When I logged in to Facebook a few mornings ago, my entire feed was populated with "#MeToo." While I am not typically super keen on trending statuses or chain messages or anything in between, something told me to keep reading beyond the hashtag. So, I read beyond the hashtag to find that women who had been either sexually harassed or assaulted were posting the status in a display of unity...in hopes that people would see just how large the epidemic was by how many times it was appearing on social media. Though it was sparked by the backlash to Harvey Weinstein, it was an overall response to the patriarchal society we are trapped in. The one where we elected a president who has vocally harassed women on a public stage.
I'll be honest, I initially hesitated to take action (aka post a status) for a few reasons. One: I didn't want my family to know how I felt about the matter. I didn't want them to know some of the things that had happened to me. It was a point of shame - that not even most of my friends know. Two: I questioned if my incident was even really "worth" a status update, whether it even counted. Inherently, I realized that this thought was exactly the problem. This is part of why so many girls don't take action and don't call out men on the wrong things that have happened to them...because did it even count?
So, here I am...finally saying: me too. It counts.
I’ll be honest, again. I don’t like to tell this story. It hurts, it’s shameful, it’s easier to forget. But, if it can resonate with just one person and make them feel less lonely, if it can help me go through the process of healing, if it can make one man reconsider his actions, then...wouldn't it be worth it? I like to think so (though, I’ll be sweating when I post this).
Flashback to freshman year of college – drunk at my first “Halloweekend” dressed as a baseball player, excited to dance with my friends on the sweaty, dark dancefloor of my favorite fraternity. It was all fun and games, until the tall blonde I was dancing with insisted I go back with him to his room. Despite my insistent please saying “no” and moments of true panic, I broke free and ran into the bathroom. I cried in the bathroom wondering why guys were such creeps…only to come out to him waiting for me outside the door. He grabbed me and pulled me tighter, trying to drag me towards the front door. By the grace of a higher power, a guy friend saw me struggling and pulled me away. The next morning, I woke up...covered in bruises shaped like handprints from a hand that had grabbed me - on my arms, legs and shoulders. A hand that grabbed – when I said no, when I cried, when I pled.
Years later, this moment of fear, this moment of pain...it haunts me. I struggled with crippling self-doubt. I danced with him...did I egg him on? Did I deserve it? I had been drinking and was dressed in short shorts…did I deserve it? I'd done crappy things in the past...so was this karma biting my ass? Then the thoughts shifted into ones of shame. How, as an independent woman, could I have let that happen to me? Could I have fought harder? Eventually, it reached a point of…well, it was meaningless. Time to forget. Drunk things happen in college, let’s move on.
But, this #MeToo trend resurfaced all of these emotions again. Mostly, it brought up three points. Firstly, I did not deserve that. No girl deserves to wake up bruised from a guy that can't accept the answer of "no." Secondly, I am incredibly lucky that nothing worse has happened to me, as it has to so many of my close friends who have been affected by rape, violent sexism and discrimination. Beyond catcalling and verbal harassment from strangers, I haven’t had much more. And for that, I am oddly lucky enough (but I don’t want any girls in the future to ever feel that this story is “lucky” if it happened to them). Thirdly, I have healed. I now see the strength it’s given me and the compassion I feel for girls in similar situations…or far worse.
So, how can we help? How can we shift society's culture? Rather than sitting in anger..and taking years to speak out, how can we work towards a better future? Because I want to help. I want to be there right with you. Count me in. Count me in with the hundreds of women I saw posting and speaking up on Facebook. Count me in. Me too.