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Me Too

ME TOO (1)

I’ve been seeing this #metoo trending hashtag everywhere and I’ve had fairly mixed feelings about it, honestly. When I sit down to comment on it, I either get so agitated I can’t type coherent sentences or else I feel a bone-deep weariness and sit, staring blankly at the screen, until I give up and close my laptop.

I thought that perhaps now, after dragging a 27kg box down my road and up a flight of stairs, I would be tired enough to tackle this issue, but I’m still sitting here jiggling my leg anxiously. I don’t like the #metoo campaign. I just don’t. I don’t like it, even though of course ‘me too’.

Perhaps because ‘me too’.

Have I felt harrassed?

Yes.

When?

How about the time I was 16 and a man in his mid-thirties stopped his car in the middle of traffic to run over and chat me up?

How about the time a man at least two decades older than me sat – uninvited – at my table during my lunch break, followed me back to my workplace and then sent me effusive poetry?

How about the many times I’ve had my ass grabbed, or the men who have slid their arm around me and nonchalantly stroked my breast? How about the guy who almost followed me into my house? Or the men who have forced their unwanted, unasked-for compliments on me and then acted like I owed them? Or the guy whose name I didn’t even know, who made me mix CDs I never asked for and followed me on my commute home? Or the guys who have kissed me against my will?  Or the man who stalked me from store to store despite not a single sign of interest? Or the many men who don’t listen to the first no? Or the second no? Or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth….?

Here’s the thing about sexual harrassment; 98% of the time, the people doing it would never admit to themselves or anybody else that what they’re doing is harrassment. I think that a lot of the time they really are completely unaware that what they’re doing is creepy, or intimidating, or frightening or enraging or just plain inappropriate. They think they’re flirting. They think they’re being charming, or “cheeky,” or that they’re – shudder – wooing you. They either don’t realise or don’t care that your laugh is a nervous one, or that your smile is plastered on over gritted teeth. They are completely oblivious to the fact that you flinch when they try to touch you, and they ignore any subtle hints you might drop about them leaving you alone.

They don’t stop to think about positions of power, or whether or not women feel like they can shut it down. They mistake any gesture of politeness for encouragement. They mistake silence for enjoyment. They don’t stop to consider that maybe politeness feels like the only option. They don’t bother to contemplate alternative interpretations of the silence.

Did I say or do anything?

I once had a job in a large office block. I worked on the front desk of the building, but since it housed several different businesses – each of which had their own receptionist – I didn’t have very much to do. The office I interacted with the most was the one on the ground floor staffed solely by a group of middle-aged men.

Most of them engaged in what they considered “friendly banter” with me, and a lot of it was inoffensive and light-hearted, so I didn’t mind. There was one man in his early sixties, however, who routinely said things that made my skin crawl. It started with outrageously over-the-top flattery and escalated quickly from there. After a week or so he was saying things like, “You’re way better than the last one, that bitch was no fun. And you’re much easier on the eye!”

And then:

“Come down to the garage with me for twenty minutes and I’ll give you anything you want!”

And then:

“I’m going away with my wife for a sexy weekend, but I’ll be thinking of you the whole time!”

And then:

“Oh you have a form for me? Come sit on my lap and read it to me like a good girl!”  – and when I slapped the form down on the table, narrowed my eyes at him and walked out – “That’s okay, I like to watch you walk away too!”

Every time he approached my desk I felt a mixture of negative feelings. Revulsion. Fear. Intimidation. Discomfort. Powerlessness. Shame. Rage. He would say these things – and many others – in front of his colleagues and then wink at me, flashing his dentures in what I’m sure he thought was a dashing grin. His colleagues would laugh, or groan and then laugh. At no point did anybody pull him up on his behaviour. At no point did anybody say that it was inappropriate. At no point did anybody say anything at all.

And neither did I.

Why not?

  • I was young and not very confident.
  • I was afraid of how he (and the rest of the office) would react.
  • The fact that nobody around him ever said anything made me feel completely outnumbered and made me second-guess myself, wondering whether I was making a big deal about nothing.
  • I wasn’t going to be there for very long, so I figured I should just stick it out.
  • My job wasn’t actually linked to his office, so I wasn’t sure who I should even talk to about it. If anybody would be moved it would be me.

… So, you know, the usual reasons people don’t report these things. Or rather the usual reason, singular, because it really always boils down to the same simple truth:

I was afraid of the consequences.

Whether you’re afraid the repercussions will be violent, professional, dangerous or simply awkward, it always boils down to the consequences of standing up for yourself to people who are generally larger, more powerful, more important, and completely unpredictable. The #metoo campaign is like picking up fistfuls of sand and feeling it slip through your fingers; there are so many ‘me too’s. Too many ‘me too’s. It would be better to ask for people who have never experienced it to step forward. Find the scant handful who have never felt that tingle of fear, or that burning shame of not feeling able to risk their job/reputation/safety.

I guarantee you they are few and far between.

So maybe stop looking for the #metoo.

Maybe look for the #luckyfew.

 

16 thoughts on “Me Too

  1. <3 I can’t bring myself to post it either, but mine is for a different reason… or is it?

    I agree 100% that the majority of women on this planet have had an uneasy experience with a man in the regard #metoo is referencing, so to me, it just becomes showy.

    I personally can’t post it because of what I went through. I’ve touched on it before in one of my posts, but I feel like what I experienced is so unrelatable, so awful, that I can’t associate myself with other victims. And saying #metoo does just that.

