I've gone back and forth about what this post should say and if I should even write it at all. I don't want to jump on the bandwagon and diminish the incredible strength and courage of all those who have gone through horrific experiences and are bravely coming forward to share. Still, I, like every woman I know, has had her own experiences with sexual harassment and assault and I have a lot of thoughts brewing and I need to get them out.
I want to start by saying that I am very lucky, my experiences have not been of the type or severity that some women I know have had to endure. That said, how sick is it to use the word "lucky" here, as if I don't deserve to have a say over my own body. I think we're finally getting to a place where everyone would agree with that, at least I hope so.
What I have found so interesting is how my male friends and relatives have responded to #MeToo. Perhaps it was naive, but I truly didn't realize how in the dark most of them were. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a man I love and respect more than anything and who is one of the most caring, thoughtful, and genuine people I know. He couldn't understand why I don't yell out "Leave me alone," or some less family-friendly words to anyone cat-calling or making inappropriate statements about my body. At first, it was hard for me to fathom how he could even ask this. As a woman, we are taught not to respond. Ignore, smile, and even thank, yes, but never to talk back or dare I use the words, defend ourselves. When I tried to explain, I was met with resistance, until I reminded him that it was about so much more than an inappropriate comment; in those moments, my safety is at risk. Do I know the person making the comments? Nope. Do I know how he (for me it's always been a he but that doesn't mean it couldn't be from anyone) will react? What he has with him? If he's sober? All I know is that he doesn't see me as a person but rather an object, and sees nothing wrong with making these comments. From where I stand, that means a response is risky. Instantly, he got it. It wasn't that I wasn't being a strong woman, but rather,I was trying to make sure this strong woman was able to continue on unscathed.
It's started to feel like every day there's a new story about another man in power taking advantage of someone. As horrendous as it is, I'm heartened by the fact that we as a society are finally taking a serious look at what has been allowed to exist since frankly the beginning of human existence. I am heartened by the men in my life who have expressed disgust, not because they are fathers, brothers, friends, husbands, etc., but because they are people and have vowed to help should they be witness to or learn of an inappropriate situation. These issues run deep, from portrayals of women in the media to past laws in which women couldn't even own property because they were, you guessed it, property themselves. We've got a long way to go, but I think we've started the process.