Chances are your newsfeed has been filled with this hashtag over the last few days. Some just post a simple status, others are sharing their stories, and many more have decided to stay silent. It does not matter whether an individual has shared or not, every survivor of sexual harassment and sexual assault deserves our respect and admiration.
I did not post myself until this very moment because all I kept thinking was how my experiences weren’t that bad compared to what I’ve heard from others. I know friends who have had it much worse, and the world I work in right now serves as a reminder of how bad things can be for women. But my internalization and the downplay of my own experiences is a symptom of the sickness that is our hyper-masculine, heteronormative society. Choosing not to share just because my experience is lesser is a disservice to myself and others.
I, like many who identify as women, have learnt to expect intrusive comments and uncomfortable situations with men in my everyday life. We who identify as women or girls have come to expect that sometimes someone will stand too close on the subway even when there’s tons of room. We’ve come to expect those awful comments from across the street when we’re walking alone or even with friends. We’ve come to expect the way men’s eyes devour our bodies no matter what we are wearing.
But just because they happen all the time, just because it’s part of our expected reality, that doesn’t make it okay.
I’m here to say it doesn’t matter what your #MeToo involves. It doesn’t matter if it has happened once or if it’s still happening. It’s not right. It shouldn’t be happening and we shouldn’t just have to accept that it’s part of identifying as a woman.
Through the campaign I was exposed to Emma Thompson’s conversation on Harvey Weinstein and I think she makes a really important point (around 1:49) when she talks about how he is only the tip of the iceberg. This really drives home the point that it doesn’t matter what happened, how bad it is perceived, or how many times it happened. The fact that it happens is bad enough.
“Maybe not to that degree. Do they have to all be as bad as him? To make it count? Does it only count if you’ve one done it to loads and loads and loads of women or does it count if you’ve done it to one woman, once. I think the latter.”
While I know posting a hashtag does not solve the problem, I do think it can help open up these conversations and allows us to raise awareness to an issue that is often hushed. We’re told not to talk about it. We’re told to be grateful that it wasn’t worse. But we should talk about it and we should be doing something to stop it, regardless of who we are or how we identify.
This hashtag has started a conversation that has jetted off into many useful topics. Awareness has been raised that that #MeToo campaign was started ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke who started the campaign in hopes to connect survivors. Other conversations have focused on the role men have in this movement to change and to enact change in the men around them.
I’d like to invite any of my readers who identify as male to take the pledge on White Ribbon. But don’t just take the pledge, actually put it to action. Give the girl on the subway a bit of space if you can, say something when one of your friends starts to cat call someone, and stop these types of conversations from happening behind closed doors too. Stop writing things off at boys will be boys or as typical locker room banter, challenge your friends and your family members to be better as you should be better yourselves. Help enact the change we so desperately need.
I recognize there are also male survivors, and I am of the point of view that we can still acknowledge the gendered part of this issue, where women are targeted more often while still acknowledging the struggles and triumphs of survivors of all genders.
Lastly, to every survivor out there, whether you’ve shared your story or not, you did not deserve this. It does not matter what you were wearing, how much you had had to drink, how many partners you’ve had in the past, or anything else. It does not matter if he was your friend, your boyfriend, or your husband. It does not matter if it was one comment or if it was a full on attack. It was wrong.