By Jolene Cardenas, CCASA Survivor Task Force coordinator
What the hell does that even mean? “Me Too Era”. I keep hearing it over and over in the mainstream media, during interviews with people in power – from celebrities to politicians to podcast hosts. I’m so confused. I’ve been in the media for decades and I know how the industry works. Unfortunately, the public has to get information from a monopolized media echo chamber where a single narrative will be parroted and recycled until it fizzles into meaningless chatter. That is what the new “normal” has become. Fortunately enough though the Me Too movement will not cater to this practice and we can thank Tarana Burke for setting us all free to share our truth.
This is not an “era” we are living through. It didn’t just happen overnight. Power has always been used against survivors of sexual violence, assault, and harassment in our country since colonization. There is no special handbook to follow for how to avoid the Me Too spotlight for offenders. Despite the rumors, there will be no massive increase to monitor ill-mannered, inappropriate behaviors in “polite” society. There are no “me too’d” victims of our time being brought down in record numbers creating a sense of fear for innocent bystanders. Nope. None of those tropes are based in reality but are all part of a desperate attempt by the press to formulate a narrative for this movement to fit into a headline.
This does a great disservice to survivors and their loved ones. Survivors are always watching and waiting for someone to focus on the actual truth. The truth being that the Me Too movement is a rallying cry for survivors to find their way to one another and it always will be. This makes Me Too a credible threat to the powers that be in a monopolized media industry that relies heavily on ratings.
Sexual violence has always gotten major headlines with no regard to the sensitivity of the issue and the trauma that comes along with sharing the truth. Everything you consume through the media is based off ratings which turns tragedy into entertainment, including the Me Too movement. It has become the go-to litmus test for common decency as if that never existed prior to Twitter and hashtags. So, to get entertainment value out of survivor’s stories, the media industry continually finds a way to make trauma more digestible to the general public. Instead of centering the well-being of survivors, it is a better “sell” to capture public intrigue about the abusers. It is better to ask for explicit details of each and every offense to see if Twitter agrees a crime has occurred. Even better, to get as many comments and exposure on a story posted to Facebook as possible. Because advertising dollars are connected to ratings. Ratings mean money. Sexual violence and it’s graphic nature grab instant attention. Meanwhile, the survivor has to go into hiding due to death threats, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she was put on public trial for an assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Her entire life is just a Google search away for anyone to scrutinize. Despite living in the so-called “Me Too Era” there seems to still be a lot of victim-blaming and silencing of survivors. It seems that the ratings on television, the internet, and the press benefited greatly during a supposed “era” of new found sensitivity to decency.
The Me Too movement never will be explained as simply an “era” or “sign of the times” because it doesn’t belong to anyone other than survivors. It confounds the executives at the multi-media conglomerate headquarters because Me Too doesn’t function on a ratings system. Much like sexual violence, assault, and harassment don’t happen in a vacumm, the Me Too movement is not just a hashtag nor does it come with an expiration date.
Me Too means survivors have found the support they need to keep going. That they aren’t alone. It means that this is just the beginning of shining lights in dark corners of s ociety. There are no soundbytes or YouTube superstars of this “era”. There are only more and more survivors who know that they can be free of any shame or stigma associated with the violence they’ve had to quietly endure.
There is no such thing as the “Me Too Era” for survivors. There is only the lifting of silence for us who have been violated and we aren’t quieting down any time soon. #MeToo.