    And once more, I also feel like if I were to post it, people would then know my story; people in my social circles that I don’t want to know. I know that its ludicrous to think that way, but that’s how it is.

    I just hope people realize that even if a woman doesn’t post #metoo, it doesn’t mean she has never experienced that pain; there are those suffering in silence too.

  2. I think you’ll find the #luckyfew are all guys… like me. I think I’ve led a fairly harassment free life, although the 70s and 80s were a pretty unenlightened time, so who knows. I’ve had the benefit of working at extremely women-empowering organizations for the past 15 years, so the concept of workplace harassment is almost alien to me. I hope I would be the type to stand up for the future you at the reception desk.

  3. I’m sorry that you had to go through what you did. I feel confident saying not every man looks to abuse women even though at times it seems that way. I wish I could apologize for the behavior of those that do but until they figure out that what they’ve done is wrong, it couldn’t mean that much.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this too. Is it a good way to show sympathy or does it make being harassed cool? I had a similar situation you described happen to myself. But in my case a creepy man followed me from the urinals of a gay bar to my bus stop (and tried to talk to me). #metoo? I’d rather state #creep

  5. Er…in light of this post, I would like to formally apologize for my “pussy” joke in your previous post’s comments section.

    FWIW, since we’re all holding hands in a share circle and singing “Kumbaya”, I was once attacked by a trucker in a mens room at a rest stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I punched him so hard it broke my watch (note to truckers: college athletes are pretty, but not worth the blood loss). I had to follow their local news for a month afterwords to see if anyone was looking for whomever killed a fat redneck at a truck stop off I-95, since he wasn’t moving when I left.

    Yep. I was that hot.

    #itaintprettybeingeasy

  6. I hated reading this post. But I loved it at the same time, if that makes sense. That guy in your office gave me the creeps, just reading it after the fact. I can’t imagine a) having someone do that sorta shit to me and b) behaving like that towards anyone. Full disclosure; I’m a man. But there is in no way, shape, or form that I can justify nor explain the pathetic and reprehensible level of entitlement and unmitigated gall of any male who would perpetrate and/or perpetuate this. I wasn’t raised like that. And you can be sure that my sons aren’t being raised that way.

    I’m so sorry that you had to endure the things you have, and that any woman has had to, or will have to, endure. It makes me embarrassed to be a male.

  7. To me, the point of #metoo is to give the victims a moment to finally speak up. Not because it will change anything concretely, not because we need to PROVE that this happens, not because we should have to if men (and some women) did anything proactively to self-police this constant shit…

    But because for the longest time we didn’t feel we could say it.

    And just that, saying #metoo, when for many it has been a shameful secret, a silent festering wound, for years… just that makes this worth it. It changes something in our identity. It helps heal. It helps shrug off some of the burden that comes with being a woman in the world. We are still faced with this same shit, we might still get harrassed/assaulted while the #MeToo tag is still trending, but we will be (less) silent. We will not be harrassed AND assaulted AND shamed. 2 is better than all 3.

    And that is something.

  8. I see all your examples and it shames me to be a man. Not because I’m guilty of any of these acts but because a few bad apples can ruin the perspective of men in certain girls minds that have gone through this. It’s awful that a girl at times has to taje this type of treatment from men. But you are right. Admitting to being a victim doesn’t change things. Speaking up and preventing it from happening to others is the strongest thing you could do. Take this power away from them. Great post!

  9. Quinn, I appreciate your article and all the comments that followed. To me, the point of the “me too” is not for confession, but rather to illustrate the hideous commonality of this experience. I also see it as a counterpoint to some of the “blame the victim” mentality that was arising (they asked for it/ wanted it/ didn’t say anything so its their fault).

    That said, any sense of coercion that one must or must not say something compounds the damage done earlier when the abuse/harrassment/assault occurred. One should not be shamed for a. having had this happen, b. dealing with it by telling publicly, or c. dealing with it by not disclosing publicly.

    I’m a physician and a therapist, and over the years its come clear to me that secrecy/shame are terrible, and very often perpetuate abuse, either of a specific individual, or of other individuals. And of course, given the power differential that is so often operative, (priests, supervisors and teacher, along with Weinstein and Trump as current exemplars) the complainant is so often vilified and intimidated that of course they say nothing. so to me, the challenge, is how do we address publicly these societal issues, and at the same time, provide good support and trauma therapy (and there are excellent options available now) in a confidential and accessible manner to those who are in need. Letting people know that what happened to them is something significant that happened to them, but that it is not who they are.

  10. It’s all too common a story. For what it’s worth I think the #metoo campaign has opened up debate and shed light on what has been a hidden and endemic problem since forever. That is a good thing, I think. The hope is it will pave the way for social change. It’s like a public confessional, a purging, a therapeutic catharsis. And as always, some will jump on the bandwagon for other less savoury reasons….

  11. This may come off wrong, and I really hope it doesn’t, but why are we focusing on #metoo? I mean I havent publicly said it, because of course I have been harassed. Why should I have to explain the when/where/why to anyone, becuase the answer to any of those questions will be “which time do you want to hear about” why is there never a who to the when/where/why? It’s so much easier to stand together as women and say “I was a victim” than to stand alone and say “he victimized me” but I feel like thats messed up. Women should not be afraid to stand alone and say “___ sexually harassed me” and not worry that it will be ignored, or worse, that you’ll be called a liar. I am proud of every woman that has put herself out there and said ME TOO, but when will the tables turn and it will be about what HE did.

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