Nine months after writer Anne T. Donahue sent a viral tweet in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, she reflects on the moments that led to the #timesup and #metoo movements—and where we go from here.
October feels very far away. And not just because that’s how time works (spoiler alert: October was nine months ago). But because in the eons since the New York Times published their now-award winning exposé on Harvey Weinstein, so much has happened. Predators have been outed. Titans have fallen. And yet we know, with every revelation and every allegation, we’re only just scratching the surface of our sad, sick reality. So much of what we know and love has been built on and anchored to rape culture, a phrase used to describe a society that normalizes and trivializes sexualized violence, often—though not exclusively—against women. It will take more time than any of us have to dismantle it entirely, the key is to just keep going.
Like you, I read the Times’ takedown of Weinstein with little-to-no-surprise. Whisperings and jokes about his influence and predatory nature have permeated conversations and Academy Award speeches for as long as most of us can remember, and, as a woman, I’m never shocked to hear about an egregious abuse of power. After all, who among us hasn’t known one like Harvey? Or two? Or many? Who among us hasn’t been privy to unwanted advances, jokes, or much worse? We’ve all met a Harvey Weinstein.
And in less than a minute, the responses swept in. Some had met him at work. Others, at school. Some were born to their version of him, and then for hours, then for days, and even now, I watched a chorus of voices on Twitter testify to their own incidences of harassment and abuse. It was everywhere, all the time, and it didn’t discriminate based on age, gender, orientation, or socio-economic status. It was sewn so permanently into the fabric that makes up our “normal” that it had reached out and grabbed everyone, tearing down their self-worth and feeling of safety in the process.
I was in awe of the generosity I was privy to and sat in disbelief as thousands of strangers shared their personal, traumatizing, terrifying moments. I was in awe of the support they offered—both to me and to each other—and in awe at the transparency put forth to make fellow survivors feel strong and less alone. But again, I was not surprised.
After all, it was in 2006 that activist Tarana Burke began the #MeToo movement which earned even more notoriety in the wake of Weinstein. “Sexual harassment does bring shame,” she told Time in 2017. “ And I think it’s really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame, but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.”
But that takes a lot of work, especially since the first person we’re taught to blame for being harassed, abused, or assaulted is ourselves. The system as we know it (the one that puts victims on trial instead of the predator) takes great pains to put an accuser to shame, knocking so many holes in a story that men like Brock Turner (who in 2016 was convicted of rape but was only sentenced to 6 months, and ultimately only served 3) and Jian Ghomeshi (who, also in 2016, was acquitted of all sexual assault charges) walk away with little-to-no consequence, free to build their lives in a way they see fit. It wasn’t built to support the accounts of hundreds, thousands, millions of women, men and non-binary folks who challenge abuse by opting to stand up and be heard. That’s the type of action that leads to its collapse. Which means we can’t stop now.
I only sent a tweet in October. That’s the only thing I did. I got angry, I went on Twitter, and I did what I know how to do when I’m upset: speak. But I sparked nothing. It was everyone else’s willingness to share that maintained a conversation that ended up leading to an even bigger and better conversation. It was their generosity, their transparency, their bravery that morphed my rage-tweet into the host of a louder, more important discussion. Which isn’t to say that those who weren’t ready to share aren’t brave, too. Twitter—writing, speaking, raging, joking, all that it entails—is merely an avenue through which I like to engage, listen, read, and talk. But it’s also not for everyone, and not sharing doesn’t make anybody less strong. I learned through all of this that one’s means of action is dependent on their own mental health, their own comfort level, and what for them feels right. That just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t working.
After all, Tanara Burke was changing the world long before Twitter was even anything we cared about.