When the #MeToo movement arrived, I was offline. I had been moved deeply by the last round of the news cycle with the unprecedented destruction of my home state of Texas by Hurricane Harvey and its implications about global warming. I had gone down to the coast to volunteer cleaning out moldy drywall and debris.
When I got back and checked my Facebook, nearly every status said or referred to #MeToo. I felt annoyed at the whiplash of public consciousness, that we were constantly ping-ponged from tragedy to tragedy. I assumed it would die out within a few days when something else came up for everyone to angst about online.
Obviously, I was wrong. Instead of dying out, #MeToo has grown and started a cultural shift so grand and overdue and amazing that it still feels too good to be true. Women are rising and abusive men are falling.
Still, instead of celebrating, I felt disgust. I had to finally sit down and journal about this to try to figure out why. As I wrote, I peeled back the layers of my reaction. On the surface was the cynicism about the news.
Deeper, I found a terrible bitterness. I felt angry towards everyone who was supporting the movement now that it was trendy but who had not carried the torch as I had for years. It seemed like a lot of people who had ignored the issue their whole lives were enjoying a euphoric moment of solidarity.
This pain I had to explore. I found that I was still enraged by little moments where I tried to tell the truth about the women in my life, and I was shut down, mocked, and dismissed. Many times over the years, “well-meaning” people in my life have minimized and excused the violence towards women in our culture. So many women I love have confided in me.
Their experiences of being molested, raped, harassed, coerced, and abused started young, and my knowledge did, too. I carried the terrible truths around inside of me. Every time I had to speak up as a feminist, every time someone said, “It can’t really be that bad,” I wanted to hurl the stories in their face, to force them to see how horrifying it really was. But of course, I protected my loved ones’ confidentiality and could only relay statistics and sociology-class arguments. Their eyes would glaze over, and I would be left alone, again, with the pain of the truth and the debilitating feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it.
I realize now that I felt angry towards this #MeToo movement because no one said, “Amber, you were right all along. We are so sorry for not believing you.” Seeing it written out, I know this is a crazy thing to expect, but I think it is a very understandable thing to want. And I know that so many others saying “me too” felt this way, too. It’s the whole point of why it’s amazing that we’re starting to finally be believed.
Recognizing this deep pain helps clear my vision of the #MeToo movement. #MeToo is exactly what I wanted. #MeToo is validating and uniting every person who felt as alone and angry and unheard as I did.
I once asked some therapists what to do about the awful pain I had carrying the stories of my loved ones. Their response was to “have boundaries” — that is, do not allow my friends to tell me about their experiences. This was morally reprehensible to me, and it did nothing to address what I already knew.
I now realize the greater answer is not to try to avoid the burden through silence, but to share it by using our voice. Share it and heal it by saying, “Me too,” as many millions and billions of times as it takes.
And so: Me too.