There is also no justifiable reason for anyone to commit such crimes and be able to get away with their actions time and time again. Over the course of his career, there have always been allegations and until the documentary, no one listened. It is time to give survivors the time and our ears for their story to be told and listened to.

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What Your 20's Are All About

Authenticity.

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Being a twenty-something is glorious.

It's easy. It's beautiful. It often looks like a pair of designer cut-offs or a laptop on a beach. It isn't terribly serious.

In fact, it's rarely serious. Yet it makes sense--more sense than any other age because it's newly educated, self-discovered, and hopeful.

Right?

This is what social media tells me. It is what college told me. It is something many of us believe.

I am convinced, however, that there is more to it than this.

Someone or some book neglected to add a few more postscripts to this chapter of the Book of Life. Or maybe they were lodged under the "Recommended Reading" portion of the syllabus (and hence overlooked).

Whatever the case, your real twenties are about something in between the really good vodka and the wandering. That something has the power to shape this decade of your life into a different kind of gem.

(Yes, you can cut your teeth on it.)

Uncertainty

College (or life after high school) somehow perpetuates the myth that graduation precedes a concrete stairway. And that stairway leads clearly to a life path, a career, a vision, and a culmination, all to the tune of Jimmy Hendrix.

A bachelor's or associate's degree initiates many into the world of work and careerdom. But it does not necessarily make things any more certain.

Perhaps you've graduated with a degree in French literature and suddenly feel an impulse to stare at lots of graphs and statistics.

Maybe you have no impulse whatsoever. You have hobbies—fixing bikes, swiping left—but cannot seem to grasp a vision.

If you're like I was in my twenties, perhaps you sense you want to do everything your parents didn't, if only your feet would touch ground sometime soon.

This decade is definitively unknown. Not having a solid sense of what comes next is not an inherent fault of yours; it's part and parcel of life's whimsical years.

Want in on a shinier secret? All decades are uncertain. This one just feels the ripest.

If you wake up every morning and have no answers (or job, or health insurance, or girlfriend, or house), great! You're doing this right. Answers will emerge, but in the meantime, sit with the discomfort of being simply where you are at.

Forgiveness

As the decade of uncertainty unfolds, lean into it. I found that I could get more comfortable with being an unknown entity in my twenties by forgiving myself (and others).

You don't have to go to an ashram to practice forgiveness, although I'm not discouraging you from this path. Nor do you have to start embracing a new religion or giving up red meat and Cheetos.

Forgiveness starts with awareness. Beginning to recognize the difference between personal goals and societal demands is the prelude to following a gentler, more visionary path.

When I forgave myself for being a perfectionist, despairing that I would never find a job, and wondering if I really should have chosen my English major, life became much easier.

Science also tells us that our brains are still firing, forming, and developing in our twenties.

As such, friendships may peel away. Certain kinds of knowledge may dissolve. You may start to realize that holding grudges or avoiding conflict isn't worth it anymore—or is now worth forgiveness.

Forgiveness can also be empowering. It's one of many doors that can shuttle you more effectively into the unknown (with grace and a good pair of heels).

Exchange

Everything we learn in childhood, high school, and beyond is not necessarily the truth. The decade of your twenties is about the conscious and willing abandonment of past ideals, notions, and information.

To some, this may be simple rebellion. To others, it may be part of the self's natural evolution.

To me, it's about an exchange.

Being in your twenties can involve trading in those old ideas for more relevant ones. It's like a consignment store for self.

At this stage in life, a lot of things crumble. A lot of new buildings and scaffolding develop. Sometimes, this is brutal. It may feel unfair. It may feel like a relief.

No one is here to say that you have to be the self of your childhood or the self of eighteen (or last year). Mindfully weeding out the old and heralding in a more graceful, informed you will make that part of your thirties that much easier.

Risk

If you haven't gotten the memo yet, this is all really risky.

I mean, trekking across Mongolia, coming out, changing your name, abandoning your career, or taking up deep water diving isn't easy.

Forgiving yourself and leaning into uncertainty—those are hard, too.

A lot can get lost. A lot more can crack, splinter, and explode. It's a minefield for the mind and heart.

This decade may be the riskiest of your life. But that's how you know you're playing a good hand.

Without risk, the path becomes in danger of getting "too comfortable." That's one thing we millennials can agree on, at least—to be comfortable is to be stagnant.

I say, be risky. Feel imperiled, whether it involves a belief system or relationship or vision. On the other side of risk is knowing.

Authenticity

This decade is yours. It can shimmer, darken, or expand depending on what you do with it. No one can tell you otherwise.

Society may urge you to be free, playful, and exuberant in your twenties. Excellent.

It may also urge you to be driven, focused, and cynical. Also excellent.

But your twenties are really all about authenticity, or what you do with it. The greatest years of your life won't necessarily be college—they may just be the ones in which you chose to live powerfully within the scope of your greatest and truest self.

If no one was there to prep you for your twenties, or if you feel that the ones who were got it all wrong, take these words to heart. Be uncertain and timid. But also be audacious and genuine.

The one who's looking closest is, after all, you.

Note: Another version of this piece appeared on Thought Catalog.

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