Last night, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I took a long, hot bath. I just laid there, and I started to feel how tired I was, and I started to feel less tense. And then I got up, and I went to my bedroom, and I laid down next to my boyfriend and my dog Hektor, who will insistently not act like a dog and sleep in a doggie bed or at the foot of the bed, he demands respect, damn it, he absolutely must sleep directly between you and the other person with his face right in your face, and I fell instantly asleep. I wasn’t distracted by sadness or anger or despair or tension, I wasn’t feeling awful for the first time in a long time, and so, I let the dog find a comfortable space next to me (FACE RIGHT IN YOUR FACE, FACE RIGHT IN YOUR FAAAACE), and I had a good night’s sleep. For the first time in a week.
Because I could do that, sort of. Because we won one. I’ll tell you why I’m certain we won it, a little later — the evidence may surprise you — but you might know part of it. The part where, in the last, final push of #MooreandMe, we turned all our hope and support and need for genuinely progressive media that takes rape claims seriously and does not smear or enable harm to women who report rape on to Rachel Maddow, and asked her to end #MooreandMe. And she got on her show, and she said this:
The timing could not be more suspicious. The man accused says he’s being pursued for political reasons. But even if you’re suspicious about the timing, there are two women who went to the police with what are essentially date-rape charges against this guy.
This doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.
Can your suspicion about the forces arrayed against Julian Assange and Wikileaks — your suspicion about the timing and pursuit of these charges — coexist with respect for the women making these accusations against him and with a commitment to take rape allegations seriously, even when the person accused is someone that for other reasons you like?
Yes. You undoubtedly can. We’ve all been doing it for well over a week; #MooreandMe was only the most evident and obvious and loud manifestation of that commitment. But can you get a beloved progressive media figure say it on TV? You couldn’t, before #MooreandMe. You simply couldn’t. Maddow hadn’t screwed up on this story before, it’s true. But last night, she said, with great seriousness, that respecting those women and taking those charges seriously was important. And when her team posted it, to @MaddowBlog and the Maddow Blog, they specifically credited #MooreandMe.
And then Michael Moore came on. And the first question Rachel Maddow asked him, the first one she asked him, was about this. That the story had “blown up in a lot of directions.” It had blown up, and had reached out to Rachel Maddow, in one specific direction, and I can’t for the life of me see why she wouldn’t mention us on-air, but, OK. She asked him; she mentioned us, if not by name. And that’s the point at which Michael Moore said this:
Every woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted or raped has to be, must be, taken seriously. Those charges have to be investigated to the fullest extent possible. For too long, and too many women have been abused in our society, because they were not listened to, and they just got shoved aside… The older people here remember how it used to be. It’s not that much better now, it got a little better, because of the women’s movement made that happen.
And no, Michael Moore: It is not that much better now. It is, indisputably, not that much better. Naomi Wolf went on TV and told every viewer there that it isn’t rape if the victim is unconscious, that penetrating an unconscious woman is “consensual”: It’s not that much better. Those two women’s names were outed, to over 900,000 people, by you and by Keith Olbermann, and attached to a derogatory smear by a Holocaust denier and WikiLeaks representative on little to no evidence, because you support WikiLeaks and treated those two women as expendable in so doing: It’s not that much better. I got a message from a woman that the pro-Assange group, pro-WikiLeaks group she’s allied with, is posting messages that these women are liars and Assange is innocent, on its Facebook group, and that she’s being attacked for standing up to them: It’s not that much better. I got forwarded a link to an actual product that is being sold, an e-card featuring a drawing of a traumatized-looking woman huddled in a shower, reading “Congratulations! You just got bad touched”: It’s not that much better. A woman who was part of the protest told me that a message reading, in part, that she was “a cum-guzzling super slut wannabe hasbian dyke that is angry with the world because no matter how many times she flashed her uneven nigger breasts no man would ever touch her” was posted to streamofwikileaks.tumblr.com: It is not that much better. A man told me he had to stop protesting, had to stop posting #MooreandMe, because the harassment had gotten too intense, and “they have my home address and have explicitly threatened me and my wife,” and then he was such a goddamned good person that he actually apologized: It’s not that much better. Many of my friends, people I know and have worked with and respect, have come forward to tell me that they, too, are survivors, the absolute epidemic of rape and sexual assault that we face in this society has become that much clearer to me, the list of women I know who are also rape survivors has become much, much longer since I posted it on Saturday: It is not, it is indisputably not, that much better.
But you went on TV, Michael Moore, and you said that “every woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted or raped has to be, must be, taken seriously.” And when I realized that I was actually grateful for that, that I was so grateful I actually broke down sobbing, well: That’s when I realized the extent of what we’re actually up against. Certain people have been quick to condemn me for “settling” for so little, for taking “crumbs,” but the thing is? We all worked for a goddamned week, non-stop, risking our lives and safety, to hear a man say that women who report sexual assault and rape have to be taken seriously. And we shouldn’t ever, ever have to fight to hear people say that. It should never take a week for us to get through to those people. We should never, ever have to point out to a man that laughing out loud, discussing rape allegations, and calling them a “so-called crime” when the actual extent of the allegations is public knowledge, and OUTING THEM TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHILE REPEATING UNSUBSTANTIATED DEROGATORY SHIT INTENDED TO MAKE PEOPLE DOUBT AND HATE THEM, is WRONG.
