When the story broke that actress Asia Argento, one of Harvey Weinstein’s victims, settled with her own sexual assault accuser, I knew that attempts to invalidate the #MeToo movement were imminent. Whenever a story involving sexual misconduct comes out that doesn’t perfectly fit a prescribed narrative, people are quick to discredit #MeToo and its validity. I hoped I was wrong, but sadly, I wasn’t.
People pounced on the news that a vocal advocate for survivors has been accused of sexual battery, leveraging it to “prove” that #MeToo is hypocritical and that sexual harassment and assault are not part of institutional misogyny.
They are wrong.
The fact is, these two truths can exist at once: A victim of assault can also be an offender. It is sad and infuriating to say the least, but one victim’s alleged horrid behavior does not nullify an entire movement. As my friend Tarana Burke eloquently tweeted, “There is no one way to be a perpetrator…and there is no model survivor. We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.”
Indeed, accountability is at the very heart of the #MeToo movement. We hold any and every abuser accountable, regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, public visibility or popularity. Sexual violence is wrong, full stop.
But while the hideousness of such abuse is clear cut, the process of calling it out, and seeking justice and reform isn’t so black-and-white. It’s messy and complicated and sometimes disappointing — but the answer is not to dismiss the voices of survivors and advocates who are doing the work to shift our culture.
Rather, we must keep talking. The gray, complicated, areas of social justice and gender equality issues are where the conversations need to take place in order to define boundaries of what’s acceptable and permissible behavior. And as we navigate these conversations, we must reject false narratives and double standards (particularly with regards to the veracity of claims made by male victims vs. female victims), and to continue believing victims and amplifying their voices.
Discrediting #MeToo isn’t just a bad or “hot” take; it directly serves the interests of those who benefit from a culture that demeans survivors and undermines the camaraderie of women who stand in solidarity to right these wrongs. It is a misguided and slippery slope. And I would argue that the fact that more people are publicly coming forward means that #MeToo is alive and swelling.
Let me be clear: nothing can or will ever invalidate #MeToo, because it is a movement created by and for millions of survivors throughout the world. No one story can discredit or undermine the power of our collective voices or our drive for sustainable change.