Over the past week, I’ve stayed quiet about #MeToo on social media. I’ve talked with friends, classmates and mentors. I’ve talked about social media campaigns and the armchair activism that they embody. I’ve talked about solidarity and the need for visibility. I’ve talked it to death and I think I finally understand how I feel about it.
I do, honestly, believe that #MeToo misses the mark. I wish there were more men coming forward and acknowledging their role in gender-based violence. I wish there were more men saying #ItWasMe and owning their perpetuation, and asking how to be allies. But I don’t think #MeToo detracts from that. I hope with every fiber of my being that this conversation doesn’t fizzle, that we take this as an opportunity to effect actual change, and stop letting men in power take advantage of us in any way. Admittedly I was inititally critical of and frustrated by the whole campaign. But I am here now deciding to be optimistic. Let this be a wave we all dive deep into. Let this be a vehicle for progress.
The visibility of survivors over the past week has been jarring and necessary and has the potential to build an empowering community. I needed to step away from the internet for a few days because between the fire and the disclosure my heart hurt — in a way that was both angry and empathetic, in a way I wasn’t really sure how to process, so I went and shouted into the mountains.
I’ve spent the past three years working to empower women to feel safe coming forward and men to feel compelled to step in as allies while also acknowledging their complicity. I’m in school right now to do just that. I’ve rambled on and on about how we accept the love we think we deserve and what we deserve is so much better than this. And how no one is alone and how no one deserves to feel like their story shouldn’t be told for one reason or another. But I let myself be silenced anyway.
I’ve stayed silent because, as I so often do, I felt responsible for protecting people in my life from the “bad stuff.” Like my stories of sexual harassment and assault would tarnish the image my loved ones have of me as a powerful, take-no-bullshit woman. Like maybe, I wouldn’t be believed, because as someone who knows so much about this stuff, how could I let it happen to me.
But watching women (and men! And non-binary folks!) be brave and disclose, I wanted to participate. I wanted to say, hey, you said this so I can too and I shouldn’t be scared. But I thought of the looks on the faces of people I love if I were to tell them about when I was twelve and someone grabbed my ass in PE class; or when I was 14 and someone grabbed me and started grinding on me at the toga dance after repeatedly being told to stop; when I was 23 and a man wiped his semen on my face on the bus; when I was 24 and I was run off the road on my bike because I rejected someone’s sexual advances; when I was 25 and I regained consciousness to find a stranger trying to rape me, and I second guess myself. I am afraid to hurt other people with my hurt. I am feeding this culture of silencing because even as I type this my hands are sweating and my heart is beating a million miles an hour because I am so scared of how other people will react.
I don’t want for a second to be treated as a victim. I don’t want anyone to look at me and sigh and say you poor thing I am so sorry. I want my disclosure, for everyone’s disclosure, to be a catalyst for actual fucking change. I want you to hear the shit I’ve put up with and say you know what, I was a silent bystander when my friend crossed a boundary they shouldn’t have; I crossed a boundary I shouldn’t have; I haven’t been doing everything I can to ensure that my friends’ bodies are safe. I want you to understand how ubiquitous this is — I want you to believe every single person who says ME TOO.
I think about how my experiences have shaped me and have made me a better advocate for the youth I work with. How they’ll make me a better social worker. How they make me scared of things that seem innocuous, like boys being nice to me and deep voices behind me in the grocery store, and how hard I’m working to break through that fear. And how as much as I rolled my eyes initially at yet another act of slacktivism, #MeToo made me want to speak up and made me feel empowered and supported.
So for the record, Me Fucking Too. #MeToo. #YoTambien. #CheAvei. And maybe I’m a little behind the curve, and this isn’t newsworthy anymore. But processing takes time and so many of these instances are still fresh — scabbed over but not yet scars. And what the fuck ever. If someone says #MeToo and that’s all they can do, that’s all they can do. But I’ll be here shouting at the mountains and then shouting at policy makers and hopefully one day someone else’s whisper will be a shout because maybe I can make a difference for them. Do what you can. Live within your means. Tell the truth in whatever way you see fit.
Whatever you do, fuck the patriarchy, empower those around you, be a good person.