Earlier this week, I, along with many other women (and men), shared my #MeToo story. Except I didn’t. I copy/pasted the status and posted it as a sign of solidarity with those who have experienced sexual harassment or assault, but I didn’t share my story. I didn’t think that Facebook – with its brightly-coloured reaction emojis and ‘fun’ reminders of what happened 9 years ago – was the place to detail my experiences. There are some people I’m very close to who don’t know what has actually happened to me. And I don’t owe Facebook my fucking trauma.
It turns out I was right not to open up old wounds. The simple act of sharing the generic status was met with an immediate “men too” from one gentleman, and then a denial of the problem entirely from another. I spent two days going back and forth with this man. I calmly an eloquently (if I do say so myself) took on the emotional labour of trying to educate him on the finer points of rape culture, and he refused to hear me. It’s fine. No insults were hurled, no one got upset, but I still spent a whole lot of emotional energy trying to explain why #MeToo is important, and it didn’t land. I couldn’t convince someone (in the midst of the Weinstein scandal and hundreds of thousands of people opening up about their experiences of harassment) that there’s a problem.
And that is not fine.
Would it have been different if I’d shared the specifics of a time I was assaulted?
That’s not the point.
For the most part, my experiences of sexual assault and harassment have been a sort of background hum underscoring my everyday life: a low-resonance reminder that my value in this world is defined by some in terms of their evaluation of my physical attractiveness and their sense of ownership over my body. Occasionally the hum intensifies in volume – like when a stranger groped my arse while I was carrying two full trays of drinks; or when my wine was spiked with ketamine at a house party; or when a man on the night bus pinned me against the window, told me he loved me, and repeatedly asked for my address. But most often it’s nowhere near as obvious.
It’s a generalised lack of respect for my boundaries. It’s the expectation that I’m there for your pleasure. It’s the easy dismissal of my feelings and opinions when they don’t align with yours. It’s the representation of women as sex objects/prizes to be won/exotic creatures to be tamed/sexless care-givers and rarely ever as just an actual person in the media. It’s my own internalised misogyny that leads me to self-objectify on the one hand, and to be dismissive of things that have been defined as ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’ on the other.
The point is that no one should have to publicly share details of a traumatic assault in order for people to accept that there’s a problem. It should be enough to just say the words “Me Too” and be believed. More importantly, it should never have got to the point where millions of women have been routinely assaulted or harassed without something being done. But we live in a time when a man who casually admits to grabbing women by the pussy can become president of the most powerful country in the world. We’re in the fucking twilight zone.
So I am done.
I will no longer smile and giggle awkwardly when faced with casual misogyny. I will not shoulder the blame for “killing the vibe” when I fail to laugh at your sexist joke. I will not take responsibility for how shitty you feel when I confront you for touching me without my consent. I will not stand idly by when I see it happening to another. I will not de-escalate. I will not back down. I will hold you accountable for your actions.
Because the fault does not lie with me.
And it’s time to shift the focus.
Article by Sarah Bradnum