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I can't say #MeToo

The #MeToo hashtag hurts.

So many women around me have been harassed. So many women I respect and admire have been attacked. So many women I don't even know have shared harrowing stories, both of one-time events and daily occurrences. My heart hurts for these women and for our culture as a whole. My heart hurts for my son, who is little and learning confusing things - from us, about respect, and from others about degradation. My heart hurts for the good men I know who have either made mistakes, or not stopped their friends, or who were honestly oblivious to the scope of harassment going on around them.

As wrong as it is, it hurts me in another way too. And maybe you won't understand. You might judge. But I want to you to listen.

I can't say #MeToo.

I've never been a victim of someone's malicious sexual advances. No one has ever made me feel unsafe in this way. I've gone back over my formative years with curiosity - am I repressing something? Did I consider it normal behavior? The answer, really and truly, is no. I cannot add my voice to this chorus.

Which makes feel two different ways. (Get ready to judge if you're going to.) One one hand, I feel defective. I absolutely understand that sexual predation has nothing to do with looks or desirability and everything to do with power. And I'm not actually asking for it. But I can't identify with a universal part of being a woman, and it makes me feel...less than, an outcast. This sisterhood of #MeToo is closed to me. I can only listen and hold space. I'm not ashamed to be an outcast, it's a role I've cultivated, but it's almost like I'm lumped in with the perpetrators. I'm not a victim, so I must think I'm better. Maybe I'm a abuser myself.

Look. I could list a hundred reasons why I think I haven't been a target of sexual harassment. They range from physical appearance to choice of career, from who I choose to spend time with to what makes me feel unsafe. Where and how I was raised - the list could go on and on, but I honestly don't know #WhyNotMe.

Which leads me to the other hand.

It's a feeling almost like pride. Pride in the voices that are finally raised. Pride in the men saying #IWill to take specific action. But a more shameful pride, too. I think about what the reaction would be if a man saw me harassed, and I think I know without a doubt that it would be, "Dude. She can take care of herself. I'm NOT getting involved in that." And you know, he's probably right - and that's a problem. Yay for me and that I appear super-badass and the type you don't mess with - that feels good - but how many other women would have to suffer though when someone ignored their harassment? All women need everyone around them to speak up in a situation like that. Regardless of if I'd be able to take care of myself, Hypothetical Witness Man needs to say, "Not okay," and he needs to say it every time. I can be proud of the way people view me, but I'm not proud that people would make assumptions about others because of me.

I don't want to say #MeToo, but it feels wrong that I can't. I feel completely powerless to help, and I feel like part of the problem. I feel like I'm letting Womanhood down, but I'm thrilled that I'm not a target. There's a lot of conflict in this movement for me - not morally, not as a citizen, but personally. I don't want to make something so powerful - all these united voices - about me and "why-won't-you-let-me-in-the-club-I'm-good-enough-too" but I want to help.

I don't know how to help.

Maybe it helps you to know that though the issue is pervasive, it doesn't touch every woman you know.

Maybe it helps you to take action, knowing that even Big Strong Women ™ need those around them to stand up and hold abusers accountable.

Maybe it helps you to know that even though I can't say #MeToo, I'll always have your back.

And maybe it helps you to hear that someone else is having hard thoughts about not being able to relate to so many women's pain.

I can't say #MeToo, and I don't know whether it's a gift or a curse.


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A note about pronouns: I know that this is not a man-on-woman problem only. I know that women harass men and each other and men harass men and non-binary folks are harassed too. I know. If you take issue with me not addressing your specific type of situation, please know that I'm not belittling. I wouldn't dare, because I don't know how you feel. It's simply easier to approach it from my experiences as a cis woman.

Comments

  1. You word your thoughts about this subject well. Appreciate your thoughts.

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