Just a couple little words, totaling only five measly letters.
But for the women participating in the movement this past week, the meaning is huge.
And as is evidenced by the sheer number of those women, the problem it pinpoints is enormous.
In case you’ve been living under a rock recently, #MeToo launched in response to the Harvey Weinstein accusations in Hollywood.
As more and more actresses came forward to tell their stories of mistreatment, others decided to use it as a jumping off place, to bring to light the difficulties all women face — not just those in Tinsel Town — when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.
I first noticed the hashtag when it showed up in posts by a couple friends in my newsfeed:
“Me too. If all the folks who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. #MeToo.”
By the end of that day, at least half the females in my feed had posted it. When I woke up and checked the next morning, nearly all.
At first, I wavered. I’m not generally one for re-posts — few things annoy me more than memes of roses or sunshine or candle flames asking me to share if I hate cancer/love my sibling/want world peace. It just seems stupid. I mean, of course I hate cancer/love my sibling/want world peace. I feel like that goes without saying — and definitely without stock photos of sunsets and dew on leaves.
But this was different. This was attempting to raise awareness of an issue that affects so very many of us, often from a very young age. One that brings with it shame and fear and sadness. And blame.
Unfortunately, it’s also one that many people avoid acknowledging, or speaking about publicly, for all those exact reasons. It can be easier to keep those experiences a secret, to hold the feelings inside, rather than relive them, or subject ourselves to the kind of unfair judgment that so often comes along with speaking out.
So I typed it. Me too.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about those instances in my life. The time I was 11 and, walking down the street in the tiny town where my grandmother lived, two men yelled something so profane at me that, 30 years later, it still turns my stomach. I remember ignoring them, then, once they’d gone, running back to the house, closing the curtains and crying. I was terrified they’d find me. And even more scared it was somehow all my fault.
I recalled the summer after seventh grade, when a man next me on the Metrobus exposed and touched himself until I became frightened enough to start climbing over seats — and the passengers sitting in them — to get away. As he deboarded at his stop, he put that same filthy hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry if I disturbed you.” I remember looking down at the floor and wanting to fall through it, feeling the scornful burn of the other riders’ stares on my neck.
The examples don’t stop there. My teen years and adulthood are rife with them, too. But my sharing stops here, at least for today. Recounting these stories doesn’t get easier, no matter how much time goes by, and I’m stressed and exhausted right now, just putting these two down on paper.
Still, we have a lot of work to do. We victims have to keep speaking up, telling our stories, adding our voices. Those who aren’t victims have to join us in the fight. Traditional views, power dynamics and sexist, predatory thinking and behavior must end. We all have a part in making this happen.
And yes, me too.
Katie McDowell is a lifestyles writer/copy editor for The Dominion Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.