#Believewomen has a major Achilles’ heel
Believe women when they speak up. And when they don’t.
I suppose I should start out this article by stating that I am a woman, a feminist and a survivor. I want #believewomen (not to be confused with #belieberwomen) to make it. I really do. I want so desperately for there to come a time, and soon, when the voices of women, especially those who have intersectionalities, to be valued with the same weight that men’s are. Unfortunately, #believewomen has a major Achilles’ heel: in our efforts to believe women, we still refuse to BELIEVE WOMEN.
I know what you want me to say here, so let me throw out a couple of buzz-phrases:
Lena Dunham is trash!
Al Franken should be fired from a cannon into the sun!
Or should I just crib Madeline Albright? There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
These are all fine and good, but why is it that in our efforts to amplify voices, we have chosen to shut down the voices of women who have spoken up about not being a victim of the men who are accused — women who, based on my knowledge of statistics and sexual harassment, are all likely survivors of some kind of misconduct themselves? Why is it okay to say to a woman that she can speak, and we will believe her … but only if she says what we want her to say?
I’m sorry, but I call bullshit.
When Lena Dunham was blasted for yet another big-mouth moment, I understood the backlash. She didn’t just say that she loved her friend, or that it was hard to imagine him doing something like that. She, pretty overtly, said that Aurora Perrineau was lying.
I’ll be the first one to admit that addressing this issue is tricky. If you love someone, and another person accuses them of something, you value the goodness of that person you love. It’s human instinct. So, while I will not back Lena Dunham up for her statement (or her at all, mostly due to a deep-seated resentment of her that will never fade), I would argue that we’re forcing women into the shadows and shutting down their voices merely for speaking their own experiences. What follows statements like Lena Dunham’s is an assumption that all women who speak up in support of men
- Do not believe women, and
- Do not know what it is like to be assaulted, groped or harassed.
For one, Jane Curtin and the women of SNL. I saw hateful rhetoric like I’ve never seen before on Twitter aimed at the former colleagues of Al Franken, who has been accused of groping and other unwanted sexual behavior. Despite the fact that the letter specifies that these women believe the women involved, and that they think Franken’s behavior was wrong and that he should have apologized, “the internet” was not pleased.
I’ll set aside the fact for now that “the internet” has clearly become a giant corporeal douche bag.
These women worked in comedy in the ‘70s and ‘80s so … yeah. There’s no WAY they have not been harassed or been the target of sexism. Zero chance. Why in the hell are we calling them out as traitors when they are merely sharing their own experiences and observations?
We can’t all be Sarah Silverman, so let me break it down for you: Women are allowed to be believed AND have their own emotional reactions to what is happening in the world right now. Women are allowed to love men (or women) who are accused of misbehavior, because those are their voices too. Why in the name of all that is holy do we persist in shoving all women and all feminists into one little tidy box when men are allowed to have varying interests and nuanced opinions?
The same goes for women who have written about this on Medium. Women who have clearly had their own experiences with rape and abuse, skewered for not falling in line, for not saying exactly what is expected of them.
Hold my beer and allow me to be the first person to give a genuine fuck about Louis CK’s daughters. I’ve heard a lot of buzz and cattiness about what Louis CK will tell his daughters. Oooohhh, what do you think he will tell his daughters? Do you think his DAUGHTERS will say something? When will we find out about the years of emotional scarring his daughters will have?
Let me say something bold here, if you are leading this knitting circle: JUST. STOP. IT.
Whether it’s Chelsea Clinton not being able to get a word in edgewise during her She Persisted book tour without intrusive questions about her dad, Louis CK’s daughters, or the wife and children of Harvey Weinstein (who has somehow faded into the background of my news feed amid ass-grabs and unwanted looks — despite the fact that he had literal spies in the wings to shut up women) — just leave them alone.
Even if they do believe the women accusing their fathers, they are not required to put their confusion and sadness on display for you. They are not required to say anything about their father’s behavior because it is NOT THEIR BEHAVIOR. And, you know what, if they don’t believe that their father is some kind of monster? Leave them alone for that too. Try, for a moment, to put yourself in their shoes. How would it feel to have the man who changed your diapers, held you, and wiped away your tears, accused of something like this? While some of you might smugly say you’d denounce a family member, I’d cordially invite you to get back to me when that happens. Because, if this train’s not stopping, it’s coming for all of us.
When we place our expectations on girls and women to somehow answer for the misdeeds of men, we lose our crusade to have women’s voices heard. We lose because we are still managing to throw young girls under the bus as we do it.
I was “hashtag shocked/not shocked” when I saw a barrage of Twitter comments and even legitimate articles calling for Amy Poehler to make a statement about Louis CK’s sexual misconduct. After all, they have the same agent, right? They’re friends, right? She should really say something. But, guess what? We should not force women to do things they don’t want to do. Isn’t this what this whole goddamn thing is about?!
Has anyone considered the fact that Amy Poehler is hurting for having found out this information about her friend? Probably, but it doesn’t matter, right? Well, think about this: has anyone considered that Amy Poehler might have her own past issues — even assault, rape or abuse — and that perhaps speaking up about this might be too painful? Because that’s what I wonder when I see pages of smug call-outs for female celebrities who should “really say something.” Is your head exploding yet? Good. This is a complex issue and maybe all of our heads need to explode just a little to give it some more nuanced thought.
Let me throw out a little Plato quotation that I see a lot on people’s email signatures but not so much in real, day-to-day life: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” People love to stitch this on pillows, but when they log onto their Wi-Fi, it all kind of goes out the window, doesn’t it?
So, let me for one moment address that giant corporeal douchebag that is “The Internet:”
- Some of us do not want to call ourselves victims, even if we have been raped or assaulted.
- Some of us are silent because we are sad.
- Some of us love men who made mistakes.
- Some of us will be victims of this movement, even if that was not your intent.
- Some of us want to see change but find it too traumatizing to look at the news, let alone interact with you about it.
- Some of us don’t want to speak up about our experiences, and don’t want to remember what it felt like to be violated. Stop asking us.
So, think about it. Or not. I can always save a s’mores for you in that special place in hell.
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Thanks for reading!