If you have been on Twitter or Facebook in the last few days then you have seen people from all over the world sharing these two words.
The hash tag #metoo has spread across social media with people from all walks of life and all ages sharing tales of their mostly buried past in order to show a solidarity and say “you’re not alone.”
#metoo is empowering people to stand up in the wake of recent stories of sexual harassment that involve Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, showcasing the fact this is by no means an isolated incident in Hollywood but rather a pandemic reality for women.
Reading some of these posts immediately made this writer question his own actions. Touching a shoulder, standing too close, putting my arm around someone isn’t something I do to be aggressive, but now I know, to some, it certainly is. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this.
The numbers are staggering.
Watching friend after friend post #metoo put a lump in my throat and weight on my chest. I felt helpless and negligent, shocked and overwhelmed. Not that I didn’t know the severity of the problem, per se, but seeing virtually every woman I know post #metoo was heart wrenching. How could this be?
I thought about my sister and mom and things I’m sure they have had to contend with over the years. Then, I thought about my brother and dad and realized we’re all men who are probably unknowingly perpetuating these behaviors in small ways. Then, I thought how many others are thinking of their family members or friends and thinking thank goodness this isn’t happening to them.
Then, #metoo pops up in our news feeds.
The lumps in our throats chokes off even more air.
There are thousands of stories being shared by either just a simple “me too” post or people coming forward to share their experiences.
One to share
In my news feed on Facebook streamed old friends having the guts to say #metoo. I asked one who had a powerful message about parenting and how burying her own past perhaps isn’t a thing that is helping her children.
The following is much of her post and our conversation Monday night. She asked that her name and her daughters’ names not be used.
Monday Oct. 16, 2017
“I really didn’t want to post this. I don’t like talking about my experiences, and certainly don’t want those events to define me.
I don’t like people to know, because I do not want pity. While watching TV and snuggling with my girls after school today though, it became apparent that I couldn’t stay silent.
During this ordinary, every-day moment one of my girls asks to play a game on my phone. No big deal. She ends up in my Facebook account and sees a bunch of “me too” posts, which prompts the question ‘Mom, why do all these posts say ‘me too’? What does it mean?’
I explain to her that ‘it is a campaign to bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in our society.’ I can see she is confused by what this means, so I use good touch bad touch examples. ‘Mom, has anything like that happened to you?’ I tell her about one of my experiences:
‘I worked at a large optical chain in Virginia one summer while I was in college. My co-worker and I had to go to the mall basement to bring the trash to the dumpster. He stops the elevator, pins me against the wall and says ‘no one would ever hear you scream down here.’ This was after days of unwanted fondlings from him each time he passed me in the lab.
I reported him.
I was fired the next day.
I called an attorney the day after that, he told me… ‘honey, this is Virginia and boys will be boys, so get back up on that high horse you rode in on, and ride right back out of here.’
There have been other times too that I don’t care to share, but that was the one that made me feel the most helpless and defeated.
She opened her sweet little mouth and said ‘well mom, now you’ve learned your lesson, so next time you can just move somewhere else or run away. Anyway, you probably got fired because they thought you didn’t like your job. You know, you could have just got away from him…’
I realized right then, that by staying silent, I was being an irresponsible parent. I had done nothing to stop the indoctrination of rape culture in my children.
In trying to protect them from all the ugliness in the world, I had left the door open for victim shaming and blame. No more.
The woman’s daughter is 9 years old and becoming a junior cheerleader. I asked her what she said after that to her daughter.
“It was an awkward conversation full of raw emotions. It ripped open those old wounds and brought my feelings of shame and embarrassment back to the surface. I explained to her that it wasn’t me that needed to change my behavior.
I did nothing wrong.
It didn’t matter what I was wearing, or what I did or didn’t do to avoid the situation. He was a grown man who knew what he was doing, and knew it was wrong.
He was the person at fault.
He should have been held responsible for his actions, and it is unfortunate that sometimes the people who are meant to help [end up making] excuses and allow them to behave badly.”
She went on to explain to her daughter that “boys will be boys” is no excuse for bad behavior and that placing blame on the victim or shaming the victim is just wrong.
This incident years ago is now having repercussions as she tries to parent her children. The emotions resurface as she has to deal with them in hopes to teach her daughters a valuable lesson.
“When [my daughter] said all of that, and shamed me, I felt like a complete failure as I parent. I like to think I’m a pretty progressive parent that is raising my kids to be socially aware, compassionate human beings, but my choosing not to open that dialogue left the door wide open for everyone else’s feelings and opinions to indoctrinate my child into the victim shaming of our rape culture.”
So this movement taking shape on social media is having real effects on people who are taking these stories seriously. Perhaps some positive changes are in our future regarding the degrading treatment of women as we all become more aware.