No More

[Content Note: Rape culture.]

Earlier today, Lauren Chief Elk (@ChiefElk) asked me if I was familiar with No More, an advocacy campaign that bills itself as an organization seeking to "end domestic violence and sexual assault." Actually, it doesn't even claim to be an organization, but a symbol, a blue circle with a smaller white circle inside it: "NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault."

I guess the idea is supposed to be that making this "No More" symbol ubiquitous will raise awareness around domestic violence and sexual assault, which is a dubious premise for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that giving people the shorthand of a symbol (whether it's a ribbon or the color pink or a share button) doesn't generally create meaningful change as much as it gives lots of otherwise indifferent people the ability to look like they give a fuck about something when they really don't.

(Which is to say nothing about the choice of using a graphic that looks like a target as the symbol of an anti-violence campaign. Though the site explains: "The signature blue vanishing point originated from the concept of a zero—as in zero incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault." Whoops.)

Lauren raised some concerns on Twitter about No More, like PSAs that appear to include no women of color and their (unofficial? official?) partnership with the actors of Law & Order: SVU, a show whose contribution to rape myths is utterly unforgivable.

This heavily corporate-sponsored campaign is also "influencing a lot of things apparently, including policy."

When I clicked through to their website, I was greeted by an image of Jemima Kirk from Girls, a show whose primary male protagonist is a rapist. That was immediately followed by an image of Danny Pino, from Law & Order: SVU.

The third actor featured in this welcome slideshow is Maria Bello. So, two white women and a man of color, replicating the white women + men of color pattern Lauren had identified in the PSAs.

I then popped over to the About page, where I read about the "unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness" and then came to this:
Who is behind NO MORE?

Every major domestic violence and sexual assault organization in the U.S. – from men's organizations like A CALL TO MEN and Men Can Stop Rape, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, to groups that help teens like Break the Cycle and Futures Without Violence, to organizations that advance the rights of women of Color and immigrants like Casa de Esperanza and SCESA to the U.S. Dept. of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women – all of them and more are behind NO MORE.
Men first. Women of color last. I am deeply concerned about the way this list of partners is presented, which clearly suggests that male allies need their cookies first and foremost, and it's okay to shove the women most disproportionately targeted by this type of violence to the back of the priorities list.

And then I came to this:
Why should I care?

The next time you're in a room with 6 people, think about this:

• 1 in 4 women experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes.
• 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.
• 1 in 6 women are survivors of sexual assault.
• 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual victimization in their lives.
• 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.

These are not numbers. They're our mothers, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, children, co-workers and friends. They're the person you confide in most at work, the guy you play basketball with, the people in your book club, your poker buddy, your teenager's best friend – or your teen, herself. The silence and shame must end for good.
They are. They are.

(Does that construction sound familiar to anyone else?)

THEY ARE. A campaign ostensibly dedicated to raising awareness around sexual abuse is erasing survivors by talking around us. By imagining we are not reading, that we are not there.

And by diminishing our agency by exclusively defining us as extensions of other people who have not been assaulted.

"The silence and shame must end for good." At the end of a paragraph that invisibilizes survivors.

No more indeed.

Lauren and I are wondering how much influence No More has over policy at the White House (and they clearly have some), especially in light of the sexual assault initiative just announced this week. Because, despite the numerous advocacy groups who have signed on-board with No More, there are a lot of red flags that should concern anti-violence activists.

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