Last month, Instagram rolled out a new feature that allowed users to respond to IG story prompts submitted by other users. I can’t speak for everyone else, but the “Add Yours” sticker has been populating my IG story feed ever since. It’s gotten many of my mutuals to share harmless factoids about their lives, rank their own nicknames, share their Spotify searches, and the like. It’s all in good fun.
Recently, though, a more serious “Add Yours” prompt has been circulating. “Share if you’re against rape and sexual assault,” the prompt says, with a reminder that they can see who skipped sharing.
On the surface, there’s not anything particularly wrong with this. It’s great to see so many people say that they’re against rape. You can even argue that it’s noble for people to take a stand so publicly. So while I have a lot of Thoughts and Opinions™️ on this, I can certainly see why so many people, including my own friends, participated in this.
But if you take just one step back, you’ll see a lot of problems.
It trivializes assault
It’s very jarring to see the same feature people have used to share a nickname they hate as a way to advocate for something so serious.
It runs the risk of trivializing assault. Rape is a serious crime; it’s not a chill and fun topic that you can share vibes with to your followers. You’re doing survivors a disservice by treating it like it is. Their experience is not something you should casually toss around.
It’s performativity at its finest
I’m not the only one who got a rude flashback of the BLM IG story chain from last year. Remember when celebrities like Kylie Jenner were posting a black IG story and tagging ten of their celebrity friends, and, when people were asking them to speak up about George Floyd, they said, “I already did”? It’s giving a lot of that.
Taking a stand against rape is something you have to do actively, and not just once on a platform that by its very nature will disappear after 24 hours.
I wish ending rape culture was as easy as posting a plain black IG story. I would post a million plain black IG stories if it meant I could erase my sexual assault from existence. I would do it over and over, every day, every hour if I had to.
At the same time, what exactly is the prompt sharing, except to virtue signal everyone that you’re against a crime? It’s not leading people to various organizations or shelters that need funding and support, sharing stories of survivors, or even just providing basic information about the reality of sexual assault.
It’s great that you want to support survivors and be publicly anti-rape. But what this is giving is support that’s not directed anywhere in particular, just a general statement that goes towards nothing. Let’s not forget that having an opinion is one thing, but taking action is a whole nother matter.
It can retraumatize survivors and guilt them for not sharing
But the sticking point is the guilt-tripping for me.
It’s one thing to share that you’re against sexual assault on IG story; it’s another thing to guilt people into doing the same by assuming that everyone who skipped sharing is supporting sexual assault.
Seeing this can be damaging to survivors like me. It can pressure them into divulging their own experiences. While sharing your story can be cathartic, you can’t force anyone to do it especially when they’re not yet ready.
It can even retraumatize them and force them into reliving their trauma. A casual mention of rape can be triggering for many. It’s why you need to be mindful of the way you talk about assault.
If you want to show solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, this ain’t it. This ends up making the issue about you, rather than being against rape culture and people who perpetuate it, or the many victims it affects.
I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t see the point in risking all that for an IG story.