By: Grace Wydeven
I rarely, if ever, post on Facebook, and am especially averse to copy and paste situations. (I was the one who never forwarded those chain emails). But this situation is very important to me personally, to my friends, and as we have seen in a very public way over the past week or so, to the very fabric of our society and our culture.
Sexual harassment and assault are by no means new. Just because we are watching and reading as the horrifying details of Mr. Weinstein’s abuse unfold right now does not mean in any way that this is an isolated issue. In fact unfortunately, it is a not only an “issue” but a phenomenon, and from there not only a “phenomenon” but an epidemic. However, as frustrating as it can be, sometimes public moments, extreme macrocosmic examples such as this, are the times when the discourse about such problems begins to shift, to open up, and to express the tough realities of an epidemic like this one.
This discourse, however, has been difficult to actualize. As I sit around and talk to my friends about our experiences with this issue, we often return to the same sticking points, the same reasons for hesitation. “I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” “I don’t even know what I could say or do to really address it,” “Is it even possible to hold someone accountable in today’s society anyway?,” and perhaps the most frustrating of all “Why am I having to do all of this work to fix this problem when I was the one this happened to in the first place. It was not something that I did, not something I chose.”
All of these questions swirl around in my head on a regular basis. And while posting this may seem like a drop in the bucket, just by posting it I hope to do my part in speaking up, especially because I have the privilege to do so. I speak solely for myself, but if you can relate in anyway to this kind of experience, know that I think of you, know that I sympathize with you, and perhaps, in some cases, that I can empathize with you.
I have waited a little while to post this because I have seen some of the criticisms of this status, but while I understand where those criticisms may arise from, I still stand by my decision.
As I allude to above, it is in no way “fair” or “reasonable” for people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault to have to or even remotely feel like they have to “out themselves.” To the critics with this response, you are, quite simply, right. At the most basic level, it is unbelievable and ridiculous that we have to speak up about this issue, but this train of thought leads to a fallacy similar to the one that would result if we simply say: "the abuse itself should not have happened." You would again, be wholly correct, but sadly in reality this is not the case. This is a real issue that won’t simply go away of its own accord, and I would argue (again speaking from my own experience of course) that having people who have not actually experienced this issue (here I am referencing the “good guys,” the men who haven’t done anything wrong but can speak up and defend women” argument) be the ones to address it and fix it is not only going to be ineffective on its own, but deeply problematic. When we begin to “decide” who gets to speak or who should speak or who has to speak, I worry that more often than not we end up leaving the people affected voiceless.
If you feel like you want to post “me too,” then you have every right to use your voice and your platform to do so. If you aren’t comfortable doing so, you are in no way obligated to. That’s the beauty of social media, the beauty of free speech! But I think regardless of whether or not you choose to partake in this, we need to be careful about criticizing people who decide to speak up for themselves and to share their experience. Instead of criticizing their method, let’s welcome their courage, start having larger conversations, and work on addressing this issue from the ground up. Change doesn’t necessarily happen through Facebook statuses, but it certainly doesn’t happen by simply wishing for it either.
With all of that said, here is the SparkNotes version: