This was originally published on Medium on December 1, 2017.
For the last month, I have tried to allow myself the luxury of imagining what this world will look like post #MeToo. I’ve envisioned this country as one where my daughter, if I have one, will be genuinely and innocently confused about why we allowed this epidemic to last for so long. I’ve written her life without a single #MeToo moment. It’s a picture of clarity and freedom that I wish I could have lived myself.
Throughout this process, I have also tried countless times to write down my thoughts/visions/insights but I have been struck either incoherent or speechless each time. I realized that this is partly because it’s too painful and emotional for my brain to also be logical and analytical. It’s also because #MeToo is *so huge* that I: (1) don’t want us to fuck it up and (2) feel so completely overwhelmed that I stop talking. I don’t want to ever forget this moment and I don’t want us to lose the momentum. Will this be the end of violence against women? Will it actually be possible for our daughters not to know the impact of sexual violence? We don’t know yet. And that’s what is so fucking terrifying. There is too much at stake for us to fail.
I’m rambling, so I will get to the point. Instead of writing something that will contribute to the scholarship of this revolution, I’m going to attempt to provide an emotional perspective because I’m afraid that in the politicization of this movement, it may get drowned out by the noise. If this happens, we have lost the thread. When you are having conversations with friends and relatives about #MeToo, remember this.
Remember that on the other side of a news alert about public figure X being fired for “sexual misconduct,” there are likely multiple women who have suffered because of X’s abusive behavior. I’ve seen memes — at which I have admittedly laughed out loud — going around that depict a text message exchange where someone texts just the name of a famous man to a friend and the response is, “dead or rapist?” This captures the absurdly common event of sexual violence, sure. But the weight of this truth is simultaneously eclipsed by the humor of the image. It invalidates the importance of each woman’s story by allowing us to forget the impacts of the perpetrator.
I can’t possibly impart to you in words how difficult it is to heal from sexual violence. For one thing, it’s different for everyone. And for another, it requires more than facts and descriptions. It’s baring one’s soul to the night. It’s allowing yourself to delve deep into the dark, secret pieces of your story that you’ve had to hide from yourself and the world and *choosing* to feel its entire weight on your heart. There aren’t words to convey either the pain or the truth of this process. It just is. I wish that I could say something like, “it’s only the little things in my life that have changed,” but that would be a lie.
So when the next news alert about the next powerful man being fired from the next powerful job comes in the next 24 hours — remember this.
Remember that each time you are grappling with whether to support the art or work of a man who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment, there are women whose own art, whatever form it may take, has been at the very least stifled, at the worst destroyed by what he has done to her. Rape changes a person forever. If we are lucky, we come out on the other side a stronger, but different person, than we were before. I understand that it’s hard to watch icons fall. It’s even harder to never get the chance to climb that high because of what an icon did to you.
Remember that the term “sexual misconduct” includes rape and sexual assault, and does not only refer to sexual harassment. #MeToo encompassing both is, as I see it, a double-edged sword. I understand the why and I understand the because — it’s easier to talk about sexual assault and rape if it’s attached to something more digestable. Coining the term “sexual misconduct” was the media (read: powerful men) finding an easy and vague way to talk about these stories without saying the words rape or assault where applicable. Well done. PLEASE: If you are referring to sexual assault and rape, stop calling it sexual misconduct.
If we want this moment to sustain, we have to be really fucking honest about the details, even if they are ugly. Rape and sexual assault are not “misconduct.” They are, inherently and by definition, offensive and violent. Period. I know that the word rape is uncomfortable. We have collectively avoided using it and looked away when someone wants to talk about it — I’ve seen it all and I’ve seen it my whole life. #MeToo demands more of you.
My hope is that with #MeToo, we can have conversations about the impact of rape and sexual assault on survivors. #MeToo is not just about speaking the facts of our truth. It’s also about speaking the truth in our story. And for every survivor I know, this is the hardest part. This truth is in the not knowing how different, and how much easier, your life would be if you had never been raped. There aren’t words for this either.
Remember to be gentle with survivors, both the ones you know and the ones who are speaking publicly about their experiences. This movement is exhausting and I don’t think I am alone in feeling skeptical and tentative. Being a survivor has been defined by keeping our stories to ourselves. More often than not, if we spoke up before #MeToo, we were ignored or told to stay quiet. This framework has been in place for millennia, which means it’s dated and hideous, but it’s also familiar. My reaction to being raped in law school might have been different if I was raped in 2025. For the women who were violated before #MeToo, give us time. This is a new context in which to understand our suffering. Forgive us if we aren’t ready to believe that the structures that kept us silent and afraid are suddenly gone — they’re not. Not yet.