Years ago, back in the days of LiveJournal, I read a comment by a friend of a friend of mine that stuck with me. She said that a man tried to rape her, and then they became friends.
I…what? How could she befriend the man who wanted to rape her?!!?!? I didn’t question her because she just came forward with a traumatic story. Who am I to her or that story? Instead, I read on. I sat with it.
Hers was a story of forgiveness definitely, but it was also a story of rape culture. In her story, the man didn’t really understand he was doing something wrong. This wasn’t that he thought it was ok to jump out from the bushes and rape her. Her story, from what she told, was more like a Robin Thicke song. “I know you want it.” “Must wanna get nasty.” She didn’t. He didn’t respect that. She stopped it. And, she says, she taught him about boundaries and consent.
This isn’t to absolve men who rape of responsibility and say they don’t know what they are doing is wrong. Of course we are all responsible for our own actions, and I believe most men who rape know absolutely that what they are doing is wrong. But her story places some blame on a society that enables rape and never taught boys boundaries. That blame asks for reform from all society, not only the individual. I admired how she was able to see redemption and humanity. It was the first time I saw someone not want to throw the whole person out for rape.
Fast forward to now. People are saying that if we don’t throw out Biden, then me too failed. How can we vote for a rapist?
There are so many things wrong with this dichotomy.
I’m sorry, but our choices in November are going to be between Biden and Trump. One was accused of raping one woman and being handsy with others. The other was accused of raping multiple women including his wife, admitted to walking in on underage girls getting dressed, and talked sexually about one of his daughters, to say the least. It’s true I’m not inspired by Biden, but I doubt Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton had many inspiring, feminist candidates to choose from. But of our choices, one introduced the Violence Against Women Act and the other committed violence against women. His co-sponsorship of VAWA, for example, doesn’t make what he did (if true) to Reade forgivable. But it allows me to see that if I want to see a more egalitarian and less violent society, his path has a better chance of getting me there than the other. This isn’t just me choosing the lesser of the two evils. This is me seeing the world I want and choosing which of the two uninspiring candidates has a vision closer to my own and will hurt fewer people.
Me too didn’t fail unless you believe it’s goal was to purge the world of all rapists immediately. Me too helped survivors like Reade and Blasey Ford step forward. No, Blasey Ford’s testimony didn’t stop the Senate from putting (likely not the first) rapist on the Supreme Court. Does that mean she failed? Or were other women inspired by her to come forward and seek justice? Did it make parents realize they need to teach their children about consent? Did Chanel Miller fail because her rapist only got a few months in jail? Or did she change the conversation and influence the way colleges handle sexual assault?
Me too only fails if we fall into the same patterns and criticize the survivor. I said I believe Tara, but that deserved an asterisk. I’m still reading and learning. But the arguments of “her story changed,” “she waited too long,” “isn’t it convenient she says something now?” and “she likes Russia” are not convincing. They sound more like the reasons why women don’t come forward. Me too fails if we judge Reade instead of her story.
Look at Al Franken. I don’t bring him up to say “look, we pilloried him! Me too is a success!” I bring him up to say that he demonstrates how me too failed! He was pressured to resign before the ethics committee reviewed the allegations. Me too is not a witch hunt. It’s goal never was to immediately purge anyone accused of misconduct because that goal is unrealistic. It was to change the conversation and society, not to dispose of individuals.
We must find balance. We must realize there is nuance to how we understand people. It would be a whole lot easier to do if instead of trying to shut Reade up, we created a world where men who rape can learn and grow and change like the man in my friend’s friend’s story. It would be a whole lot easier if Biden wouldn’t be so fucking handsy.