Me Too: This week’s #yesallwomen and the problem with ‘raising awareness’ activism

This post (and variations of it) has been appearing on the social media over the last 48 hours or so. The idea being that women post “me too” to show that they have been harassed or assaulted, like more or less everyone who potentially presents as or can be perceived as female in any capacity in human history. The point being that people might not realise this otherwise.

The thing is: “people” do have a sense of, and in fact, know, the extent of this problem. And by people I mean women, who, as it turns out, are people also. Several men have also heard about it. Apparently. So the issue then becomes: what is this ‘campaign’ trying to achieve?

A number of people in my social media have commented that a “guy they know” has been surprised or overwhelmed by the number of women who have been posting this. Now, the only surprise here is that this might come as a “surprise” to anyone, and this should only be a surprise if you have never met a human woman. It’s also surprising because this is hardly the first time an “awareness” campaign has been launched in order to alert men to the fact that women are subject to sexual harassment and violence, does anyone remember #yesallwomen? So it’s not as though, in the myopic, forgetful (if also unforgivingly permanent) platform social media, any kind of revelatory message actually sticks.

It is not, and should not be the job of people who have been subject to sexual harassment or violence to educate anyone about their experience.

It also forces women to reflect on, and address the harassment, assault and violence they’ve been subject to throughout their lives for an expression that is largely redundant.

So for example, when I saw it pop up, my first thought was, “well, I’ve never been raped, so I don’t know whether I should post ‘me too'” and then I started to go through the memories of incidents in my life, and thought about the extent to which they qualify, which, again is ludicrous, because yes, literally all women have been subject to some form of gender-focussed sexual harassment in their lives, even if they don’t necessarily recognise it as such. More importantly, though, this cataloguing of a history of experiences, when a person is just trying to get on with her day is affecting and infuriating, and unavoidable.

So maybe the experience of trauma that people might be subject to, associated with these expressions of uninvited solidarity should be considered before embarking on the kind of campaign that implicates them. By focusing on raising the awareness of those people who are blissfully unaffected by this issue, the needs of people who are affected are positioned as secondary, and ignored.

By logging onto Facebook, and seeing a feed filled with other people’s posts, the absence of one’s own post, and engagement with this activism is implied, and whether or not you post, by seeing it, it makes you think about it.

It’s a bit like walking past the “yes” signs in shops everyday reminds us of the vote to assess whether we should have access to a legal right, and therefore, by extension, a vote for assessing the recognition of our humanity.

I’m a little bit over it.


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