By Danielle Veith
“Me too.” These are the words that took social media by storm this past week, with nearly 8 million people on Facebook alone (and many more on other platforms) spreading them across the Internet like wildfire. The trend began on twitter, with American actress and activist Alyssa Milano writing: “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.” Since then, millions of people across the globe have been coming out of the shadows, revealing a dark part of their personal histories. Some tell their story; some simply add their voices to the exchange. And, while so many people have courageously chosen to reveal their experiences, there are so many more who have chosen to stay silent.
For many, it has been a difficult week. It is hard to scroll down Facebook and see one’s friends, male and female alike, revealing something so serious and so heavy in such an everyday aspect. It is even harder to choose to admit something intensely private on such a platform, and those who posted the status followed it, or prefaced it with “The past few days have been full of inner conflict and deleted text, but…” For many who have divulged what has happened to them, there has been an outpour of love and support. Others, though, criticize the movement, saying it is far too revealing and personal to post on Facebook, where literally everyone you know (and even some people you don’t) can see it. It is too uncomfortable, they say. This is exactly the point. It is supposed to be uncomfortable.
The thought of someone you know, have heard of, or you are close with feeling violated – physically or not – is supposed to make you squirm in your seat. It is supposed to be shocking; the movement itself is about making people realize just how deep this problem runs in the veins of our modern society. I stayed up well into the night after creating my own #MeToo post, thinking: What if I am judged for this? Will people think I am a slut? Will they think it was my fault? Will they think I made it up, just to be part of a trending hashtag?
All of these fears that victims of sexual harassment or assault face are products of rape culture at its strongest. It is because these fears still run so rampant that we must speak out about the things which we are told to keep quiet, even if it makes some uncomfortable. Giving in to these fears and remaining silent only serves to perpetuate the stigma surrounding rape culture. This is why the Me Too movement started, and it is our duty as college students to not only join the conversation, but also pay extra attention to what it means for us.
This is not something we are safe from in the Bryant bubble – we are not exempt from the staggering statistic that one in four college-aged women report surviving rape or attempted sexual assault, and that men experience this kind of injustice as well. We are smart enough to have gotten into this school; I think we can wrap our minds around the fact that the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” We know that drugs and alcohol reduce one’s inhibitions. When
judgment is impaired, it is the responsibility of your partner to respect your privacy and dignity, rather than taking advantage of the situation (and vice versa). It is 2017 – we have experienced massive advances in science, technology, and research. Why is this still an issue, and why are women and men alike still only just beginning to come out of the shadows? Would you really want to be the reason why someone posted “Me Too” on their profile? I would hope not.
What if “me too” went from meaning “I have experienced sexual assault” to “I, too, have intervened to stop it”? What if the meaning changed to communicate the fact that you, too, have engaged in educational programs or bystander invention workshops? We create meaning every single day, whether or not we actively choose to, and the following is well within our capabilities; “me too” could come to mean that I, too, pledge to never act in a way that would make someone feel that they have been sexually assaulted or harassed, and I, too, take full responsibility for my actions.