For the past few days social media has been invaded by the #metoo posts. At first only a few people dared to change their status, then more and more joined in. As it happens with most issues of harassment, the first person who comes out and talks about it, thinks they’re alone in their struggle, that they will be shamed and blamed for it, but it turns out that there are always a lot of people other there (both men and women) who have gone through similar things, yet never spoke about them.
As I started reading all these stories from close friends, acquaintances, and strangers about how at one point of another they were sexually harassed in some form or another, I started wondering about my own life. Have I really never been the subject of inappropriate comments or have I simply become so jaded that I’ve either blocked them or overlooked them to begin with? I wished I would be in the first category, that I would be that one person who’s just been lucky enough to have never dealt with this. But the reality was that I belonged to the second category. I wasn’t the victim of the obvious things, the ones we condemn publicly and point fingers at, it was the subtle comments that have made their way to me. I remember a coworker once saying to me before a meeting “We don’t need your opinion, we just need a woman in the room” or “You look especially beautiful this morning. Did you have morning sex?” At the time I didn’t react to them. I ignored them, put them in a corner to be forgotten and never addressed, but this week I got a chance to think back about them and think about all the people who have received even worse comments or actions from the people around them who maybe seemed to have more power.
I’ve heard stories from both men and women, none of the genders were spared, from the very obvious to the subtle, from clear requests of trading sex for favors to brief comments launched in the blink of an eye. While I don’t believe as Mayim Bialik does in her NY Times Op-Ed that dressing modestly and making sure you don’t flirt with anyone, protects anyone from unwanted advanced, I’m here to say that I’m a naturally joyful person, who finds it easy to connect with people, which sometimes means that my smile, my care, my joy can be seen as flirting for the men who want to take it as such. And honestly, even if it was flirting, that still doesn’t justify some of their actions.
Maybe it’s time we all took a moment to look around and notice all the times we’ve received inappropriate comments or behavior, yet chose to look the other way, or maybe we said those things or did something we should have never done and never apologized for it. What if we all took the next few weeks to address what needs to be addressed and to apologize to everyone who deserves our apology.
Your #metoo story doesn’t have to be obvious to be worth the attention.