When I originally posted the words “Me Too” on my Facebook status, I typed them, deleted them, typed them, posted them, deleted them, waited 12 hours, and typed them and posted them again.
Since the #MeToo campaign has come out, I’ve tried to write this post several times over the past couple of weeks. I’ve written fiercely, gotten emotional, gotten scared, gotten angry, and put the post on the back burner again, along with the rest of my blog. It was thanks to the brave women on my Facebook and Twitter timelines who typed those words before me– fellow colleagues, bloggers, friends, family members, from ages 18-50-something, who stepped forward to speak out and raise awareness about the too wide-spread problem of sexual assault, that I had the courage to join them. Because I shouldn’t have felt ashamed or felt the need to hide.
Nevertheless, even though I’ve briefly written publicly about my experience on my blog (but left out several, several details), I was still hesitant about speaking out (again) on my own behalf, because in writing those words I was putting myself into a place of great vulnerability. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t have to publicly share personal trauma in order for people (and most notably, men), to realize how big and reoccurring and frequent of a problem this is. As Lindy West puts it, “It’s not right that women should have to rip open our pasts and let you ogle our pain for you to believe us.”
#MeToo is vital. #MeToo is compelling. #MeToo is a double-edged sword that is so well-intentioned but at the same time had me experiencing an overwhelming flood of emotions— emotions of disgust, of anger, of solidarity. I was grieving the past I had to endure as a teen and early twenty-something– a past of shame, a past of not being believed or taken seriously, a past of feeling so very alone and unsupported, a childhood of not growing up in a sex-positive home where bodily integrity was not taken seriously. I was overcome with rage for being forced to be a member of a club that I didn’t sign up for– of a club I wish didn’t exist. I struggle to accept my reality– that at 27, I’ve had to learn how to properly put up boundaries, how to say no without feeling guilty, and perhaps most importantly, how to say yes. I am still struggling to overcome the lack of trust that has been instilled in me, as well as the established belief that I am not worthy or deserving of mutual, consensual love and pleasure– both of which are a direct result of sexual assault, and the rape culture that surrounds us– one that protects abusers, harms victims, and keeps us down by downplaying situations or blaming us for the actions of others or by pretending it didn’t happen.
At the same time, the overwhelming “success” of the #MeToo campaign had me feeling hopeful, supported, and inspired. That feminism as a word, as a movement, as an understanding, as a vital role in our current mainstream society has come a long way since I started labeling myself as a feminist back in 2011. That things are in fact, getting better for women and girls. That awareness is being spread. That progress is being made. That people are talking and listening and understanding and trying to make it better.
I don’t really know where to go from here. I guess if I had any advice on where to start, it would be:
- Believe women. Don’t belittle them. Don’t undermine or dismiss their experiences. Don’t ask them why they didn’t do this or why they didn’t report that. If it hasn’t happened to you, you just don’t know, okay. So, just listen, and believe them.
- Encourage gender equality at work, school, and at home both in theory and in practice. For me, this includes reading stories and articles written by and about women, as well as people of color and the LGBTQA+ community. Sounds easy, but take a look at your reading lists from school and make notes of how many of them were written by / about white men. This also includes having both boys and girls passing out papers and moving tables / chairs. This includes alternatively calling on boys and girls equally. This includes talking / teaching about racism, immigration, sexism, feminism, homophobia, and other issues that teens face or are happening in today’s world.
- Men: Make your female partners feel sexually safe and comfortable with you, in both words and in actions. Take a mutual responsibility in sexual health and preventative care.
- Know and understand that rapists are not creepy men hiding in alleys ready to attack vulnerable girls walking home alone at night. Rapists are people that you know– your boyfriends, your husbands, your partners, your fathers, your friends, your brothers. The vast majority of victims are raped / assaulted by someone they know and trust.
- Stop listening to Chris Brown. Stop watching Woody Allen. Take a long, hard look at your music and your movies, and purge what is necessary.
- Support Planned Parenthood (or another local organization) with monthly donations or volunteerism.
- Call out rape jokes that target the victim, as well as other sexist bullshit when you see / hear them, whether in the workplace, on Facebook, or in person. Be an advocate for women. And you’re the one at fault, be open to criticism instead of being hostile– know that you can do better.
- Vote for people who support the rights and advancement of women and other minority groups.
- Have open conversations with your kids about anything that involves sexuality, sex, gender, inequalities, advertising, etc. Make them feel safe and feel heard. Teach them bodily integrity– that they are in control of their own bodies and that the things they are feeling and experiencing are normal and okay. Most importantly, don’t force your children to hug or kiss anyone (including parents and grandparents) they don’t want to. Grandma’s feelings do not trump your child’s bodily autonomy / integrity.
How do you feel about the #MeToo campaign? I hope that while working our way through these waves of tragedy we can find some signs of hope, progress, and change at the end of the tunnel.