When I saw the first #metoo post in my FB feed, my stomach flip-flopped and I felt a lump in my throat. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Let’s be honest ladies — we don’t talk about it. We never have.
Quite awhile ago, I told my husband about something that happened to me in college. I circled around the issue, I argued for and against. I justified, made excuses, twisted it up so much in my mind that I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened anymore. I knew how I felt then, I know how I feel every time I think about it now. Confused, scared, gray. But could I tell you the details? Not all these years later. I know that when it happened, and I talked about it the next day … or maybe it was several days … the reaction wasn’t good. It wasn’t accepting or understanding or sympathetic. It was distant with the acrid underlying of suspicion. If I hadn’t known before then — and I probably had — we just don’t talk about it. We soldier on. We endure.
I’m not a stupid girl. I have never knowingly put myself in silly situations. I’m quite certain I’ve never “asked for it.” I’m strong and I’m smart and it has still happened to me. More than once. In more than one environment. Being smart or strong doesn’t make you immune.
Several years ago something happened at work. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Very vulnerable. Kinda gross & icky. The reactions from co-workers were the same as the reactions had been in college. Even the sympathetic eyes were guarded, silent. No need to be drawn in. Just move on, forget about it. For God’s sake, stop talking about it.
My mother, on the other hand, was appalled. She immediately called for my resignation. My father was quiet. He didn’t say much of anything. Maybe he didn’t know what to say. Maybe it’s all so ingrained in us that this is what happens. This is what we must overcome.
I didn’t quit. I stayed. But I never forgot.
The thing is, the #metoo movement means more than just violent rape at a college fraternity party. It means more than stereotypical ideas of sexual harassment and assault. It is the idea of bringing attention to a systematic thought pattern in our society. That not only is the habitual act of sexual harassment wrong, but also wrong is the idea of shaming those who choose to talk about it. Those who would like to make a difference.
As a woman who has experienced a myriad of sexual harassment and discrimination, I have stayed silent because I felt powerless. Who would believe me? Would it be worth the inevitable pain and suffering of bringing things to light?
I’m okay. I have soldiered on and endured. In many ways, i have forgotten. But that doesn’t make it alright. It doesn’t make it acceptable and forgiven. It is a tough, painful thing to contemplate, to consider wading through to the other side.
In the end, we are all human. We should all treat others as we would like to be treated. (Although this calls into question if all people want to be treated as we ourselves would like to be treated ….). We should treat others with decency and respect. With thoughtfulness and kindness. Unfortunately, we do not currently have a leader who demonstrates these things. That makes it challenging. It makes the going feel tougher than it should.
I stand in solidarity with all the women, all the humans, who posted #metoo. I stand with you in strength and in understanding and with love and compassion. I know how hard it is to admit these things that we have swept away, that we have hidden under layers of defenses and justifications. I stand and I hold my head high. Because even though it’s hard to comprehend sometimes, I didn’t do anything wrong. And neither did the other women who have suffered in silence.