One of the defining things of 2018 has been the Me Too movement, a response to sexual harassment and sexual assault. The movement exploded soon after the sexual misconduct allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein in late 2017.
Throughout the course of the year, countless women shared their stories about the terrible mistreatment they’d experienced in their lives and a number of high-profile men were brought down by the awful things they’d done…
Aside from the personal ways that people have been affected by unwanted and inappropriate advances, and worse, it seemed that after the explosion of the Me Too movement there were multiple people in nearly every aspect of public life who were either victims or perpetrators.
In addition to Weinstein, there were a staggering number of allegations made against people in entertainment. Men such as Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Morgan Freeman were accused of using their positions of power to victimize the people they worked with and others.
Business And Politics
There were also at least 414 high profile executives in the business world who were accused of misdeeds with 190 of them being fired or resigning, 122 being put on leave, suspended or facing investigations and 69 facing no repercussions. And of course there were notable politicians, like Al Franken and Roy Moore.
Even in a field where those at the top are supposedly beyond moral reproach by the very nature of their position, allegations of sexual misconduct shook America to its core. After Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to become the next member of the United States Supreme Court, someone came forward to say that he had done a terrible thing to her in the past.
That woman was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who said that, when she and Kavanaugh were in high school, they had been at a party together and, while intoxicated, Kavanaugh had held her down on a bed, groped her, covered her mouth when she tried to scream, and tried to pull her clothes off. Of course, he denied that he had done anything of the sort to her.
Dr. Ford testified as much in a senate hearing on September 27th and Judge Kavanaugh did the same, but because there was no evidence presented and no other witnesses heard, it ultimately became a case of he-said-she-said. An FBI investigation was opened to get to the bottom of what did or didn’t happen all those years ago but in some ways, it didn’t matter what the investigation would ultimately find.
Must Be Heard
That’s because for many people, Dr. Ford’s act of openly telling the story of what she said happened to her, despite the fact that doing so would completely upend her life and threaten her safety, was an act in the same vein of the Me Too movement – she was going to make sure her voice was heard and her story was made public whatever the consequences.
One person who found her testimony to be inspirational was Jemima Kirke, an actress best known for portraying Jessa Johansson on the HBO series Girls. After hearing Dr. Ford speak before the senate, she felt compelled to share her story with the world, using Twitter as her platform.
Jemima began her tweet by saying “I’m hugely grateful to this woman today. #IBelieveChristineBlaseyFord.” The 33-year-old actress adopted an attitude like a person plunging into a cold pool began with the words: “Ok F*** it. When I was 22 I was raped by my drug dealer.”
“After I kindly asked him to leave (I didn’t want to make him angry) I dragged myself to the hospital,” Jemima continued. “After the various std tests, the dr. said sympathetically, ‘you gotta start looking after yourself.'” To her, the doctor’s words were like an indictment of something that she’d done wrong.
‘It’s On You’
“I believe what he meant was ‘This could have been prevented if you weren’t hanging out with a drug dealer,'” Jemima said. At first glance, this might seem like a fair criticism. After all, if you hang around with disreputable people, it only stands to reason that they’ll be up to no good and, eventually, you may become the subject of their bad deeds, right?
Because that’s what Jemima was being told, that’s what she believed at the time. Unfortunately, that sort of victim blaming leads secrecy and shame for the victim of a heinous act. “It would seem that the responsibility was on me and for this reason I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t report it,” Jemima said.
So Much Shame
It was easy for Jemima to believe that she was at least partially to blame. After all, she was abusing drugs and hanging around rough characters. “I was ashamed because I believed that what had happened to me was a result of having very little self worth, that this is what happens to drug addicts,” she said. “This is wrong.”
Don’t Blame The Victim
“My rape had nothing to do with my choices,” Jemima said. Many would say that the idea that only obviously “bad” people are capable of sexual misconduct is exactly why the Me Too movement is necessary. As with the case of Bill Cosby, there is no outward appearance of wholesomeness that disqualifies someone as an abuser. “Drug dealers don’t rape people any more than a family man does,” she added.
But no one around Jemima told her that it wasn’t her fault she became a victim. They all took what happened to her as a natural consequence of her drug use, putting the blame on her instead of on the man who attacked her. “The rehab counselors didn’t correct that belief. My own mother didn’t correct it. F*** anyone who meant well but told me to look at this ‘as a sign’ that I needed help,” she said.
Sense of Inevitability
Jemima then confronted the sad reality that what happened to her is all too common and could well continue to be all too common in the future. “It is likely that my daughter will one day be sexually assaulted. I can’t prevent that. She can’t prevent that. But no matter what the circumstances, it won’t be her fault,” Jemima said.
Considering it’s been estimated that one in six women are the victims of rape or attempted rape and the majority of women experience some other kind of unwanted physical contact, she’s probably right about her daughter. Jemima’s tweet set off an intense conversation on her Twitter feed about sexual violence, the Me Too movement, and about Dr. Ford’s claims about Brett Kavanaugh.
One of the most notable exchanges came when a girl named Sarah posted “So much wrong with this. But to avoid being sucked into a Twitter hole, I’ll just ask: What exactly about this is brave? Serious question. Jemima’s reply was simple: “Who said I was being brave, Sarah?”
Sarah clarified her previous statement, saying “It was @ the replies to the tweet rather than the tweet itself. I’m trying to understand why displays of victimhood are still considered brave in the MeToo era. Everyone airs their story on social media, in fact it’s positively encouraged. So what’s so brave about it?”
That’s Not The Point
Sarah had missed the point of what Jemima was doing in specific and about the Me Too movement in general. “I don’t think anyone is trying to be self congratulatory here, Sarah. Being “brave” really isn’t the point. For me, it’s an effort to be supportive and to lead the younger generation by example in the hopes that they won’t accept rape as anything but a crime against them.”