As the #metoo movement sweeps social media, I have had a lot to think through. I am a part of that statistic, and I cannot deny that there is part of posting “#metoo” that is intriguing. Could it be that our society is finally ready to accept the ugly truth and see that your barista, the girl from your Intro to Comp class, your coworker, your friend, your cousin, was in some form sexually harassed and/or assaulted? Could it be that it is finally okay to let my guard down? Is it okay to let the whole world know that this month marks 9 years since I was #metoo’d?
It could be for some. But for me it’s a no.
Don’t get me wrong, I am redeemed. That terrible act does not define me. I am worthy. I have a voice. I am wanted, and if I don’t align with any movement at any given moment I have the right and strength to say no, and that small, two-letter word is powerful; it is enough. That’s why I’m saying “no” to the #metoo movement.
Let me explain what I mean and why I’m not joining in. It’s been 9 years. I have gone to counseling. I have read books. I’ve worked through things. I am married to the most amazing, loving, compassionate, supportive, encouraging man. He reminds me very often that he married me because I am strong, I will stand up for myself, and that I am worthy of being pursued in a loving, meaningful, and respectful manner. I have a father, mother, and sisters that have loved and supported me. They let me mourn how I needed to mourn, cut me slack and showed me grace when I took it out on them, and let me enjoy the times that I am able to forget the past and enjoy the present.
Each year, as October approaches, I think I will be okay because I’ve dealt with the looming darkness of Halloween (side bar—I was not dressed up slutty or even celebrating Halloween that year—so don’t try to figure out how “she got herself into that situation.” Though I was not the sexy bumble bee, even she does not deserve to be #metoo’d). I am prepared and armed with the ability to conquer the darkness that is ahead. I am optimistic and hopeful that this year won’t be as difficult as the year before, yet that darkness tries so hard to sneak in to wreak havoc on my life however it can. Every October, I have bad days and have to suck it up and answer “great, thanks” when someone asks how I am even though I haven’t slept in a week because of nightmares of that horrible night. Luckily, October is just 31 days, 30 horrible days leading to the worst of them all. 31 days that are filled with darkness and weird emotions of sadness and anger, but then it’s over. It’s over and I’m stronger and armed with an even greater arsenal of coping mechanisms for the years to come.
Then there are the other 11 months.
The holidays quickly come and life goes on. Until someone makes a rape joke (seriously, why is this a thing? Like, really? Rape jokes? Where’s the joke part? Spoiler: it’s not a joking matter). Or when you’ve blocked your rapist on Facebook but someone shares a Facebook post from them. Or what about the time you ran into your rapist’s ex-wife while you were on vacation, and all you could do is look at her with a broken heart knowing she probably left him for some of the same reasons or maybe even worse forms of #metoo. You exchange small talk because, you know, you can’t exactly look her in the eye and ask her, can you hashtag #metoo too? These are the moments that pop up when you least expect them. When your thoughts are so far from your #metoo and you’re just trying to enjoy your life in each beautiful moment.
Let me ask you a question, when you see someone post #metoo, beyond, “that’s heartbreaking and maddening and so wrong that this is so prevalent. She’s so strong for speaking up…” what’s the next thing you think? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s a pretty natural thought process to then consider things like “I wonder what she means by her #metoo… That’s so sad. Poor (insert name), I never knew she was #metoo’d.” Tell me, the next time you see that person will you not be thinking about how to act around her? Will you not be trying to make sure you’re being sensitive enough, treading lightly because, you know… #METOO?
I know I said before that I get triggered, but what I fear immediately following my entrance back into the world post trip down the trigger rabbit trail is “people must know and are defining me as that girl that was #metoo’d.” No. I say no to that. I’m shutting it down. I have worked through my #metoo story far too much to be defined by that. You don’t get to define me as a #metoo. You don’t get to look at me with those eyes of pity or judgement or curiosity. I am so much more than just #metoo. I am Me.
Part of me is a mother. I refuse to let #metoo define my daughter.
I refuse to create an environment that she might feel like she is bound to be a #metoo. She deserves to be little. She deserves to know and believe that she is strong and worthy and not broken and valueless. She deserves to not find out that her mom was #metoo’d via Facebook or by overhearing the chatter of the other moms in the after school pick-up line. She deserves a face-to-face conversation when I, her mother, know she is emotionally and mentally ready for such a heavy conversation. When we have that conversation she deserves to know that I value that some things are private and personal, and that she can ask questions and process through in a safe space. To know that in our family these conversations are not desensitized by just hash-tagging #metoo but deserve much, much more than 140 characters.
If you feel empowered and truly believe that hash-tagging #metoo will help you in your growth and recovery story or if you truly, personally feel like this is the best way to help others who are hurting and feel alone in this deep, dark sea of #metoo, then go for it. Hashtag away. But if you feel a little bit unsure, if you’re going back and forth trying to decide, if you type it out with enthusiasm, but that warm fuzzy starts to fade away before you press “post”—just remember you are strong, you are redeemed, this does not define you. You can say no.
Will posting #metoo really be the way you make a change?
You are in control of this part of your #metoo story. This doesn’t have to be the only way to aid in change. I guess I write this to help provoke thought. I think it can be wrapped up in one, final question. Posting on Twitter and Facebook brings awareness, but is making your entire social circle aware that you were #metoo’d going to change that much?
Perhaps partnering with an established organization, or contacting your representatives, or having meaningful conversations with the people IRL (in real life) will lead to a true, trustworthy space where such vulnerable conversations about being #metoo’d can be met with compassion and love and support. Perhaps rethinking how we can teach our daughters what signs to look for that lead to #metoo’s and empower our daughters to know they can come to us if they feel they were or are in danger of any form of #metoo. Moreover, raising the standards, setting better examples, and teachings our sons that “locker room talk,” “boys will be boys,” “and it’s just porn” are things that are unacceptable and deprive everyone involved of respect.
You can say no. Whether it’s to a job offer with unfair compensation, a stranger at a bar buying you a drink, a supervisor’s “accidental” boob graze, a vulgar joke, a partner advancing things when you’re just not in the mood, and even a #movement, you can say no. You’re allowed to. Do you hear me? You, yes you, you can say no.
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