Truth Telling or True Confessions?

How Histrionics have Displaced Historical Analysis in the Era of #Metoo

Image by Mihai Surdu.

Relating your own personal trauma to strengthen or expand existing laws dealing with sexual violence achieves little towards systemic change. As only individual perpetrators are targeted in these subjective and moralizing first person narratives of good vs evil, more pertinent factors addressing the material conditions underlying these situations are overlooked, while the causes of collectively experienced trauma (loss of income, livelihoods, access to healthcare, environmental impacts . . . ) go unexamined. If anything, a compelling account of a traumatic incident delivered by a sympathetic and “credible” source only re-affirms class-based hierarchies, leaving poorer, less media savvy victims of sexual violence to remain sideshow attractions in a media spectacle.

Trauma politics really only favor the privileged, and singles out the most “relatable” among them – at least to the consumers most aggressively targeted by the New York times et al. Such media outlets provide something similar to a glam-enhancing filter for its readership, enabling them to echo elite influencers’ power-serving opinions by re-tweeting and sharing them. Thus tribal affiliation with the ruling class is established, and conveyed throughout the social media sphere as a kind of currency. These aspiration-enabling mechanisms help us to internalize the suffering of our oppressors, and ‘relate’ to it. Through this process of false identification with celebrities and their struggles, we direct our outrage at the trespasses against these individuals, while overlooking the collective trauma that inflicts damage far greater than Harvey Weinstein.

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Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.

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