When the #MeToo campaign started I felt ill. I couldn’t quite pin point why…but I felt a bit sick every time the hashtag appeared on my various devices. I was reading awful tales of groping and abuse and quickly telling myself, “you don’t have a #MeToo story, skip past it.” But I have several, I think most women do. But at the time they felt insignificant, even though they ranged from deeply unsettling to inconvenient. They were experiences I’ve barely bothered to discuss with other women because they seemed harmless. They weren’t. I may be one of many women who’ve been harassed but that doesn’t mean my voice is meaningless in this rather elaborate narrative.
#MeToo when I was four and a strange man tried to pull me onto a train in front of my distracted mother.
#MeToo when I was fourteen and the boys that caught my train used to yell obscene sexual things at me and touch me inappropriately on the way to school because it was “funny”. #MeToo when I told my friends and they thought I was lucky because I was getting so much attention from nice looking boys (half of them older than me).
#MeToo when I was sixteen, waiting for my Mum in a quiet (but not unpopulated) mall and a drunk (and possibly high) man sat with me for an hour, touching me, telling me he thought I was pretty. #MeToo when I couldn’t move because I was so frightened, when several adults walked past me, even when I pleaded with them (albeit through eye contact) to save me…all whilst in my school uniform. #MeToo when I told my mother and she was sympathetic but unconcerned and unsurprised.
#MeToo when I was eighteen and started receiving unsolicited pictures of dudes private areas.
#MeToo when I was nineteen and I was groped in a movie theatre by my lovely date (even though I mumbled a no and moved away from him). #MeToo when I felt like I had to comply because he bought my ticket and my drink.
#MeToo when I was twenty and a guy I wasn’t seeing, tried to get me to play a ‘sex game’ with him and got extremely pissy with me when I refused. Thankfully I was better at saying no and sticking to it by then…I don’t want to think about the trouble I could have gotten myself into if I’d been younger.
No, I wasn’t raped. But this sort of behaviour and my own dismissal of it feeds a culture that allows men like Harvey Weinstein (and women like Harvey Weinsten) to act recklessly, without punishment for twenty years. It allows Johnny Depp to come out the hero of his divorce from Amber Heard. It allows dear old Donald to become President of the United States. By not discussing these instances of harassment I am contributing to a culture that not only ignores such abhorrent behaviour, but also forgives it.
That’s not to say anyone with stories like mine (or worse) need to come forward and write #MeToo. Victims should not be solely responsible for repairing this culture. But those of us (like me, who hasn’t been irreparably scarred by these instances) who can come forward should. Expose the motherfuckers! That being said, I can’t bare to post this to my social media, I don’t want my voice heard on there and I think that says something. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone who has been severely impacted by their #MeToo story to share it.
And you know what’s really sick…even as I write this I’m hesitating to post it because I feel awful for lumping my measly stories in with all the awful stories I’ve read so far. I don’t deserve to be part of this discussion, I don’t get a say, at least that’s what my funny little brain is telling me.
I know that the #MeToo will be soon forgotten (as is every other meme, remember Kony2012 or I need feminism because…?). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important…we’ve started a crucial dialogue. And even if it only exists for several days or weeks, it’s part of how we fix the problem. You can’t mend a problem like this in a week or via twitter…it takes years, if not centuries. But still, we have to start. And in a world full of filters and like buttons, this feels like an appropriate means of starting the discussion.