Not Just A Hashtag
Facebook statuses are covered in the same two words: Me Too. Twitter is rife with the hashtag and thinkpieces are spilling out onto the pavement discussing the impact of these two words. Me too. It’s not like I ever thought I was alone in this world. It’s not like I ever really thought no one else could understand what happens in the aftermath of abuse and harassment, but seeing it so boldly stated, for anyone and everyone to see, has been emotionally exhausting and draining, to the say the least. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of seeing women dragged through the mud because someone asks why people don’t speak up earlier. I’m so tired of having to relive abuse every time an abuser turns up in daily news cycle. I’m so tired of hearing what does or doesn’t count when it comes to harassment. But, mostly, I’m so tired because it’s happened to most everyone I know, and there’s only so many times I can stand in solidarity without feeling the weight of their worlds pressing down upon me. Upon all of us. I read these statuses, and I see their words and how angry we all are to have to keep opening ourselves up before an unforgiving and uncaring world, and I think that today might be the day I shatter into a million tiny pieces and never put myself back together again.
But, still, I get up every day and I put one foot in front of the other. I take a deep breath. And live my life.
"I’m so tired of having to relive abuse every time an abuser turns up in daily news cycle"
These past few weeks have been emotionally exhausting for me, and I’m very sure for a lot of people. Having to look at the face of Harvey Weinstein and knowing what it is he took from these women settles underneath my skin in a way that makes me feel as though I want to peel back the layers and become someone new. So much has been said of the actions he took, and the manipulations he made and everyone seems to be shocked and horrified, but I don’t feel surprised. I feel sad. People can say what they want about someone being harassed at work and wondering why they don’t speak up, but in the end, it comes down to power. I was sexually harassed by a boss at my first “real” job and I reported it, but nothing ever came from it. I was told that it wouldn’t really matter and that I was making too much out of nothing, but it definitely felt like something. It felt uncomfortable and inappropriate. It felt wrong. I did what I thought was the right thing, but also, I was terrified of getting in trouble. Why are we so worried about causing trouble, or getting into trouble, when it wasn’t us who did the wrong thing? When something like harassment occurs, I have noticed it seems to be the person who has been harassed as the one who feels guilty, not the perpetrator. I remember feeling small and embarrassed when my boss would say things so very casually about my clothing, or what I looked like. I didn’t need to be, but any attention drawn to me of that nature felt like I had done something wrong. Nice.
These past few weeks have also allowed those of us who have been abused to find out new stories from those we love that would’ve never seen the light of day had it not been for a pervert being exposed in the news. In a lot of ways, yes, it’s good for people to begin having these conversations, but why does it take a powerful white man in Hollywood to be exposed for people to simply believe victims? Why is it so hard to simply believe us? I have never listened to someone who has endured abuse and harassment and thought they were lying. As someone who had to tell her own story, and who keeps telling her own story, I choose to believe others because I know how hard that story is to tell. Hollywood is rocked on its foundation because someone has blown the lid off of what they keep telling us is a “poorly kept secret”, but haven’t they dealt with this before? Roman Polanski can’t come back to the US because he drugged and had sex with a 13 year-old in Jack Nicholson’s Jacuzzi in the 70’s, but when he won the Best Director Academy Award for The Pianist, he got a standing ovation because he’s a “great director”. When Chris Brown beat the living hell out of Rihanna everyone turned on him for a moment, yet he’s still out there making music and performing for screaming and adoring fans. Mel Gibson threatened his wife, beat her up, used the N-word on some police and also used some anti-Semitic epithets, he gets to be nominated for an Academy Award. We don’t even have to mention Casey Affleck winning an Academy Award last year after news came out about his own sexual harassment scandal, right?
Do I also need to point out our very own “President” has admitted to grabbing women “by the pussy”? An admitted sexual assaulter is the “President Of The United States”. Please note the quotation marks, as he’s not my president and never will be. But, even the person who is supposed to protect us and lead us (laughable) has openly admitted to doing whatever he wants with women. And, he’s been elected as the leader of the free world. Jesus.
And then, there’s Woody Allen. His own daughter rips open her wounds to let people know he’s a monster who forced himself on her, and people are still clamoring to work with him. The excuses are all the same: “we don’t really know that happened” and “I wasn’t there, so I don’t know”...okay, sure Kate Winslet, way to stand in solidarity and speak out of both sides of your mouth. The people who are all stating Harvey Weinstein is a terrible person are also dying to work with Woody Allen. Do I have to remind you he married his step-daughter? I mean, that’s obvious, right? So, you’ll forgive me and all the others who aren’t impressed when people are now standing up and saying that something has to change. We need to do better when it comes to treating women differently. The world needs to do right by our children. But, only if they’re white, rich and famous. Got it.
"I remember feeling small and embarrassed when my boss would say things so very casually about my clothing, or what I looked like"
So, what about the rest of us who aren’t wealthy and famous? What about those of us who wrote “Me Too” on Facebook even though it gave us a panic attack? What about those of us who sat staring at their status and deleted it several times before actually posting it? Will there be a cry for the injustices that have been done to all of us to be stopped? Will people begin to believe those of us who have been sexually harassed at work? Or, who have been attacked by someone they knew at a party? Will the girl who wakes up with someone’s fingers inside of her be believed even if she had been drinking? I wish I could say that with these new accusations pouring out, and this need to be heard, things would begin to change. But, I don’t honestly think it will. I think this world will collectively be appalled and then there’s going to be jokes about Harvey Weinstein made at the Golden Globes. I think abuse victims will become a cause and not actual people who want to be heard and believed. And, that is frustrating on an epic level. So, we will continue to write “Me Too” and wait for things to change, but we know they won’t. We will continue to scream our stories for everyone to hear, but a lot of people won’t listen. And, we will keep having to feign shock and surprise when someone else is revealed to be a sexual predator.
So, you’ll forgive me if I seem exhausted and irritable. The last few weeks have really taken a toll on me, and all those who have been through this before. Someone who I know can relate to my story looks at me with their tired eyes and we both know: me too.