The widespread cultural belief that every woman who reports a rape must be taken seriously should be a common part of my day-to-day experience. I should expect that people believe that; I should expect that people behave in accordance with that belief; I should have the right to be shocked or surprised when they don’t. But I don’t expect it. It’s not a common expectation. And that’s why I actually felt real, pure, huge gratitude last night, hearing Michael Moore. Because rape culture is so powerful that even hearing a man say that rape culture and rape apologism isn’t okay comes as a surprise. Strikes me as receiving a special favor. When it shouldn’t be a favor, or a victory; it should be a basic human right.
We’ve been fighting for a long time, and we still didn’t win it all. And as for Keith Olbermann, well… I have certain feelings about Keith Olbermann.
But you know we fought, and we fought, and I was tired, and I was scared, and I was crying, and I was outside the tower, and I knew we had to not go away. And then, well… then he came down.
That was in my Direct Messages inbox. On my Twitter. At the bottom of the 200 unanswered e-mails; I almost ignored it, almost blitzed right past it, because it was on Twitter and those are just new “follow” notifications.
I got a “thank you” from Michael Moore. You did. We all did.
HE FUCKING CAME DOWN FROM THE TOWER. HE CAME DOWN. We stood out here, and we waited, with our megaphones, and then THE MAN CAME DOWN.
The story ended better this time. I mean, in Roger & Me, Roger talking to Michael, that wasn’t going to give those people their jobs back, right? “Gosh, Michael, you have such a good point, allow me to immediately reverse all of this economic devastation.” No. That was never how it was going to work, even as a best-case scenarion. But we wanted Roger to talk to Michael, anyway. We wanted to talk.
They’re talking now. Keith Olbermann is on his Twitter saying it’s “misogynist” to characterize two women with date rape claims as being “in a tizzy,” which Assange did. (It’s also misogynist to refer to one of them as a “notorious radical feminist” — because us feminists, we just plain CAN’T EVER be raped, right, many many many many feminist survivors participating in this protest? — and it’s a flat-out lie to say that they “wrote many articles” about seeking revenge, when in fact what one of them did was TRANSLATE and REPOST an EHOW ARTICLE, and Assange did both things yesterday. Care to address that, Mr. Olbermann?) Keith Olbermann will never thank us for making him a better journalist, or a better person; Keith Olbermann will never acknowledge that his prior coverage kind of skimped on basic standards of both journalism and human decency. But, as many of us pointed out last night, we still accomplished something.
We made it clear that the media narrative of the Assange case, which told us that in order to be pro-WikiLeaks we’d have to minimize, discount, and smear those two women, which told us that women who allege rape and rape survivors are EXPENDABLE when it comes to certain left-wing celebrities or causes, is unacceptable. We made it clear that journalists — men and women — who do this, who minimize and misrepresent those claims, who leak those names, who endanger those women, are going to face consequences. And that those consequences might be bigger than anything they’ve ever seen before; bigger than anything that they had any reason to expect.
I said this on Twitter, before, but: We fought for basic human decency for over a week. We fought, tirelessly, at great risk and expense, to make a mountain move. The mountain moved, like, three inches to the left. If you weren’t looking closely, you wouldn’t notice that it had moved at all. You definitely wouldn’t think to thank or acknowledge the incredibly hard work of the people who moved it. But we moved a mountain. We did the impossible. We went from just a random bunch of frustrated feminists, a random bunch of people on Twitter, to a force capable of changing the rape apologism in the narrative of one of the world’s biggest news stories.
The mountain moved. The man came down from the tower. And we still live in a rape culture; we’re still not done fighting it; the narrative around Assange, in particular, is still hugely misogynist and hugely dangerous for those two women and will still encourage rape survivors not to report. We didn’t get a full apology and correction from Michael Moore; we didn’t get a full apology and correction from Keith Olbermann; neither of them have donated to the many rape crisis and anti-rape organizations to which we’ve provided links; heck, we didn’t even get credit on air. But we know what we’re capable of now. And that is immensely important.
That’s the most important lesson of #MooreandMe, for me, the most important take-away: The next time something is this fucked up, and we feel like we have to fight it, we will. The next time we feel like we have to fight something, we will know fighting can make a difference. The chief thing #MooreandMe gave me, the girl who started out a week ago just writing an irritated Tweet and then eventually hearing a “thank you” from Michael Moore, was faith in the idea that activism can change things. Faith in the idea that you matter. Faith in the idea that, next time we set out to oppose rape culture in our media or our lives, we can do so with that most precious, most rare, most essential of qualities: We can fight rape, and we can have hope.