Have you seen #metoo? If not, it’s a social media movement that’s encouraging those who have been sexually harassed/assaulted to take a stand, to shed some light, and to empower other women to do the same. I read that the hashtag has been used in over 12 million posts on Facebook alone. It’s a campaign that is worth learning about, because even if it hasn’t affected you personally, chances are that more than half of the women in your life know all too well what #metoo means.
When I first learned about the campaign, I never saw myself writing this post. I’m a feminist, through and through, but I’m embarrassed to say that I brushed off at least a handful of posts, thinking to myself, “so… who hasn’t that happened to?” I was so quick to overlook the unfortunate common bond that we as women share because it felt normal. That’s one of the worst parts; we’ve become desensitized. And because of that, we’re now a part of the problem. I’m a part of the problem. I’ve spent most of my life excusing away inappropriate behaviors, never acknowledging the power those excuses give. I’ve looked the other way, pretended not to hear it, and even smiled politely while just below the surface, I was horrified.. and terrified.
It’s not normal to change your outfit before you go to a home improvement store. It’s not normal to be pinched if you’re walking around a bar. It’s not normal to be whistled at or cat called. It’s not normal to open your inbox, only to find inappropriate, unsolicited photos of a man you’ve never even talked to. We have to stop calling these behaviors normal. They’ve have been chalked up to “coming with the territory” of having a vagina, but they aren’t, or at least they shouldn’t be. By pretending that it’s “no big deal”, we’re taking the blame. We’re calling ourselves too sensitive and too dramatic. In a court of law, we’d be called an accessory.
Unfortunately, there are so many victims in this – but that’s not where we need to plant our feet. We can become fighters. When one woman can change one man’s attitude and beliefs about sexual harassment, one less woman will get to join the #metoo movement. If there’s ever a club that I want to exclude someone from, it’s this one. And just like we, as women, have probably grown up believing or being told that these behaviors are normal, men have seen and heard the same things. We are simply products of our environments – all of us; there’s no gender excluded from that. If daughters saw their mothers look the other way or smile politely, men saw their fathers say that thing or pinch that body part that caused it. I’m not saying there aren’t terrible tragedies that were carried out by horrible thoughts – but can we also give our world the benefit of the doubt in thinking that there aren’t 12 million people intentionally sexually harassing and assaulting others?
One thing I’ve always hated seeing is women who want to fight for their rights without really fighting. The word fight means to battle. We have to be willing to do the things that feel uncomfortable or scary; because either way, uncomfortable things are being pushed on us. We have to stop sitting back and allowing others to choose our uncomfortable for us. I have personally wanted to say “stop” so many times, but I haven’t. I’ve wanted to tell them that I’m someone God created for something amazing. I’ve wanted to explain that their words produce a hurt that sinks down into every part of me. I’ve wanted to describe the fear they’ve created in me and so many others. But instead, I’ve smiled. I’ve even laughed. I’ve batted eyelashes, given fake phone numbers, accepted a free drink. I’ve condoned it and reinforced it. And I no longer will. Because what if that reinforcement lead to someone else publishing a #metoo post, maybe more tragic than mine?
I’m not dismissing what happened to you, friend. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all 12 million people who have experienced their own version of #metoo. But I’m also re-assured of your strength, of my strength, and of her strength. And I think the only way to really bring light to this campaign is to live it out in real life, not just on social media. Will you join me in committing to never again reinforce the behaviors behind #metoo?