I’ve been watching the “Me Too” (#metoo) phenomenon unfold over the past day or so with interest, awe, and horror. I confess I have barely responded, as it seems that clicking “Like” or “angry face” just seems too easy and a bit trite. Some people have called for men to step up and make some declaration of what they will do to help end sexual harassment and rape culture. I’m at a loss as to what to say or do, at least in terms of posting Facebook comments.
And of course there is the inevitable backlash, and its milder form, the push-back. Most of which I ignore for the sake of my own sanity.
There have even been a few men who shared their “me too” stories, and that’s OK. But what’s not OK is for men to insist that their stories should have an equal voice in this particular rising-up. Those tone-deaf men need to understand that the “me too” thing is not just about declaring that a bad thing happened to you. This phenomenon, which boiled out of the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, is specifically about the systematic harassment and belittlement of women by men, and in particular, by men with power.
While any kind of harassment or assault can be hurtful, the kind of harassment and assault we’re talking about today carries a special kind of hurt for women. When it happens to a male it is usually an isolated event, and the fallout remains confined to that context. But when it happens to a woman it comes with baggage. Specifically, a long history of similar events that are shared by virtually all women to one extent or another, and which points to a future where it will likely occur again and again, with consequences that go beyond the isolated event. In other words, the victim can’t contain it. She can’t just say “well, that was only one boss,” or “I didn’t need that job anyway.”
No, the victim sees it is part of a system that has always been stacked against them. Every incident of harassment and assault carries that baggage, that resonance that says “it’s bigger than this.” The weight of that baggage can be crippling.
I can only hope that I’ve never done anything hurtful in this way, or if I have, that it has done no lasting damage. It might sound odd to put it that way, as if I suffer from amnesia. (I don’t.) But I do know that a combination of youth, uncertainty of where one fits into the world, and booze, can make people do things that they don’t even realize are hurtful. I cannot recall any such event in my past, but considering how distant my youth is, and how un-woke pretty much everyone was then and there, I can’t say for certain.
So what can I do now? All I know is that I will continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is to eschew “bro” culture, call out misogyny when I see it, and never, ever, enable the kind of disrespectful and predatory male behaviour I see around me every day.
And know that even if I haven’t been responding to your “me too” stories, I am reading, and listening.
(Originally posted on Facebook. Re-posted here for posterity.)