I’m just going to say it. This #metoo thing makes me uncomfortable. I’d much rather put those memories away in a steel box and padlock it shut and never think about it again. I’d much rather rewrite the past and take full responsibility for what happened because “maybe I sent mixed messages,” or “I was drunk,” only that’s not the truth. While there certainly were situations that happened before I got sober, the last two times that I was harassed I was at work and hadn’t had a drink in years. I didn’t invite the attention I got, and I didn’t leave any confusion about whether it was okay with me. Both times I had to go to HR to get it to stop and both men got a slap on the wrist. (And btw before anyone thinks I’m being overly sensitive, one man sent me pornographic photos using company email and the other had his hands on me and sent text messages which very clearly showed his intentions and me asking him to stop.)
And here’s the weird part–right after I typed that, I stared to explain that I’m not a prude and as rule I am pretty well-known for being outspoken and not suffering fools–only why would I need to defend myself? Why would I feel like that’s necessary?
My very first sexual experience was assault and I didn’t tell anyone for over 30 years because I was ashamed. I was ashamed. I took responsibility for being forced to do something I did not want to do. I was crying. There was no confusion about consent. I know so many women who never told and who never talk about it because we DON’T want to be victims. Because we DON’T want to feel powerless. And the fact that many of us have been told we’re over-reacting or misinterpreting harassment and assault sends a pretty clear message that if you want to keep your job, or your friends, or your family in tact, you need to keep your mouth shut. When people who are supposed to care dismiss you it’s hard to find the courage to keep talking.
So before you dismiss this #metoo thing as another stunt to distract us from the real news, or the real problems, or the real world, just know that this has happened and is happening to your mom, your sister, your daughter, your cousin, your coworkers, and your friends.
It’s time to have a talk with your sons and daughters but it’s also important to look at the language we use, at the attitudes we model, at the examples we set. It’s time to talk about “locker room talk” and really get honest about whether it’s harmless, whether those attitudes about women and girls are acceptable. It’s time for women to teach our daughters how to respect themselves. It’s time to take this stuff out of storage and name it and talk about it and use it to make the world a safer place for everyone.