Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On #MeToo and explaining ourselves

I wanted to write a short piece on the "Me, Too" trend making its way through social media, started by Tarana Burke many years ago to bring awareness to sexual assault against young women of color, and taking on new life in the wake of recent scandals as it highlights just how large the survivor pool of sexual assault and harassment really is.

I debated for several days on whether to step in with my own "Me, too" on Facebook. Of course, I could just write the two words and leave it at that, but I'm a writer, and by rights, I tend to overshare. I thought mostly of a story I didn't — still don't — feel comfortable sharing, and settled eventually on a story of a smaller act of male aggression and overstepping into my space when I was out with my young children and feeling vulnerable.

I received a comment on my post from a random dude on Facebook whom I don't remember friending, so it was probably for some Facebook game or other (I really should learn to add such people to a restricted list), who told me I was misinterpreting the situation. To avoid having to defend myself again and again, I won't repeat my initial story or his comment here, just the gist of the he-said/she-said dynamic. I said, I felt threatened by a stranger in public. He said, That guy sounds like he was just being nice, and you overreacted. Facebook dude also threw in some weird angle from my recent post at a reptile expo about how I trust snakes more than people, which kind of … um … maybe?

At any rate, I trust snakes that an expert tells me are safe for my 6-year-old to hold over some random dude on Facebook mansplaining sexual harassment to me or some stranger encroaching my space in public and touching my body. So.

I made my "Me, too" post private so I could set it aside mentally and get to sleep without wanting to punch a wall, and, as I tried fitfully to drift off, I had Thoughts:

This is why survivors of sexual assault and harassment don't share their "Me, too" stories. This is why they don't press charges or want to step into a courtroom. This is why they don't tell people who know the person involved. This is why they don't make a stink.

Because we get tired of the endless second-guessing and gaslighting.

The stranger in my shared story was a creepy creepster. I can't convince anyone of that, but he was. I ended up safe in that scenario because (a) I was lucky and (b) I followed my instincts to minimize my danger. That doesn't mean I wasn't in danger.

This is why I didn't share the larger story of sexual assault that consumed my mind as soon as the "Me, too"s started rolling.

Does this Facebook dude think those same questions aren't in my own mind, in the mind of all of us survivors? To wit: Did I ask for it? Did I do enough to try to stop it? Was it really as bad as I thought it was? Does it count as real assault when compared with others' stories? Have I needlessly and viciously disrespected an honorable man? Is it all my fault?

If there's one thing I hope from #MeToo, it's that survivors hear, over and over again, I believe you. I believe this thing happened to you, that it was as bad as you say, and that it was not your fault that it happened.

And I hope our believing voices help drown out the naysayers who wriggle into the comment sections to echo the doubts and shaming that have met survivors since time immemorial.

To the "Me, too" survivors: I believe you, and I support you. To the predators: We're not allowing you to get away with this anymore; you will be exposed. To the quibblers: Be quiet; this isn't about you (or snakes). To the allies: Thank you.

Me, too. If it's you, too, know that your voice is heard, even if you can't yet speak.

Image at top: Das Schweigen, by Johann Heinrich Füssli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Related Posts with Thumbnails