The simple, two-word phrase began trending on social media this past weekend, and although the words are common, they are mighty.
The web lit up with the hashtag after Alyssa Milano tweeted, asking that women write “me too” if they’d ever been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault. “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,” Alyssa wrote. Her suggestion came in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex assault scandal and amplified a movement to show support to survivors of assault that dated 10 years back. As of Monday morning, more than 37,000 women from Pittsburgh to Pakistan had replied to the tweet.
A few men replied, too.
Javier Muñoz, who played Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, wrote, “Me too. I don’t know if means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.”
Twitter user Alexis Benveniste wrote, “Reminder that if a woman didn't post #MeToo, it doesn't mean she wasn't sexually assaulted or harassed. Survivors don't owe you their story.”
Debra Messing wrote simply: “Me too.”
The phrase echoed throughout the Twittersphere, but sometimes, 140 characters - or in this case, just five- isn’t enough to convey the lifelong problem women face when it comes to sexual harassment and assault. It’s not just Hollywood, it’s in every workplace, it’s when you find out men you love talk like jerks to each other, it’s every time we walk down the street. So when a woman says “me too,” she is conjuring up a lifetime of humiliation at the hands of men who have catcalled her, grabbed her ass, hugged her a little too hard and too long, insulted her, and exposed her sexuality as if it were a bad thing.
I can trace my “me too” back to high school, when the first guy I ever had sex with started a rumor so hurtful about me, he felt compelled to contact me 18 years later with a long overdue apology. He was on the football team and it had been—quite literally—locker room talk. I felt ashamed and embarrassed for an entire school year, and can still flinch when I think about it. Thankfully, his Facebook photos show a balding middle-aged man with a healthy beer pooch. Time is the ultimate revenge, no matter how petty it may be.
In college, I took multiple cocktail waitressing jobs to pay the rent. They went hand in hand with server outfits that were slit thigh-high here, cut low there. I get it, nobody wants to be served drinks by a waitress in a colonial pilgrim dress. Plus, it didn’t hurt my tips. But the outfits somehow gave permission to many customers and bar owners to make comments on my cleavage, try to persuade me to do shots with them, and flirt inappropriately with me — many times while customers were also clearly on a date. On my first day at one bar, the boss asked me turn around so he could see my “ass” in the cocktail dress we were assigned to wear; I did turn around ... to walk out in the middle of my shift, never to return. Another boss had me wearing a tight neon orange tank top cut to my navel, and for a cherry on top, encouraged us to sprinkle glitter in our cleavage, which I hurt my skin scrubbing off every night in my shame shower. To get back at him, the girls and I robbed him blind. He wanted boobs, we wanted cash. Call it even.
When I graduated from cocktail waitressing and started my career in New York City, I found things weren’t that different. I would be faced with some male bosses who were great, and many who were not. Over the span of my career, I have been asked if my “tits are fake,” accused of “using my boobs to get ahead,” and have been bullied and screamed at by men who are physically intimidating to stand up to. I have been booty called in the middle of the night, having to pretend the next day that it never happened. I have had higher-ups ring my apartment bell in the middle of the night looking for “a place to crash.” At one job I had, a rude female co-worker who enjoyed making my life hell would yell at me to “stand up straight.” Little did she know, I’d spend so many years hiding my ample chest out of embarrassment, I’d created a permanent curve on the top of my spine and only discovered in my 30’s that yoga - and a good dose of self love - was the cure.
I am ashamed to admit that it would take me years to understand that we women were fighting a daily battle. It is difficult to navigate being a straight woman, in love with straight men, who could often turn out to be the enemy. Men I loved would often disappoint with an offhand comment about a female I liked, or a “laughing with the boys” remark. My heart would break, and I didn’t know how to fight it, so I learned to use the wrong tools back then. I would use my blowouts and my makeup-heavy face to charm and giggle my way through meetings and job interviews while other women were on the front lines actually fighting the fight.
But I quickly learned that using your femininity without your brains is a dead end. And it’s often times why women hate other women. But we should learn not to, because we all have this in common:
Coming back from the bathroom to find (paranoia or not) that our wine looks a little cloudy, so we make the bartender pour a new one in front of us. Taking off heels to run full speed down a dark block at night, frightened out of your mind, only to get home huffing and puffing with blackened feet, finally safe. Getting masturbuated to on the subway, any time of day, really. Getting flashed while walking with your girlfriend along a busy avenue. Getting catcalled from cars, honked at by trucks, cornered by drunken men with bad breath, brushed up against by an unmistakable erection in a crowded place. Yelling “who is it” before you answer the door every time, even when you know it’s the delivery guy, because you are scared to death someone will force their way in while you are home alone. Being followed for blocks until you can duck into a store. When a man won’t stop talking to you but you’ve said you’re not interested multiple times. Getting your hair or face touched by a creep and you don’t want to make a scene so you let it go. Have men mumble nasty things you know you heard as you pass by. Being told to smile. Having a guy whip out something other than his wallet when all you did was kiss him. Have to physically push a guy out of your apartment because no means no.
All of the above happened, by the way, so, yeah, #metoo. Every. Damn. Day.
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