A few weeks ago the #MeToo was trending on Facebook. The tag asked all women who had been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted to post #MeToo. I have never been sexually assaulted (thank God!) but I have been sexually harassed by a customer. Despite that, it took me a couple of days to decide if I would post #MeToo. Here is why I did.
1 I didn’t recognize it as sexual harassment.
I was hurt by what I experienced, but I didn’t recognize it as sexual harassment until a few years later when my mom found out about the experience. My mom, who works in human resources, gasped and said, “That’s sexual harassment.” That was first time I thought of it that way. That was a shock to me. Since then I have been at companies where I have been required to learn about sexual harassment, and I have since been able to recognize it. But at the time, even though I knew sexual harassment was wrong, I didn’t know the terms “hostile work environment” or “quid pro quo.”
2 Sexual harassment is unacceptable.
When the hashtag first emerged, I didn’t think about posting originally because I had minimized the incident. While it did make me feel cheap, the incident hardly ruined my life and I didn’t want to make it “a big deal.” Then one of my friends posted about how women experience sexual harassment but we minimize it, and thereby excuse it, in our heads. There is no excuse for sexual harassment. It is unacceptable. No one should be allowed to sexually harass anyone (and while the majority of sexual harassment is men harassing women, men can harass men, women can harass men, and women can harass women) and no one should excuse the behavior.
3 Words matter.
I hesitated to post #MeToo because sexual harassment was lumped in with sexual assault. Since I have not been sexually assaulted (thank God!) I did not want to lump the experience of harassment with assault. Then I remembered the film The Invisible War, which I reviewed as a part of my Films about Women series. The film recounted the story of a woman who experienced intense sexual harassment in her unit, and was later raped. The film explained that units that have problems with sexual harassment are more likely to have problems with sexual assault. This makes sense. Sexual harassment tells would a would be rapist and assaulter, “Go ahead and have at it.” This makes confronting sexual harassment far more important.
4 The scale
Someone posted on Tumblr, and I reposted this on Facebook, “Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who has been sexually harassed and yet no man seems to know any harassers?” It is a question worth asking.