By Robyn Short
Just over a week ago, the hashtag #MeToo began trending. I first saw it on my facebook wall. I immediately felt myself withdraw.
I felt the all-too familiar shame many women associate with their memories and experiences of sexual assault and abuse. My most salient memories, the memories where my life was truly in danger, came flooding back to me. What also came flooding back to me was the way the criminal justice system protected the perpetrator, a known perpetrator in my college town. I remembered the fear that was born in me that night and how it lives in me to this day.
I wanted nothing to do with #MeToo.
I closed my computer and went outside. I busied myself with small outdoor chores — sweeping leaves off the porch, cleaning out the pool skimmer baskets, pulling a few weeds from the garden. I needed to get connected to the earth. I remembered how much time I spent in the garden in the years after that most terrifying assault. I turned every patch of unturned earth I could find into a blooming array of natural beauty. It was, and still is, therapy.
I say “that most terrifying assault” because, the vast number of stories I could tell about the ways men have instilled fear in me range from catcalling to stalking, to sexual misconduct on college campuses and in the workplace, to wildly inappropriate behavior by men on dates, and to being certain I was drugged by a coworker at a client event but knowing no one would believe me if I told them. Well, the women who had the unfortunate opportunity to be on the receiving end of his sexual advances would, but not his boss — the CEO.
So, when I saw the #MeToo hashtag, I immediately wanted to do what society has taught us to do — stay quiet, carry the shame, and don’t make yourself a target by speaking out.
After spending some time outdoors, reflecting on the dangers of silence and how it serves only to protect those who perpetrate the harm, I came back inside and shared the post. That’s it. I just shared the post. No added commentary. No revealing stories. No recounting of the many, many harms that have been perpetrated against me and no sharing about the countless ways it has shaped my sense of safety in the world, my relationships with men, my trust of strangers, friends, family, law enforcement, or my relationship to those in authority.
And then, like many women, I absorbed the trauma over and over and over again as I read post after post of women sharing their stories, and I thought, “Yes, me too. Me too. Me too. Me too.” Until that anger that we all feel but have shoved down so very deeply into the crevices of our being, began to surface.
And here is where my anger settled …
The very idea that women must share their most terrifying stories and re-traumatize ourselves for the sake of educating men about the actions they have either participated in or turned a blind eye to is a testament to how deeply ingrained sexual violence against women is in our society.
The fact that women are deeply wounded by the sexual violence perpetrated against us in our lived experiences, in media, in literature, in history, in music, in art, and in every aspect of society is not our responsibility to teach.
It is the responsibility of every man to take it upon himself to embrace the reality that every human is worthy of respect and worthy of being treated with dignity — not because we are “your daughters, sisters, mothers” (we are not your possessions) but because we are humans whose personal agency and independence is worthy of the same respect and dignity inherently bestowed upon men.
#MeToo has ripped open the wounds of women these past two weeks. It has caused many of us to feel unsettled, angry, and acutely aware of our trauma. Let’s hope it was worth it.