Normally I avoid writing about social issues, not out of indifference but rather because I feel like it’s all been said already or that my voice won’t make a difference. In fact, up until yesterday, I was in the process of writing an entirely different post when I suddenly felt compelled to barrel down a completely different route.
If you are female, know anyone female, and have social media (see: everyone) then no doubt you have come across a post in some form – a tweet, Facebook status, Instagram caption, news article – starting or ending with “Me Too.”
What is “Me Too”?
A powerful online movement has risen in the wake of the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein – a hugely influential film producer and studio exec who has launched many a successful Hollywood career.
Alyssa Milano posted a tweet on Sunday afternoon – a rallying cry for those who’ve experienced sexual harassment and abuse to chime in with “Me Too” in an effort to raise awareness of the magnitude of the issue. Since then, the hashtag has taken off, resulting in “More than 12M “Me Too” Facebook posts, comments, reactions in 24 hours,” according to CBS News.
Why is “Me Too” important?
It would probably easier to ask women, “Who has NOT been sexually harassed or assaulted,” but #NOTMeToo not nearly as catchy. The point of the movement is to illustrate how widespread and normalized the problem has become.
Specific enough to be succinct but vague enough to serve as an opening for others to share their personal stories, #MeToo is a call to action for all the women who have been affected to raise their voices in unison.
Being silent insinuates acceptance and engenders shame so #MeToo is an opportunity to remove the power pain has over our lives and in turn lends strength to those with similar experiences to move beyond their own suffering.
Yea, Me Too.
When I was in a longterm relationship that had hit a really rough patch, I briefly began seeing another guy but ended it when my boyfriend and I got back on track. One night I attended a party with friends that this other guy was at, got very drunk and despite every preventative measure I took against a potentially dangerous situation, he sexually assaulted me.
When I told my boyfriend what had happened, he was devastated and didn't know what to think. On one hand he was outraged on my behalf but on the other, he was confused as to what my complicity in the situation was. It caused him so much pain that I experienced so much guilt over something that was done TO me. What kind of worthless person was I to cause someone I loved to hurt so much?
Ten plus years later and I'm only just starting to untangle all of these feelings BECAUSE of #MeToo. These unified voices are lending me the strength to add mine to the cacophony; to be brave enough to face demons that I thought were long past but had merely been buried deep down.
The silence acted as a time capsule – preserving all my guilt, shame and hurt – but as this movement excavates it from the wells of my memory, the light being shed on sexual assault and harassment is making my pain begin to wither.
Initially, I had intended to impart a more “palatable” story – having my ass grabbed by strangers, guys touching my hair, invading my personal space – in fear of sounding like a "drama queen" begging the internet for attention and pity when there are many worse stories out there. Even as I write this, I know that tomorrow my finger will hover over the publish button, hesitating to air my "dirty laundry" for friends, family, potential employers, and perhaps even my assailant to read.
But it would be a disservice to the individuals who were brave enough to voice their pain by hiding behind my second worst story. It would be antithetical to what #MeToo stands for – to cave to fear and shame instead of standing up in solidarity for something I believe in.
“Me Too” reminds us that while every woman has been sexually abused or harassed in some way, it is not – and should not be – considered normal. It’s not just about how commonplace it has become in society but how we are punished for it after the fact and how we punish ourselves.
We are not responsible for what someone does TO us. We should be able to dress however we want, go wherever we please, whenever we feel like it, get drunk at a party with friends, say yes to a guy one night and no another – without having hands laid on us.
So yea. Me fucking Too.
Photo: Deva Pardue