What not to do post-accusation: self-promotion, performative allyship, and I told you so

After someone in your sphere (family/group/work/whatever) is publicly accused of a consent violation and/or assault, there are certain things the rest of us (meaning not the accuser or the accused) might do that really aren’t helpful. Here’s a few that have been on my mind since I wrote this. (And yes, that post was about this.)

Self-promotion.

When a colleague gets hit with a public #metoo accusation, please don’t take to public social media to advertise your own work about consent, rehabilitation, and/or redemption. Even if you’re not naming the colleague explicitly, plenty of folks in your circles will know who you are talking about. I’ve seen at least two people do this since this story was published. It’s not a good look; it comes across as a form of ambulance chasing. Please, please don’t do this.

Performative allyship.

When something happens in the news, there’s a disturbing amount of pressure from various ‘friends’ and ‘communities’ for each person to perform allyship by acknowledging the news in their blog and social media by making an “I stand with…” statement. I don’t support this at all. Performative allyship — no matter the form it takes — makes the performer feel better, but generally does very little for the folks involved in the original news story. (View this, this, this, this, this for more on performative allyship.)

If you have interactions with someone who has been publicly accused and after the accusation you decide to publicly tell everyone that you:

  1. had one or several good or bad unrelated experiences with the accuser or the accused; or
  2. turned an unrelated interaction with the accused around so that you had the upper hand,

then you aren’t helping. You’re detracting from the conversation by attempting to provide character witness statements, or worse, you’re making it about you and your performance of allyship. Please don’t do these things.

We need to figure out how to be better allies, both as individuals and as members of a group. We need to go beyond “I stand with” and instead work on contributing with our actions. We need to figure out better ways to support others than performative words.

I told you so.

Note: saying “this happened to me, too” is different from saying “I’ve been telling you about this and no one has listened.”

Similar to performative allyship, publicly saying “I told you so” turns the focus away from the accusation that is receiving public attention and puts it back on you, a party uninvolved with the accusation. Like performative allyship, this might make you feel better, but it does nothing for the accuser (and might make them feel worse). If you need an apology for being the canary in the coalmine that no one listened to, now is not the time for that apology. Please don’t do this. A better time to bring it up might be once the conversation moves to prevention and warning signs.