Perhaps you have heard of the #MeToo movement. Who hasn’t? It is splayed across social media, a topic of conversation among the talking heads, and most have an story or opinion to go with the hashtag. I even wrote about it, myself, not that terribly long ago.
I was almost giddy when I first heard of it. Finally! We were making progress and society is listening. We were addressing concerns, talking about taboo topics, and making a statement to better our world. We were raising awareness as a society. It was a beautiful thing.
Then, I became bothered by how many were making light of it, and how many were claiming to back the movement while attacking those who shared a difference of opinion. I watched a male friend try to explain how men can be sexually assaulted and get attacked by so-called feminists. I saw meme’s making fun of what the movement was about, and then I saw the division. #MeToo is not about X, it is about Y. It is not about you, it is about me. It is not about Hollywood, it is about those in underprivileged neighborhoods.
Before it could even get going, there were those who took to social media to attack the movement and each other, degrading a potentially powerfully movement and turning it into another method of dividing instead of empowering.
Now I find myself struggling to mention it, and almost repulsed by it. No doubt, there will be masses who disagree with what I’m about to say. There will be those close to me who question my motivation and those who don’t know me criticizing my thoughts on this. But I have sat on this for a while now, talked myself out of addressing it, and cannot seem to shake the unease that this whole movement is causing in me.
I am all about what #MeToo stood for; what it stands for at its core. As a woman, I have personally experienced, and publicly speak out against, so much of what the movement was about. Sexual assault, rape, and abuse are very real issues in our society. There are a lot of men who find it absolutely acceptable to wield their power, expect sexual favors, create very uncomfortable situations, and who create a world where a women cannot smile at someone of the opposite sex without it being interpreted as being flirtatious.
There is a lot wrong with our society…a lot. I am one who will argue, for the sake of argument, that I should be able to walk down the street completely naked and no one has the right to touch me. We should respect each others bodies, emotions, and boundaries. I don’t like cat calls, personally, because I find them disrespectful and crude. But I know plenty of men and women who consider that act a compliment. Just because I agree to go out with you does not mean I agree to have sex with you. You don’t get to assume that because I dress to look nice or impress you, cuddle with you, or flirt with you, that all bets are off and I’m free for the taking. That really is not how it works.
Women have been dealing with a lot of things that they shouldn’t be for years. Some have spoken out, some have walked away, and some have gone along with it, encouraged it, and even made money from it (i.e. I’m sure you have noticed there are a number of women in media and Hollywood who get paid good money to play the part of a play thing play things, subservient being, or sexual object.).
So, what is causing me to struggle? Two words: Personal responsibility. Women, we are better than this!
Sexual assault is not a topic to be taken lightly or to be underscored by women who are looking to excuse their own behavior. #MeToo is not a mechanism to take out men you have a gripe with or a platform to rid yourself of poor choices or a guilty conscious. When you do that – when you use a movement that is powerful, potentially triggering to many victims of assault, and a huge step towards progress for how women are treated in our society as a whole – to wash away your “sins,” excuse your behavior, or get back at someone who ticked you off, you undermine the entirety of the movement itself.
If you slept your way to the top, regretted a bad sexual encounter, or went along with behavior that made you uncomfortable, you were an active participant, not a victim.
I have no doubt that some are reading this and saying “But…but…but.” Here me out.
Every situation is different. There are actions that are morally objectionable that are not illegal in every area of life. There are behaviors that we do not have to tolerate, where we have the ability to make choices, and that do not deserve jail time or a destroyed reputation. We are adults (at least that is who I’m talking to), and as adults we are all responsible for our actions.
#MeToo is not a political move. It is not a hashtag for the Presidency, a way to draw attention to yourself, or a pin you can wear to be part of the “rebellion.” Your words do not show your appreciation of women, your willingness to create change, or your empathy; your actions do. This movement is not a way to get your name out there or a catalyst to your career. It is a hashtag that encompasses what should have been a household and community discussion decades ago.
There are women – and men- who have been groped, fondled, raped, and forced into sexual acts against their will. There are children who have been molested, raped, and manipulated by the adults to whose care they were entrusted. There are those who have lost a part of themselves through force, and definitely without invitation. They struggle daily to deal with what that has done to them.
When you play the victim card because you can, because it makes you feel better, or because you don’t want to own your behavior, you are undermining what those individuals went through. When you jump on board because you can gain something from it, you are undermining the entire movement.