No, Writing About Sexual Assault is Not an “Easy Way to Make Money”
Every time women take a step forward, there is a backlash. This appears to be true everywhere. Recently, I have seen several articles or comments on articles suggesting that women write about rape or assault just because it is an easy way to get fans and make money — as though speaking up were easy, and the reaction to it always positive.
It is not easy
Writing about one’s worst experiences isn’t easy. In fact, it is why often, we don’t write about the very worst. We write about the incidents we can bear to write about. The process of creating an article about sexual assault that has happened to us involves plunging into bad memories for several hours, twisting them and turning them to make them readable, trying to understand things we would rather forget. Reliving feelings of guilt, as we describe our reactions, wonder if they will be policed, wonder how our words will change the way people think about us.
It is really the opposite of easy. Especially since you never know what the reaction will be — but in any case, you can be sure that it won’t be unanimously positive. You know that you will see the words “X responded to your article” in your notifications, and feel your stomach drop in fear as you scroll down to read what X has to say, hoping it won’t cut too deep. Or it might get no reaction at all, fall into the oubliettes of Medium, an anticlimax to the effort you provided to write it.
The oppressed have a right to tell their stories
In another article, I wrote about how the oppressed don’t owe their stories to the oppressor. Social change should not be conditional on those in pain performing their suffering, proving their humanity to people who are barely listening. But survivors do have the right to tell their story if that is what they wish, and if they feel it will help them and others to get the words out there.
Because words are important. Eventually, enough stories do change mindsets, and from the offset, writing about the experiences we have faced helps those who have faced similar situations to put words on their pain. Words are important. Which is why society has attempted, for so long, to silence women. And bashing those who write about sexual assault as taking an easy route to Medium success is just a new way of doing this.
A new way of silencing women
Interestingly, the criticism over writing about sexual assault often comes from women. Then again, it has long been a consequence of internalised misogyny that some women discourage others from speaking up about their attack, suggesting that it is normal or not that bad, or that such things should not be spoken of.
I’m quite an open person, and worry more about what people will think about the fact that I speak up than about what I actually say. That is how I have internalised the injunction on women to remain silent about sexual and sexist violence. I know that women get judged for speaking up. I care more about people caring about me not caring, than I care about the actual thing I am supposed to be hiding being revealed. Self-censorship goes deep into the meta.
The fact is, if stories about assault are popular, it is for a reason: because they resonate with readers. Because we still haven’t heard enough. Because it is liberating to hear voices finally speaking up about something we know to be true but generally unspoken.
Thankfully, women have found their voice, and are using it. And the wave is so strong that this time, nothing can silence it.