On Monday morning, countless #MeToo posts flooded my social media feeds. As I scrolled, I was shocked and dismayed to read painful sexual harassment and assault stories shared by so many women I respect and love. I admired their bravery to share, but immediately felt guilty at the same time. “I can’t say ‘Me Too,’” I thought. “I am fortunate to have never experienced sexual assault firsthand.”
But then, I realized I needed to think outside of the box.
The Harvey Weinstein case has exposed specific accounts of rape, unwanted advances and moments of terror and discomfort for women in Hollywood. However, it’s also shone a spotlight on a societal problem that spans all industries.
Most of the women I know have been conditioned to believe that harassment is common, and reporting incidents only puts their professional, platonic and romantic opportunities in jeopardy. When they do report, women are often accused of making a mountain out of a molehill, blamed for inviting the harassment, or told “boys will be boys.” Worse still, people often respond in jest, or diminish the situation and feelings, which gives the victim even more reasons to stay silent.
This is wrong.
I relived moments during my lifetime I had convinced myself were insignificant incidents. I spent years rationalizing that my experiences were just part of the territory that came with having a “funny” maiden name (Shagman), or from being a young woman in the workforce. I learned to sweep my discomfort under the rug and just deal.
Thanks to #MeToo, I faced reality. Even though I am incredibly lucky to have avoided sexual assault, I have endured decades of harassment. The jokes and comments that made me feel shame and embarrassment were inappropriate and should have never happened in the first place. Though they may seem insignificant compared to other stories, every experience contributes to the bigger picture. As it turns out, I could say “Me Too.” So I did.
I hope the #MeToo campaign reverses our sick culture of tolerating sexual harassment and assault. I hope with increased awareness and a willingness to change, we are now trending toward a new normal. As so many stand up and speak out on this issue, I am encouraged that a brighter future is ahead.