Monday 16 October 2017

P.S. #NotMe?

A quick addendum to my previous post:

In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, there is a viral trend on Facebook to call attention to the ubiquity of sexual harassment by asking women to post "Me too" as their status if they have ever been a victim of sexual harassment and/or assault.  Since literally every woman on the planet has been sexually harassed at some point in her life, the response rate if every woman on Facebook participated would be 100%.  In fact, there was previously a #YesAllWomen tag on Twitter to highlight that fact.

I had mixed feelings about this request.  I am not a joiner by nature; if everyone is asked to post something, even if it is something I agree with, my instinct is not to follow the crowd.  It's like in yoga class when the teacher asks us all to breathe or do an asana in sync with everyone else in the room.  I always follow an irresistible urge to break the rhythm, do my own thing.  I am both a feminist and a knitter but I didn't knit a single pussy hat last January.  I am quite proud of this trait—you wouldn't catch me participating in a wave in a stadium or holding up a lighter and swaying to the music with the crowd at a concert—so there is no chance I'd play along with a Facebook request.

I also felt I had never been sexually harassed seriously enough to merit saying "me too".  I've been catcalled on the street and online but I have never been personally harassed or assaulted in a work or dating situation, or any other context.  The random catcalls that all women experience just form part of the backdrop of being a woman in public; they're not in the same league of awfulness as, say, the childhood neighbour who was raped by her father when she was 12.  I fear my "me too" would minimize hers by seeming to equate our experiences.

There is also a form of survivor's guilt:  All these other women have been harassed and assaulted, why not me?  It is never the victim's fault—not at all, not even a little bit, not in ANY circumstances—so there is no possibility of rationalizing that I avoided it because I didn't engage in any particular behaviours.  The explanation that whispers in my head is that I simply wasn't attractive enough.

Both of those thoughts—that my harassment wasn't serious enough and that I wasn't attractive enough to be a target—are appalling.  Yes, it's objectively true that rape is way worse than a catcall, just as lynching is way worse than using a racial epithet.  But both are forms of sexism or racism and neither is acceptable in a civilised society.  And I certainly don't think any woman should judge her own attractiveness on the basis of whether she has been sexually harassed.  The fact that either of those ideas crossed my mind is indicative of how persistently patriarchal our culture is.

Finally, I was uncomfortable with the idea of the onus being on the victim, and it seems that I wasn't the only one as these two responses popped up:

"'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.'
Let me translate that.
"If the victims would just all get it together to say something all at the same time, maybe then somebody will listen."
If the victims would
It's on the victims
It's on (statistically) women.

  'If all the men who have sexually assaulted, harassed, or coerced women into sex, allowed it to happen without doing anything about it, or ever gaslighted a woman about it, wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'  There.  I fucking fixed it."

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