If you’ve been on social media at all in the past week or so, then you’re probably aware of the trending #MeToo campaign. If not, to briefly summarize: the campaign itself is sort of a “call-to-arms” for women to share their personal experiences with sexual harassment and/or sexual assault using the hashtag #MeToo…the goal therein being to show just how commonplace both are for women. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment…they’re just three of the many “so-called uncomfortable” subjects that society prefers we not talk about. But thanks to actresses Ashley Judd and Alyssa Milano – and the dozens of other Hollywood elite that have come forward to speak up and out about the heinous sexual atrocities committed by well-known producer and former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein…we’re talking about it now.
Because of the accusations and growing scandal, Weinstein has (so far) been fired by his OWN production company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Once held in high esteem and respected, but no more. Many political and other prestigious figures in the business have denounced him. Even his wife left him. Basically…he’s had a rough week. You almost feel sorry for the guy…until you read all the articles and stories and number of individuals that have come forward…a number that, for the moment anyhow, appears to be on a steady incline. At the very core of it all is the one indisputable fact…that IT’S NOT OKAY. There’s no excuse or justification for sexual harassment or sexual assault or rape. None whatsoever.
The fact that some of the alleged assaults go back decades is a little disheartening, to say the least. It’s sad and truly disappointing that we’re living in one of the most advanced, modernized eras of all time, and yet it’s taken decades for us (women) to really kick-start this conversation—one we shouldn’t have to even be having in the first place. This isn’t the early 1900’s. Women aren’t the property of their husbands and/or society’s invisibles. Women count now. We can vote and hold office, we can have families AND careers (not just either/or) …and we’re finally being seen. It’s been a hard-wrought fight from the start…and continues to be in certain aspects. We’re still fighting “the man”, and progress has been a slow and not-so-easy feat. There are still some archaic aspects…though I expect there always will be. I just can’t understand why we haven’t talked about it until now…why it took 20+ years and scores of assaulted and victimized women coming forward for society to let up and take interest in what we (women) have to say and in our stories…and for us to be believed. We shouldn’t have to sign petitions or lobby for equal footing with our counterparts and employers. Nor should we have to assemble and march in the streets just to be heard. But such is our reality, unfortunately. On the bright side, I guess even a little progress is better than no progress at all…but I believe we can do better. Real change is only possible if we come together, both women AND men. It’s on us.
I’m in awe of the effort to change the status quo and of the bravery of the accusers…but I’m especially in awe of the thousands (myself included) of women that have shared their own stories of harassment, assault, or rape across social media—and all because of the power of a simple hashtag (#MeToo).
Though I wish I didn’t, I have experienced first-hand how hard it is to share such personal stories and truths with the world. It’s been years since my own assault, but I still struggle with talking about it. I can count on one hand the number of people that I’ve told about it…but it’s taken me years to gather the courage to accept it and move on. It’s empowering to know just how many others—even people I know personally—that have been in my shoes, who’ve had the exact or similarly horrible experiences as I have. Figuratively, I’ve always know that I wasn’t alone in my pain…but putting names to faces and seeing it with my own eyes makes it more real, if that makes sense. I spent years pretending it never happened and burying the pain…years convincing myself that it was simple self-preservation, when in fact, it was terror. I was terrified being of judged, ruined, and possibly even blamed for what happened. And with good reason. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve overheard and have personally had conversations with people concerning rape and/or sexual assault, many of which I’ve come back from feeling just so disgusted by all the things people have said. I’ve also had some pretty heated arguments with my mother and my grams about it in which they try to justify sexual harassment and/or sexual assault/rape…and let’s just say, we’ll never agree on certain points…ever. They like to admonish women for dressing and/or behaving provocatively (even if it’s just in their eyes) …basically your run-of-the-mill slut-shaming. I can’t fathom how my own flesh and blood could think as they do…how they can truly justify the length of a girl’s skirt for harassment and/or rape. They’re of the mentality that if a girl “flaunts” her assets, then of course she has to be asking for it. That she shouldn’t have been drunk or out that late at some party. They even agree with the ridiculous dress codes so many schools are enforcing that essentially force girls to cover themselves up and dress in the clothing and way that is the least distracting to the boys in the class—a topic I’ve vehemently disagreed with. They’re entitled to their opinions…I just wish their opinions weren’t so backwards. I can’t help but wonder sometimes if they’d feel or think different if I were to tell them the truth of what happened to me. At the same time, I don’t think I want to know. I’ve been disillusioned by them so many times over the years…I’m not sure I want to take another one in faux-stride.
I’ve been thinking of starting up this new site that will basically serve as a forum or place for victims and survivors to just come and tell their story. It’s been such a relief to me—being able to talk openly about what happened to me. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders that hadn’t even known was there. It helped to write it down. To see it in black and white. It gave me some closure. Maybe knowing and seeing with their own eyes that they aren’t that special and aren’t alone in their pain…maybe other’s will find closure in that, too. That’s the hope. I don’t know…it’s still in its planning stages. I’ll keep you posted!