The Power of #metoo
I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw the status of a woman who often writes about the gender biases in her chosen field and a variety of other grievances regarding gender inequity asking what the point of the Me Too campaign is.
For those who don’t know what the campaign is it is one where women write “me too” if they’d been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The idea is if all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. This comes in the aftermath of the long overdue day of reckoning of notorious Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein.
Her dismissal of the whole campaign was likely a provocation to start conversation among her friends and before I responded to her I realized I hadn’t done it yet.
“Me too.” Throughout my life I have been pinched, slapped, grabbed, dragged, licked, cornered, breathed on, etc. I have had people tell me not to go places and these things wouldn’t happen, or to assume the attitude of the women around me who according to one source “were just letting it happen” and to “relax”, or that it happens to me because I am “hot”. Taking in the comments, grabs, leers at work, school, on the street and amongst friends then having to minimize them and accept them as a part of my fate as a woman has been exhausting. Every incident is embarrassing and part of the minimization took shape in self-blame — because taking responsibility for the violation made it “easier” to digest and it is the most readily available cultural message around harassment and rape. Maybe I shouldn’t have______, maybe I should have__________ etc etc.
“Asking for it”. Walking, talking and moving while female where sexual harassment is on a continuum that starts at unwanted comments that can lead to physical assault or in some cases death. Then we are expected to pack this away or pretend it doesn’t happen and interact with the men in our lives with out bother them about this. Too many times they are deaf to the effect this has on us personally and interpersonally. Speak up for the women in your life. Men need to face this uncomfortable truth with us, stand by us and tell us you believe us. Your silence doesn’t make the problem go away, it doesn’t make things better. Its not about being rescued or protected its about being heard and letting other men know its not ok to harass, intimidate or assault women. In my work as a relationship coach I often get to see how this can negatively impact the dynamic of a couple.
This reminds me of a personal experience where someone held me still so he could lick my exposed flesh at a pool party (yes — I had exposed flesh — it was a pool party #stillnotaskingforit) after I had repeatedly declined his offers of a foot, leg, whatever massage he was attempting to impose on me. My partner at the time disregarded my shock and discomfort in and lieu of comforting me or confronting the guy chose to not spoil the “vibe” of the party. This incident rattled around in my brain as I couldn’t process how someone who cared about me would not be equally outraged. Was I being a bummer because I didn’t want to be touched against my will? Whats more is that this entire incident happened within a gathering of an allegedly enlightened community of people who endorse progressive values. What if he had taken a moment to acknowledge my discomfort and embarrassment in that moment? What if anyone around me had?
“I believe you.” Women need allies in the form of other women and men. Let us know you believe us and you believe the impact that these incidents make upon our hearts, brains and bodies. If someone who has experienced what they consider a violation, listen, don’t try and qualify the impact for them.
We are in a moment in time where the myth of gender equality in the west is being uncovered in the most powerful and shocking ways. Legislation that is firmly anti woman keeps getting consideration and passage. Known sexual predators undeservedly sit in places of power and esteem. Companies with a culture of harassment and intimidation of female employees are being exposed — but little is known about what is actually being done. There are Harvey Weinstein’s are all over the place and though it may be temporarily satisfying to see one dog get his day there are packs of them everywhere, getting away with it everyday.
One thing I have learned in managing street harassment or a potential assault is the louder you are, the more noise you make and the more direct the eye contact you make the quicker the intrinsic cowardice it takes to be a sexual predator takes over their entitlement. They view you as more trouble than you are worth and search for a more docile target, one who won’t scream or talk after. Here is the deal — if you have to harass, intimidate, force or injure someone into paying you sexual attention you are a loser — everyone knows this including the predators themselves. Imagine if all of us spoke up and spoke out — everyday.
There is a point to Me Too and I Believe You. Make some noise on social media, have the uncomfortable conversations, talk to your friends, family, partners and community about how this has affected you. Ask others how they have been affected by sexual harassment or assault. Do not disregard the conversation around this and remember just because something is ubiquitous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be highlighted. Lets change the conversation from “of course” to “no more” for us and our kids of all genders. They deserve better.