I’ve seen the hashtag all over social media the last few days. #metoo. I’ve heard about it on the news, and I’ve read opinion articles-both fair and unfair towards individuals on either side of the discussion. This current discussion- because its certainly not a new one by any stretch of the imagination- has been spurred into motion by the stories coming forth from Hollywood by ladies harassed and assaulted by producer Harvey Weinstein after a tape recording was discovered and released of a berating discussion in which the female could clearly be heard protesting his advances repeatedly.
Multiple times I already knew of the stories my friends told, because that’s what women ought to do- be a force of support. Other times I’ve had no idea. It brought to mind all the stories I’d been given the intimate privilege to listen to and the survival and strength story tellers had. Not all where women. Not all were merely harassed. For many, it was years of pain and doubt. These story tellers told their stories to highlight their passion for saving victims of trafficking, others because it held importance in the shaping of their life road.
It has also made me think of my own encounters. I have been fortunate to have never been assaulted in a sexual way. I have however frequently experienced harassment. being told how pretty I could be if I just let them, to comments on my body to being told how lucky I should feel that they even looked at my body and of course that I’m too big or fat for them. I’ve experienced it on the campus and the street. At work I had coworkers that spread ugly and falsely sexualized rumors and stories, not knowing who the stories were about only to find out what they were and that they would have been about me when I “dared to date” a coworker. At another place of work, there was a man who insisted on talking to SO clients that I also had to work with about me, going so far as to describe in detail to one and female coworkers that laughed off how he would depict me in his bar light display taking a bath in a giant martini glass. Even then despite reporting the harassment to supervisors did anything happen to him until the clients probation officer threatened to file claims because the SO clients were listening.
That job reminds me of something very important to all of this. Using the hashtag is certainly a good way to show how many have had to deal with harassment and assault but it won’t show everyone. It won’t stop it either. It won’t stop if we don’t say something when its said, it won’t stop if it’s not reported, it won’t stop if we allow ourselves to think it’s only women that are victims, or only men that are perpetrators.
All can be victims. All can be perpetrators. ALL harassment and assault is WRONG. It is a gross abuse of the image of God, stripping individuals of dignity- the dignity of humanity. Such behavior will not stop until there is no power in taking that away with words or physicality.