I don’t want to say #metoo, but here’s why I will

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I don't want to say #metoo, but here's why I will
#metoo tank top

My first sexual experience was non-consensual. At the time, my emotions were all over the board: guilt, shame, anger, frustration, but most of all, it felt lonely and isolating. You can know the statistics (1 out of every six women and 1 out of every 33 men have been victims of attempted or completed rape), but the experience itself does not make you feel like a kindred spirit. More likely, you’ll be questioned for how much you resisted, what you had been drinking and/or wearing, and if it was indeed non-consensual at all. Or, most likely of all, no one will ask anything because you don’t say anything at all. And who could blame you?

Sexual assault and harassment has no positive side effect. I have seen the phrase “the #metoo sisterhood” after Alyssa Milano’s trending hashtag to expose the sheer numbers of women (and men and other genders) who have experienced it themselves. A sisterhood it may seem to be, but it’s an invasive way to have to connect to both survive and expose the systemic structure that allows it to go on and on and on.

For me, a private person, I find no solace in sharing my tale, and consequently, very few people know about it. Lindy West once wrote in a Tweet,

“I wish we didn’t have to rip our pasts open & show you everything & let you ogle our pain for you to believe us about predation and trauma.”

The sad fact is, though, that sharing seems to be the only way to make any headway in chipping away at the bedrock that allows people with any modicum of power (physical and/or otherwise) to exploit the vulnerabilities of those who have been raised to be silent and self-blaming. Victims are forced to either take on the system themselves or join together to raise a tiny flag to create a larger flag aiming for change. Or worse, we’re only believed when someone else points it out.

There was a large push to boycott Twitter after Rose McGowan and other popular figures were banned from the site for sharing their stories and condemnation of the perpetrators. Author Roxane Gay mused that silence wasn’t what she thought the answer was in this case, especially when people of color like Jemele Hill were largely being ignored for being silenced on social media:

The next response was the #womenwhoroar hashtag that then spawned the #metoo trending topic (originally started by black activist Tarana Burke) that surged this past weekend. Whatever criticisms we will ultimately hear about this conversation, it will make victims feel less alone. The question is whether it will change the hearts and minds of those who still don’t believe and defend them.

I have now seen the hashtag all across my own Twitter feed and even into Facebook, where we all know is the most divisive place to share anything other than recipes and baby pictures. There will be ways to criticize this particular movement, and we should always be critical, especially when it comes to issues of intersectionality. But most of all, let’s strive to keep our eyes on the ball when it comes to sexual assault, harassment, and exploitation. Let’s continue to call out perpetrators of violence… even when they move to Europe to avoid charges, or some enjoy their films, or they live in the White House.

Calling ourselves out as victims with #metoo means that we need to start calling out the perpetrators with a “yes, you.” Here’s how writer Helen Rosner put it:

“In the words of one of my dearest friends: I don’t want to say ‘me too.’ I want to say ‘yes, you.’ Sexual harassment and assault didn’t *happen* to me, it was *done* to me. I resent having to affirmatively embrace my victimhood when he’s never been forced to confront his villainy…

I resent having to affirmatively embrace my victimhood when YOU have never been forced to confront YOUR villainy.”

Believe victims of assault and intimidation. Believe women. Believe people of color. Believe sex workers. Believe those who aren’t a “mother,” “sister,” or any other qualifier that makes a person somehow more “worthy” of protection. Defend them when they are contradicted, blamed for the crimes of others, and second guessed. Believe men when they share their stories. Do not let anyone dismiss the issue as something other than what it is: a rampant epidemic with no end in sight.

Victims don’t owe us their story. Some can’t even tell their story.

Remember that there are countless other people who have been victims of assault who won’t post to the #metoo tag. It doesn’t mean their story isn’t real and important and it’s absolutely okay not to talk about your own. Self care, y’all. Victims don’t owe us their story. Some can’t tell their story. Some aren’t even around to tell it anymore.

Therefore, here we go:

Comments on I don’t want to say #metoo, but here’s why I will

  1. I didn’t want to post initially because my story has been used against other people without my initial knowledge/authorization. But I really found it so powerful to see “me too” messages from my female colleagues and other women whom I know professionally, in particular. Reclaiming the story as my own after it had been stolen from me (not by the perpetrator, by the way) with a “me too” post also turned out to be more valuable than I’d even realized. It is my story, and it was something that someone did to me, so, yeah, “me too.”

  2. Me too.

    One of the most jarring realities of the internet for me has been the number of people who are ready and willing to believe that everything involving human suffering is a big conspiracy. I have all sorts of feelings about having to slap this particular bumper sticker on myself when I’ve worked so hard to keep it hidden, but I’m so sick of people being able to write me off as a “number in number” statistic or insist that I’m not real, that I’m a liar, that I’m a twitter bot, that I’m an exaggeration, that I’m confused about what happened, that I’m an attention-seeker, that I’m obviously a paid protestor fake news twitterbot. I’m real, my story is real, my aggressors were all real.

  3. I hesitated participating as well, but I opted to share Aparna Nancherla’s tweet, “I sincerely hope #metoo turns into “I believe you.” “Me too.”” I was glad that I did.
    A male friend of mine (with whom I’ve had several challenging conversations about gender) texted me about how sad he was to see all the women he knows posting #metoo. My reaction was irritated at first (Where the hell has this sadness been!? Where were you last year when we were posting #yesallwomen!? How can you possibly be surprised at this point!?), but I was glad to know that people are seeing it, and thinking, and realizing things about the world that they may have been denying or minimizing for a long time. I hate that women have to out themselves (because really, who the hell is surprised!? most women have experience sexual violence or harassment, gee you don’t say!?), but I am hopeful that it is helping people realize the magnitude and pervasiveness of the problem, help us feel less alone, and hopefully in the end keep people from having to tell their stories because we will work to make this utterly unacceptable and make the perpetrators the social pariahs.

  4. I find it a bit in bad taste that this article follows one about Michael Jackson as a figure to emulate at birthday parties despite the fact he had to pay money in a civil trial for his behavior towards young children. I guess sometimes the victims are “liars” and their molestors should be celebrated. I typically enjoy reading this site, but this strikes me as immensely hypocritical. The other post bothered me, but that this one followed it bothers me more.

  5. This is the single best written piece I’ve read on this subject matter. Seriously- endless thanks for being beyond eloquent and thorough in how this was put together. I walked away feeling empowered and hopeful when voices like your own are leading the way.

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