I wrestled quite a bit on writing about the recent #MeToo campaign hitting social media, because it seemed like a very difficult line to toe. How will it be read? How will it be perceived? How can I write this so that I’m not opening myself up to ridicule or shame?
But it finally struck me that those exact questions, which I found to be difficult to answer, are the same questions women ask themselves every day in our male-dominated world. Luckily for me, I have the privilege to just sidestep and not think about answering these questions by staying quiet on the subject.
But, instead, I’ll try my best to share my voice.
For several years, I’ve been quietly and consistently surprised and disappointed in the stories my female friends, significant others, and acquaintances have shared with me. Stories of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse they’ve encountered in person and online.
At one point I had the thought of, “Damn, this seems like just about every one has a traumatic experience of abuse [or aggression].” And what the #MeToo campaign has done is confirm that suspicion for everyone – and this is important. This isn’t one of those social media ‘fads’ that should be forgotten like the Harlem Shake or the Ice Bucket Challenge.
It’s appalling and disappointing not just that abuse is this pervasive, but that even with the exposure I’ve had to the stories, it’s still surprising to me. Obviously this hasn’t been talked about loudly or publicly enough.
I want to say that I understand the struggle to make a bigger public deal out of this, and conceptually maybe I do, but I really don’t understand. Not only do I not understand the true reality of living as a woman who faces this reality early and often, but I’m not even sure how to react.
To get the obvious out of the way, I appreciate and applaud women who are speaking out about this. It’s extremely brave and inspiring and I can’t even imagine how hard it is to share. I even appreciate and applaud the men who are making (often misguided but well-intentioned) showings of support as well.
But what should I do to help? When I encounter shitty people, I mostly just groom them out of my life. I don’t have time for them. But that doesn’t make them go away and it doesn’t prevent them from harming someone I care about.
I want to hang my hat on the idea of leading by example, but I’m sure I’ve made a woman feel unappreciated, offended, or worse. I’ve never physically assaulted anyone, but I’m not naive to think I haven’t said something insensitive or something that may have been perceived as an unwanted advance.
Traditional gender norms when it comes to dating are repeated as advice or shown in media, both new and old. Expectations of making the first move, asking for a number, or even “persistence” being the key to “winning her over” as a happily married man once told me.
I try to approach life, in all aspects, with empathy. I’m glad that I’ve had experiences and education to lead me to that conclusion, and I also know that that conclusion is not the norm (see: everything happening in our country right now).
I hope that #MeToo creates a sense of community, support, and strength for women. I hope men contribute to that community, support, and appreciation. And I hope we adjust our collective lens through how we view the world and our relationship to each other.
My promise is to be better, to try and lead others to be better, and speak up whenever necessary to be an ally and advocate for a woman (or man) in need.
Will you join me?