5 Inclusive New Year’s Resolutions The #MeToo Movement Can Make
It's coming to the point in the season when people start to think about what resolutions they would like to make in the coming year — and social movements aren't so different. #MeToo, the hashtag that's helped to spark a worldwide conversation about sexual harassment and assault, has been one of the defining movements of 2017. It's made huge gains, not just in bringing the conversation to center stage, but in ending the careers of some of the world's most powerful men — but it's also faced some criticism about its approach to intersectionality, confession, and how we talk about harassment. So how can it build on what it's created and move forward in 2018?
#MeToo isn't run by a single organization or person; it's an organic collective of thousands, even millions, of people — and it's not going away any time soon. #MeToo has brought a lot of women together to show the extent of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace — and that power is being used to create real change. But there are ways the movement can keep its momentum going into the new year that will help it grow to be even more inclusive. Here are the New Year's resolutions the #MeToo movement can embrace as dawn rises on 2018.
1. Remember History
As the #SilenceBreakers made the headlines as TIME's Person of The Year for 2017, people were critical of the fact that Tarana Burke, who created Me Too back in 1997 before Twitter even existed, was inside the TIME feature rather than on the cover. The idea of sharing stories of harassment, abuse, and sexual violence in order to create solidarity with other survivors, has been around for a long time. #MeToo gathered steam because of a combination of factors, but it's been part of a revelation of women's experience for quite some time. Let's remember the people who were behind it before it became an international phenomenon, and put in the work to make it into what it is.
2. Embrace Intersectionality
Another voice in the history of #MeToo has been brought to the forefront: Anita Hill, whose testimony that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had allegedly sexually harassed her introduced the very idea of sexual harassment in the workplace, 26 years ago. (Thomas denied the allegations.) Black women have been at the forefront of breaking the silence for many years, and the modern #MeToo movement can acknowledge that history by being intentional in whose voices are amplified as the movement continues. Harassment does, indeed, discriminate; women of color and transgender people in particular are at higher risk of encountering sexual assault than white cisgender women, and those risks become further exacerbated if they are multiply marginalized. You want to champion a cause? You need to know its nuances. #MeToo must make space for the people who benefit the most from the movement, and be intentional in how it makes that space.
3. Believe In Big Change
The sheer momentum of what the writer Elaine Lui, describing the day-by-day revelations of famous men's alleged sexual misconduct throughout November and December 2017, called the Hollywood Predator Advent Calendar can be deceiving. While big changes have happened, and the conversation they've sparked is more revealing than perhaps ever before, the key to change lies not only in individual people, but in the structures that protected them.
The careers of alleged abusers should end. That is a given. But the systems that facilitated and propped up their alleged behavior also need to face a reckoning: the Hollywood studios that allegedly turned blind eyes, the campaign managers, the lawyers, the rotten trees that are now seeing their apples culled but remain themselves rooted in the ground. Figuring out how to do this is hard, but the door needs to be open to Big Ideas, like Jennifer Lawrence's "council of elders" for young women in Hollywood to report abuse. And without those ideas, the conversation can't move forward.
4. Don't Play The Numbers Game
How many victims does it take for somebody to be classed as an abuser? One. Not two, not five, not 18: one. One person is enough. And yet.
Too many people only seem to believe the idea of abuse when multiple accusers appear, as opposed to just one. We saw the evidence of this when the director of the sequel of Fantastic Beasts, David Yates, said in an interview in November that he believed in casting Depp because Depp's ex-wife Amber Heard was just "one person taking a pop at him." (Heard won a $7 million settlement that was donated to charity, and the two released a statement that "there was never an intent of physical or emotional harm.") Supporters of women's rights need to remember not to play that game themselves, as Lena Dunham learned when she publicly dismissed the abuse allegations Aurora Perrineau made against a Girls writer because the writer was her friend — just a few months after tweeting that "women don't lie about rape." (The writer, Murray Miller, denied the allegations made by Perrineau.) "Believe women" must be the rule, whether there's one accuser or 14. This holds for attention, too: while men who are accused of abusing many women capture headlines, men who are accused of abusing just one woman are equally as culpable.
5. Respect Silence
#MeToo has been all about speaking up. But many survivors of sexual assault and harassment, especially those with fewer privileges than the actors who repopularized the movement, still face stigma for speaking up, a legal system that is systematically stacked in their assaulter's favor, and stigma, too, for not speaking up. Let's be clear: No one should have to post their #MeToo on Facebook or Twitter, nor say "Me too," aloud to any other person. It is their experience to share or not, and people who choose not to partake aren't any less of survivors because of it. We must make space for women who can't or don't want to speak out, and avenues for them to explore expressing themselves in ways that facilitate their own safety and health.
The #MeToo movement has fostered a much-needed conversation about sexual harassment and assault in the workplace not just in the U.S., but worldwide. And if all goes according to plan, we will keep having this conversation in 2018 — in a way that is intentionally inclusive of all.