Last night I began to see the #metoo trend throughout different social media platforms. This morning I woke up to it being the top trending topic. And to be honest, as much as I'm all about collective feminism, I also had the sinking feeling that this was just going to be another wave that gets a round of applause, and then be forgotten in two weeks. That people will say their collective remarks about assault, rape, and consent, but the people who NEED to hear it will still turn a blind eye and not reflect on the actual issue.
For background, the 'me too' trend started when actor Alyssa Milano tweeted: "Suggested by a friend: If all the women 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. If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet"
Needless to say, the response was overwhelming.
With the number of women contributing to the #metoo trend, I know many men and women felt overwhelmed at the response. I know there are a lot of men who feel stunned that their closest friends, their sisters, cousins, mothers and more have been victims of sexual assault. To be honest, I don't think many women were as shocked. Find me the unicorn out there who hasn't been assaulted, cat called, harassed, groped, or raped. And you know why I didn't want to type "me too" on to my Facebook status? Because I don't think it's going to change a fucking thing. I'm jaded by seeing women constantly fighting this battle and not enough men saying, "I will change".
So instead, I'm writing this.
Since being a young girl, you're taught to have a sixth sense about men. 'Men can be dangerous', 'it's important to be protected', 'be accompanied by a male family member'.
Dear men, you'll never understand what it's like to be a female walking down the street knowing a stranger's eyes are gazing over your body.
Dear men, you'll never know the magnitude of the gut wrenching feeling one has after a man acts inappropriately towards you.
Dear men, you won't ever realize that when a female is walking alone, she is aware at all times of men across the street from her, behind her, or in front of her.
Dear men, I've thought about what I would do if someone grabbed me on the street and threw me into a car.
Dear men, I can't take a walk outside on a nice night when it's dark because I don't know if I'll be raped.
Dear men, you keep blaming me.
Since I was young, I heard about how a woman needs to be protected. She needs to protect herself, and her reputation. 'You are a flower, and you don't want anyone to pick the petals off, so be smart'. I have to be the smart one. I have to be the careful one. I have to use that female instinct 24/7, and I'm really tired of it. I'm tired of having get togethers with my girlfriends where we end up sharing different experiences of sexual assault. I'm tired of my guy friends often brushing it off, or worse, offering sympathy but explaining why it's important for me to be careful of my surroundings, to not be out alone late, and to be aware of the men I surround myself with.
I recently had a conversation with a male friend about sexual assault. He felt sympathetic, and helpless. He tried to tell me that not all guys are like this. He asked me how he could help. My response to this was, "Instead of trying to help me by giving me advice, go talk to your guy friends. Talk to them about how some of their 'jokes' aren't in good fun, and how they are toxic and contribute immense power to fuelling rape culture. Stop trying to fix me, and fix the way that guys think."
Dear men, when you have children, and you're blessed with a daughter and a son; instead of worrying about your daughter being safe, raise your son to be kind, empathetic, respectful, and to speak up when they see something wrong. If everyone raised their sons better than they raised their daughters, we wouldn't need to be protected. The underlying problem isn't how a female is dressed, or how she acts. The underlying problem is that there are men who don't think they're contributing to rape culture or doing anything wrong. I want to clarify, that just because a guy himself has never physically or verbally assaulted a female, it doesn't mean this his sense of humor, lingering eyes, or snarky comments don't fuel rape culture.
I wish 'me too' wasn't such a wake up call, because I wish sexual assault didn't exist. I wish that consent was something that men could really understand. So I'm going to try to explain it as clearly as I can, and I'd like to use a woman named Nafisa Ahmed's words to do so.
"If you ask me for $5, and I'm too drunk to say yes or no, it's not okay to then go take $5 out of my purse... Just because I didn't say no."
"If you put a gun to my head to get me to give you $5, you still stole $5. Even if I physically handed you $5."
"If I let YOU borrow $5, that doesn't give the right for your FRIEND to take $5 out of my purse. "But you gave him some, why can't I?""
"If you steal $5 and I can't prove it in court, that does NOT mean you didn't steal $5."
"Just because I gave you $5 in the past, doesn't mean I have to give you $5 in the future."
Do you understand that? Then why don't you understand the concept of rape? The concept of consent?
Lastly, there's a reason why the 'me too' trend is so vague. Because sharing the grimy details of assault on the internet ends up getting more abuse than acknowledgement, and that's a mentally dangerous place for a victim of sexual assault to go to. Stop wondering if the person who wrote 'me too' was just cat called or if she was raped. Both things were NOT okay.
One of the most exhausting things about ALL of this, and about being a victim of sexual assault, is that you know it's not going to stop any time soon... unfortunately it's going to happen again because that's the fucked up world we live in. To the person reading this, I hope you take initiative. I hope you can make a dent in the change this world needs.