I’ve gone back and forth about writing about “Me too.” I shared it on my Facebook page, but without a story, because it felt too exhausting. And also very obvious. Because I, like just about every female-identified person on earth, can rattle off far to many instances where I’ve been demeaned, cat called, followed, harassed, belittled, groped, made to feel unsafe, and otherwise targeted for existing in public as a woman.
And I can list many occasions—including recent ones—where men rolled their eyes about my concerns, or doubted my experience of pervasive harassment, or didn’t believe it was that big of a deal, or told me women should dress more modestly, or thought I should take it as a compliment, or accused me of being a man-hater, or asked me to provide “data” or “sources” (because god forbid you take a woman at her word), or refused to listen to feedback when I told them their actions/words were reflective of rape culture. And most of these men were the “well meaning” kind, who think that they could NEVER be sexist or harm women. They also probably think that none of their friends could be a rapist, which is statistically unlikely.
One instance is seared into my memory. I had just gotten back from living in India for a year, which had been a very difficult experience for me. Part of the why is because I had been assaulted. And there was also the cumulative effect of being followed and watched by men almost everywhere I went, and having to be constantly vigilant about my safety. There were other aspects of my time in India that made it difficult, and sexual assault and harassment are by no means unique to that country, but that is a significant part of where I was coming from.
I was at a party, and a guy I knew asked me—as many folks had been—“How was India?!” And I responded with something along the lines of, “A lot of it was really great, but I also had a hard time dealing with a lot of stalking and sexual harassment.” And he screwed up his face with doubt and said in that pitched way, “Really?” And then he turned to Vlad, who was then my boyfriend and had spent maybe 4 days in India when he was visiting me, and asked, “What did you think about it?”
I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped open and I had no idea how to respond. Vlad said something like, “Um yeah Meredith lived there for a year she probably has a better understanding.” The conversation moved on.
I still get pretty pissed thinking about it. Because some version of that conversation is repeated All. The. Time.
So most of what I felt when seeing my feed fill up with countless me toos was exhaustion. And frustration. I think “tired and angry” can sum up how I feel about most things in the world today.
I also saw a bunch of guys trying to signal that they are “one of the good ones.” And maybe some of them are. I guess that’s nice. But some of them are also definitely going to ask me for an academic study the next time I mention street harassment, or institutional bias in the medical industry, or whatever other issue of sexism I am pretty damn familiar with.
So I guess I’d just like them to save it and start actually believing women. Preferably without us having to parade our trauma every time we want to be taken seriously.
On a lighter note, I'm currently embroidering Pokémon characters. They're cute.