When can I remember two small words being as powerful as the words me too proved this week?
Lighting up the internet, in a matter of hours, I watched amazed as hashtag me too cascaded and stretched out around the world. Me too – is a trigger, for me, and for most of my female friends of thoughts that put us in an icky place. To post the words, you admit that you’ve experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment. A brave thing to do.
On the extreme, there are stories of rape and violence. Perhaps lower on the concern spectrum, although not at all un-important to the discussion, and so common, is workplace harassment, cat calls in the street and sexist remarks.
For me, getting an injection of courage in seeing all my female friends do it, I posted me too online as well. But boy did I fret over whether I wanted to admit that, yes, I’ve experienced some things. The good thing is that I don’t have to get into details about what, where, when, why and who. My blog post here is not intended to be a tell all, just a chime in. But in joining in, my head reels into unwelcome territory.
Suddenly, out-of-nowhere, memories and events flood into my thoughts, that I have pushed deep into my sub-conscious. I have to do this. I have to put these thoughts away somewhere. I can’t dwell on incidents that were unpleasant for the rest of my life – because then I wouldn’t be able to function, or be happy. Yet, seeing so many women admit to having similar experiences, has been frightening, and oddly uplifting at the same time.
It’s like a flashlight has been shone into a very dark room, illuminating some of the scariest, haunting corners of our minds and events of our lives.
Here’s some things I’m thinking about and discussing with some of my closest female, and male, friends:
I get it. Everyone gets horny. Maybe even mixed in with something like a little excess alcohol, you might get confused and over step your boundary a bit. There’s always a line though, and I have a hard time understanding why so many men choose or cannot control their actions toward women, sexually? So many think it is OK to cross a personal defensive wall that a woman sets.
Is it so hard? Is it a power trip that some men get on?
This week, I’ve seen just a few men like Quentin Tarantino pop up and add into the discussion – and, in my opinion, they’ve been respectful, in some cases honest and even confessional, and I am glad to see them contributing. Most, however, are very silent. I think they don’t want to intrude, or they are scared to say something that may set off unpleasant discussions. But men should be talking about this as well, I think, if not openly online – keep the conversations going among friends, wives, mothers, daughters and everyone in their lives.
I have a son. Right now (he’s six) what can I do to start making sure he’s respectful toward others? I certainly do my bit and keep up with the whole playground relations, making sure he behaves and we are still using the mantra “sharing is caring” when playdates are on. Even now though, at his tender age, there must be more that can be done?
Women blaming women
One part of conversations coming out this week, in media and among discussions I’m having, is that there is also a problem at times with women blaming and not defending other women.
I’ve heard a few stories now, where when presented with a story of a sexual conflict in a woman-to-woman context – women did not receive any support from those they confided in. And in some cases, encouragement was made not to do anything about the event. In another case, a woman blamed another woman for bringing on an unwelcome advance, because of the way she was dressed.
Here’s where women get powerless I think – when, for whatever reason, sexual harassment incidents get pushed aside. Maybe, things will improve, if everyone stands up for each other more?
I wish I were more like Carrie Fisher. I miss her. She had incredible courage and displayed it often in her lifetime.
What about Weinstein?
I don’t think it may be cool to do this – but I’m going to say thank you to Harvey Weinstein, for doing one thing – creating a climate where people are now, finally!, discussing, and hopefully making positive change happen for women everywhere. It is truly unfortunate that it happened at all, but he’s made it impossible to ignore anymore.
Without the Hollywood mogul’s actions, and public attention toward what has happened with him and many women over the decades, we wouldn’t have an explosive internet meme like me too and a #metoo hashtag that is propelling thousands of women to talk and, in many cases, take action against sexual harassment and assault. You can read a bit about the origins of the me too phenomenon — started first by activist Tarana Burke and then this week tweeted by actress Alyssa Milano — and get the take of the very respected journalist Margaret Renkl’s thoughts on the topic in The New York Times, here.
I would like to note that while this does seem to be a worldwide phenomenon, there are millions of women who do not have digital access to chime in with their views online. Many of those women are also living under severely oppressive, abusive cultures and regimes – where they cannot get an education, are often forced to marry when they are barely out of childhood, and tied into lives they did not choose for themselves. Among other, hidden, destructive situations. The #metoo meme has got to be for them as well.
I value the conversations happening, and hope you do as well. It isn’t something nice to talk about, but if at least a dark side of humanity is getting a blast of bright light. Please keep talking.
I think what Tarana Burke told The Washington Post this week, is a good approach to what should come next:
If you are a survivor who is feeling activated by this, there are organizations across the country that are doing this. Small organizations, local organizations,” she said. ” If you’re compelled to do a thing, just do something. Get trained to volunteer on a sexual violence hotline. Donate to a charity that supports survivors.