#metoo is really hot right now. I don’t think it’s ever happened to me. Am I being oblivious? Am I too unattractive to be sexually harassed? Men have been inappropriate, sure, but I don’t think that’s assault. Am I missing something?
Stephanie T, Chico, CA
Like any large movement, there’s a million different voices to and definitions of what #metoo means. Whatever it means to you personally (or not), I’m thinking you can count yourself lucky to feel like a bystander on this one.
I’m grateful that this campaign has opened the padlocked doors barricading the silence of so many women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault. They’re telling stories that have never been spoken aloud before, and that’s where healing begins.
Releasing the shame, blame, and embarrassment that’s entangled in sexual misconduct and assault—unhooking an assailant(s) from her body emotionally—is powerful stuff. However, if you don’t feel like it’s ever happened to you, that’s a good thing! FOMO is not called for here. And not getting harassed has nothing to do with your attractiveness. Harassment is much more about power and manipulation than about attraction.
So, since you’re not personally impacted, you can be a good human and be an ally. Recognize and respect others’ stories and experiences. Stand with them, hear them, tell them you see them and that you’re sorry for that terrible thing (or many things) that happened to them. Encourage them to find positive ways to release the pain from their bodies and minds and hearts so they don’t have to continue to carry that weight. Keep standing with your sisters (and brothers) as they find their voice, call people out on their bullshit, and leave it behind.
Sexual harassment and assault isn’t something anyone should tolerate (duh, right?), but—sadly and infuriatingly—it’s something that will likely always be a part of society’s landscape in some form. But I’m hoping that this movement is a wake-up call for harassers and victims alike and that we’ll see a lot less of it because of #metoo. That young women today will twist their faces in shock, horror, and disbelief over what those of us older generations have seen, heard, and experienced, both in our personal lives and in the workplace. And I hope it will inspire teaching opportunities on how to speak up, set boundaries in the moment as best we can, and help others out when we see injustices happening. Most importantly, I hope that #metoo makes people more likely to actually believe the women who come forward (it’s baffling to me that there’s a world of people out there who don’t believe these women who are speaking up—wtf?)
It’s important to recognize what the root cause of this massive problem is. It’s a cultural problem – we teach boys not to cry, we value women for their bodies, not their minds, all of our movies glorify stalker behavior instead of true romance, and let’s not forget generations of rape culture. You don’t think rape culture is real? Just watch any rated R comedy from the 70’s and 80’s – you’ll be rattled. These are nasty, old habits we need to kick in order to combat harassment and assault.
Finally, as all of us women are emboldened and empowered by #metoo, let’s not lose site of one key thing: Men as a gender are not the enemy here. They are our great allies and fierce protectors, not our adversaries and predators. Let’s rise together, strong and victorious.