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.