Two little words with a powerful punch. Two words that state unapologetically and without question: I, too, am a woman who has been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Alyssa Milano started the viral campaign with this tweet: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Something interesting happened as I considered this topic over the course of the day.
Have I been sexually harassed? Of course. Do I want to talk about it? Not really.
And my stories aren’t even that shocking. It’s just “men being men”, or so the culture might tell you. Like XY chromosomes remove all obligations of boundaries and human decency.
If you know five women, you know someone who has been sexually assaulted or harassed. Maybe they didn’t all post “Me too.” Maybe they didn’t want to acknowledge or relive their assault for the sake of a social media movement. Maybe they didn’t want their experience to be exploited for a political point. Maybe they just didn’t think it was any of your business whatsoever.
But if you know a woman, you know someone who has been objectified or humiliated or harassed or shamed or assaulted or raped or treated as if her body were the most important thing she could offer the world.
And it’s so commonplace that I barely even notice it sometimes. I read the tweet and thought of those times way back in high school and college and my early twenties. Those times — before I was older, wiser, knew how to best guard myself and benefited from marriage and motherhood and aging making me less of a target.
I was folding laundry when I thought, “When even was the last time I felt like a line was being crossed?”
Answer? Two months ago. Not “those times.” These times. These times when my husband was a few steps away from me in downtown Nashville and a stranger on a crowded street saw a vulnerable woman and decided he was well within his right to grab my derrière.
I did what I’ve done time after time for the last decade. I rushed away from the stranger and toward my husband. In other circumstances, I’ve looked for large groups of women I could blend in with so no one would know I was alone.
It was Nashville, right? He was probably a tourist. Probably drunk. Probably didn’t know I was married even though I had a ring and was simply lagging a few steps behind my spouse. He probably thought it was funny. Probably didn’t mean to scare me. Probably harmless.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt — because that’s what we usually do, right? He gets the benefit of the doubt, and women get asked what we were wearing. Had we been drinking? Could we have been too friendly? Were we being cautious?
I have another “me too” for you. Because I believe in you, readers. I believe you’re being proactive in your parenting.
You will raise your sons to value women, to practice self-control, to protect others.
You will raise your children to respect themselves and others, to stand up for injustice, to hold their heads high.
You will not laugh at jokes about a woman’s appearance or sexual harassment.
You will not excuse bad behavior.
You will not engage in the hypocritical act of demeaning, objectifying, harassing or assaulting men.
You will not let other women feel alone and ashamed in their experiences.
You will not let the next generation of women forget that you are on their side.
You will not back down and let your experiences break your spirit.