Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too

[TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT, SEXUAL HARASSMENT]

Over the weekend, post started popping up on Facebook either simply saying "me too" or saying that and explaining that it's meant to show how many women have experienced sexual assault and/or harassment. It's heartbreaking to see all my female friends post it, but at the same time I can't imagine that any woman out there hasn't experienced some form of sexual harassment, so I'm not surprised. I was sexually harassed by boys in school starting at age 13. I was sexually harassed at my first job right out of college. I never spoke up because I felt that nobody would do anything about it, that my concerns would be dismissed and that there was a chance I would be blamed for it, get in trouble, lose my job.

I'm hoping that this will get some men to realize how pervasive the problem is. But I feel like many will dismiss the movement because they don't understand how awful sexual harassment is. Imagine being 13 and already uncomfortable in your own skin, and then all these people are going out of their way to make you feel deeply uncomfortable about something that you don't really understand and that you've gotten intense mixed messaged about since you were old enough to watch TV or go outside. Imagine gross men way too old for you are invading your personal space on a daily and you're so afraid to rock the boat because you need your job to survive. Imagine feeling utterly trapped in an impossible situation because you know in your heart that the people in charge will not help you and nothing you do will make the harassers stop.

And it's not just feeling uncomfortable. It's feeling unsafe. Feeling dehumanized. Objectified, like you're worthless except your ability to sexually satisfy someone else. For many of us, it's terrifying and triggering. Sexual harassment was responsible for many, many miserable days and nights in my youth. It disrupted my education. It likely worsened my anxiety disorder that interferes with my career and personal growth on a daily basis.

Another thing I want to say, because I've already seen some controversy over it. I don't mind men joining in on the Me Too thing. I hate when men jump into something to try and make it all about men as much as anybody, but in this case, I don't feel like any man or masculine-aligned person  saying "me too" is making it all about them. For me, a man saying "me too" here is both telling me that he understands what I've been through and is therefore more trustworthy in that respect and reminding others that yes, men can be sexually harassed. And I hate that it takes this sometimes, but men being reminded that it can happen to them might help them want to correct the problem.

But also, there is a special problem in this society with men's experiences with sexual harassment and assault being outright dismissed. And I'll be the first to point out that men created that problem, but also I can tell the difference between someone trying to shut down a discussion about violence against women by going "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN" and an actual survivor being like "hey that happened to me too, solidarity sister."

If you're a man or masculine-aligned person, and of course if you're non-binary, and you've been sexually assaulted and/or harassed, I'm here for you and I love you. Let's make sure everyone who thinks this shit is not a problem has their faces rubbed into the massiveness of it until they admit  something needs to be done.

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