[Content warning: domestic abuse, emotional abuse, toxic relationships, violence]
This weekend an important hashtag swept Twitter. No, not just #MoreThanMom — this was not about Mother’s Day, but it touches on a topic that effects mothers, other women and femme folks everywhere. #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou highlights the emotional and psychological violence that women and other femme-identified folks disproportionately experience.
The campaign started by writer, artist and activist Zahira Kelly, also known as BadDominicana, specifically focuses on emotionally abusive relationships and allows survivors to speak about their experiences. The hashtag campaign sheds light on a form of abuse which is not as often discussed as physical violence, though potentially more common. Kelly is an AfroLatina sociocultural critic who aims to “pick apart white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy from an anticolonial AfroLatina perspective.” She also writes an advice column here.
Men joined in the conversation, too. Perhaps they have seen it in their family and friends, survived it or happen to be recovering abusers trying to overcome toxic behaviors. This kind of abuse is not limited to cis-heterosexual relationships, and it’s not exclusive to romantic relationships, either — as many survivors of childhood emotional abuse can attest. There is room for all of that in this hashtag campaign.
Critics have said that this is a gender-specific hashtag and emotional abuse is not always perpetrated by men. While this is very true, it seems to derail an incredibly important discussion. It suggests the need for a separate hashtag. Discussions about toxic masculinity and abuses that men suffer are an integral piece of unlearning these dangerous behaviors and preventing this culture of abuse from continuing.
Men truly need to have these discussions with each other, setting judgment aside, allowing space for vulnerability while holding one another accountable. However, #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou is not the place for it. Stay in your lane. When that does not work for you, create another.
It should be noted that this hashtag has been preceded by others, whose efforts and emotional labor should be recognized. It was preceded by
#abuserdynamics, #abuserlogic, #transfauxmativejustice. Lauren Chief Elk has been a major contributor to both, as well as others such as #giveyourmoneytowomen, a campaign addressing the unpaid emotional labor expected of women and femmes.