The #MeToo movement has been sweeping the country. Women have been inspiring each other to speak out about sexual violence. The power of the collective is on display as women inspire women to tell their stories. Contrary to the neoliberal notion of individualized oppression the sheer mass number of people coming forward about their experiences with sexual violence has shined a spotlight on oppression of women as a class.
What remains to be seen is if this movement will change the lives of the masses of women who are left behind in our society. The mainstream cases have been linked to the celebrity and the workplace. Violence in the home is yet to be questioned by the elites. Studies from across the country by the ACLU have shown that women must consistently choose between abusive relationships and homelessness/poverty. Calling the police for help often leads to evictions from landlords because it is seen as a disturbance. A history of domestic abuse makes it harder to get a home in the first place. Calling the police in this country at any time is quite dangerous for black and Native people.
In a separate report the ACLU says that 88% of domestic violence victims reported that the police didn’t believe them. This is a truly absurd statistic. The study goes on: “Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents said that contact with the police sometimes or often resulted in involvement of child protective services, threatening survivors with loss of custody of their children. Other negative consequences named by respondents include initiation of immigration proceedings and loss of housing, employment or welfare benefits. Advocates noted that resources outside of the criminal justice system must be available to survivors looking for options other than punishment for the abuser.”
What honestly is the point of having police at all if they don’t ever believe victims of domestic violence? Police act like they are the protectors of women against men but this is far from the case. In other words, pigs may be pink, but they all wear blue jerseys. Calling the police will most likely be of no help and often times lead to tremendous hurt.
These women then are trapped between abuse by man or abuse by capitalism. Let’s break it down. 10% chance you’ll be believed. 90% chance your cry for help will be used as an opportunity to evict you, deport you, take away your children, shoot you, or strip away your means to live.
This brings us to the privilege problem of the #MeToo empowerment narrative being coopted by elites. There may be many a self-help book on resisting personal violence but life often boils down to putting food on the table. How far does empowerment get you when your two choices are feeding your family and fleeing the patriarchy? The whole notion of women now having the courage to speak out in public is great but how much does that do for the woman who will never be believed by the police or heard by the public?
It is encouraging that certain women are now believed when they say they are sexually abused. This is a big change from even 10 or 20 years ago. But domestic violence may be a less tantalizing media story because the man in question cannot simply be banished sanctimoniously by the the very same elites who ignored such a toxic culture in their respective career climbs. Mass murdering Democrats getting on their high horses about ass grabbing is exactly the sort of crap that turns people to the openly cruel Republicans.
The open contempt for poor women in this country is obvious. The recent Roy Moore election being an interesting example. The popular narrative after the election was that poor white women were either stupid or hated themselves. Hillary Clinton thought that women didn’t vote for her because they simply followed their husbands and pastors. She of course is one to talk (I wonder if her pastor joins her husband on Jeffrey Epstein’s island). What Hillary and others seem to think is that these women are so stupid they must just think exactly what their husbands tell them and that the only way to free them from their own family is to follow the lead of the liberated rich woman who has no interest in understanding them and has shown no interest in any structural change anyways.
Do these people really think that poor women have no conception of their own lives? The government has failed to take care of them. If they must endure abuse to survive whose fault is that? Why should we blame them for our own negligence? And they act like voting for a Doug Jones or a Hillary Clinton is really going to change the dynamics of the underclass.
For our society to transform we cannot separate our individual identities from our collective ones. Patriarchy cannot be divorced from capitalism and capitalism cannot be divorced from patriarchy. Escaping domestic and interpersonal violence may not be as simple as the spectacle of individualized empowerment. As we judge the violent men in our society let us too judge ourselves who give these women no better place to go.