Commander Lin Mae prepares to face the monsters. Source: YouTube.

The monsters are here. So are the warriors.

Reflections on the #MeToo movement from atop The Great Wall

This week I went to sleep watching #MeToo blaze through my Facebook community, only to wake from a dream about The Great Wall. So how did an online movement raising awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and abuse connect to an action/fantasy blockbuster?

Within the fundamentally flawed yet visually stunning 2016 movie The Great Wall lives a stronger story — of the Nameless Order’s warrior women who defend China despite those who doubt them.

In the film’s war against the alien army threatening China, the most impressive battling unit is Crane Troop, an all-woman division led by a female commander. These warriors jump from the safety of fortifications into the enemy horde, spearing the most aggressive monsters. Over and over, the crane warriors put their full trust in comrades to pull them back to safety, then dive again into danger to protect everyone beyond the wall.

Crane Troop dives into the fray. Source: YouTube.

Crane Troop’s high-risk tactic often yields little reward. Furthermore, they face challenges by skeptics — from strangers demanding demonstrations of value or basic lessons — to a faraway ruler who wants physical proof of the threat they face. But the Crane Troop tirelessly persists, and their bravery saves China.

#MeToo feels a little like this story. It doesn’t matter whether the hashtag goes viral, because the monsters are still out there, preying on anyone within their power. Whether or not skeptics believe survivors, those hurt by sexual violence still fight private battles every day for health, safety, and justice.

Sometimes resistance pays off in the punishment of predators, like with Harvey Weinstein. More often, villains walk free, like Donald Trump. The outcome of each battle neither justifies nor negates the merit of the fight, nor does it erase the damage wreaked by abusers along the way.

Survivors of sexual abuse and harassment — inflicted on and by any gender — persist because there is no alternative. They see that the world is filled with people who might do them harm — neighbors, friends, coworkers, family members — and choose to dive back in anyway. They suffer through exhausting accusations that the experiences they have lived are exaggerated or false, and continue living. They repeatedly face ignorant demands from people in power and privilege for proof and education, and refuse to give up. Every day that they choose to connect with people and engage in a society that has let them down, they decide that the world does not belong to monsters.

If any good has come of #MeToo, it is a glimpse of the multitude of warriors who surround us with their quiet strength, fighting to protect themselves and defend the next person who may be vulnerable.

Many who are struggling will choose not to identify with #MeToo. Some will decide not to relive their trauma for other people’s benefit; others will reach out offline, or not at all. There is no wrong choice for how a survivor handles their story. For those who do choose to speak up, any reassurance gained by seeing other people raise their hands is matched by disgust at an epidemic that should be so preventable.

Warrior Lin Mae schools Matt Damon. Source: YouTube.

The sentiment of #MeToo has been said before in various ways for many injustices: racism, discrimination, attacks against basic human rights to health care, housing, education, bodily autonomy, a habitable environment, even love. In every case, it is frustrating to out oneself as personally affected. No one should require a percentage of social newsfeeds to display a hashtag before others believe an issue is real and devastating. Maybe this movement won’t change anything; maybe it will.

But to anyone wants to raise their hand: we see you. We believe you. We acknowledge the war you wage every day, and empathize with you. And we will help you fight the monsters in any way that you need.

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