When “Me too” began trending on social media this week as a response to the horrific allegations of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein specifically and Hollywood in general, I loved the idea of revealing how widespread this issue is but hesitated to participate myself.
In a display of personal gaslighting, I thought, “What’s happened to me is minor compared to what other women have had to endure.” But when a friend of mine shared her story on Facebook, I commented that ALL our stories of harassment and sexism matter. That’s the point of the whole damn thing – to say “me too” so we can continue the conversation because cultural patriarchy has become so widespread that we fail to notice it for the evil that it is.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical Christian setting. I went to church every Sunday, Bible Study on Wednesday, youth group on Friday, church camp in the summer…you get the idea. I lived and breathed patriarchy and sexism. I was taught that God is the leader, and he is male, so therefore in the human realm, the man is king.
This flawed ideology has caused untold pain and suffering in our world. Words like “submit” and “obey” were used regularly in my Christian school and church environments for the relationship a woman was to have with a man. A woman was to be quiet, sweet, giving and gentle. She was not supposed to have her own ideas or disagree with a man.
In the last few years, I’ve completely abandoned the evangelical Christian world. A number of factors went into this decision, but the rampant sexism and racism present in this patriarchal system is now abhorrent to me. I’ve been hurt by it in more ways than I can count and I will not participate in it anymore. I truly believe that the whole thing must crumble so that something new and fair and equal can grow in its place.
One example of physical harassment came at the age of 17 at what used to be called Klondike Days in Edmonton. I was walking with a group of friends when several drunk men, about fifteen years older than us, catcalled loudly as they approached. We tried to ignore them, but one of them grabbed my crotch as he walked by. It hurt physically and stung emotionally. That happened nearly thirty years ago and yet I feel ashamed and embarrassed to recount it now.
What gives a man the right to physically assault a woman in a public place? Or a private one? The answer is: THE SYSTEM. They have the power to do what they want, and this is why the system must change.
I love the idea behind the “Me too” hashtag. It shows frightened and angry women that we are not alone. It provides hope that safety can be found in numbers. It also reveals how huge this problem of toxic masculinity and power abuse really is.
While we’re at it, let’s do a couple of things immediately to give equality a fighting chance:
Stop Calling Women Girls
When a girl gets her period, she is no longer a girl. She is now a woman. Language matters and we don’t refer to a man with a mortgage, a job and children as a “boy”. If we want to be fair, stop calling women girls and even this part of the playing field.
Change Your Language Around Rape and Violence
As Jackson Katz brilliantly demonstrates below, stop using the passive voice when referring to “violence against women”.
Silence is Violence
Speak up, as a woman and as a man. When something is sexist or misogynist or unfair in any way, say something. Be brave and bold. This is how equality works – we cannot stay silent and hope for change. WE ARE THE CHANGE.
Keep up the good work, my friends. We can support and love each other through the pain and shame we have suffered. The “Me too” movement is beautiful and we need every voice in this fight. Don’t lose hope. I’m here and would love to hear your stories.