Few weeks ago, a big shot producer got outed for sexually harassing and assaulting a lot of women; doing what we do best when we come across such scandals, we got outraged—again. In reply, actress Alyssa Milano launched the hashtag #MeToo, giving victims a platform to share their experiences and speak out against sexual harassment and assault. This exposed the magnitude of how pervasive sexual abuse is in the world.
But did you not already know how prominent sexual harassment and abuse are?
Reason to Cringe #1 – We should be way past the stage of raising awareness on this subject.
Let’s not pretend that we were unaware of how severe and widespread this was before Weinstein got outed. Before him there was Trump, and before that there were Cosby, Woody Allen, Mike Tyson, Charlie Sheen… the list is infamously long. All of these stories also went viral and created massive outrage. Despite that, however, one of the world’s most progressive nations thought it was a good idea to elect one of these men as their president.
If you are not convinced or have not accepted that sexual harassment and assault are massively widespread issues, another round of awareness and hashtags and likes and shares will not do the job. Granted that continuously raising awareness about a humanitarian issue is never really a bad thing, we can go about it without further burdening victims.
Reason to Cringe #2 – Stop asking victims to tear open their traumas in order to prove that there is a problem we already know exists.
Enough of this “outing” of victims. Enough burdening women who have gone through traumatizing experiences by pressuring them to share their stories again and again in order to validate a well-known, widespread issue.
Instead, burden those who are responsible for these assaults. Burden religious institutions that encourage the submissiveness, inferiority, and objectification of women. Burden legislators that downplay sexual assault through absurd convictions or lack-thereof. Burden politicians like Elie Marouni for victim-blaming, and burden those who clapped for him. Burden sexist women like Najwa Karam for ridiculing gender equality. Burden the Lebanese parliament for taking its sweet sweet time to revoke the ‘marry your rapist’ law. Burden teachers for dismissing incidents of boys pulling at girls’ bras at school. Burden those who don’t explicitly teach their sons that they are not entitled to other people’s bodies. Burden movie and television producers when they normalize assault through certain scenes. Burden advertisers that objectify women, even when their marketing campaign and social media posts are ‘smart and funny’—yes, I mean you ‘Sandwich w Noss’. We know you are “just a sandwich place haha”, but don’t contribute to the normalization of sexual harassment. And for the sake of all mankind, burden your ‘hala bel khamees’ fanatic friends. But definitely don’t continue to pressure victims to open up again and again and again. Their painful, distressing experiences are not your entertainment.
Reason to Cringe #3 – Nobody owes you their story.
People who have experienced trauma are free to share their stories if and whenever they feel comfortable. Some have not recovered from their trauma, some need time, some are tearing themselves apart, some are living with their abusers, and some are being blackmailed. There is something really uncomfortable about publicly calling the women who shared their stories “courageous” when a significant number of “cowardly” women cannot share their stories for very, very serious reasons. The campaign started by inviting women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write ‘me too’ as a reply to a tweet. Not all women who have been through assault have or will do that. Nor do they owe it to anyone.
Reason to Cringe #4 – The campaign equates catcalling with sexual abuse, and some women misdefine harassment.
According to endless stories I saw on my newsfeed, the hashtag #MeToo has been used when elaborating on incidents where someone was catcalled while walking on a busy street that one July afternoon. Not to downplay the dangers of catcalling—it has to be dealt with, but it cannot be equated to sexual assault. Also, there are other campaigns for street harassment, like #NotYourAshta for example. There is also a huge, subjective discrepancy between what is considered harassment and what is not. To clarify one thing, being asked out to dinner by someone you don’t like or aren’t attracted to is not harassment.
Catcalling and sexual abuse are not the same thing. The harassment scale ranges from an unwanted wink to rape; and the trauma associated with it ranges from just-something-that-happened-today to physical pain, emotional damage, and mental disorders. If you were ‘shou ya ashta’d on Bliss street today, chances are you will sleep tonight; but if you were held at gunpoint and forced to give a blowjob in an alley behind Bliss street, chances are you will not be sleeping for weeks to come. Even more so, there are stories out there that define feeling awkward on a bus next to someone scratching his sweaty balls as sexual harassment; now as disgusting and inappropriate as that is, I’m sorry to burst your bubble girls, it is not harassment. Sadly, I know women who have experienced sexual assault, the kind that cannot be confused for impropriety, and the kind that cannot be equated with catcalling. To equate all these experiences, as the campaign does, is disrespectful to victims of sexual abuse.
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