When I opened the Facebook app on my phone Sunday night, the phrase was suddenly everywhere: “Me, too.” It seemed almost all of my female friends had posted those two little words. One after another, the phrase kept popping up as I scrolled.
Actor Alyssa Milano on Sunday had suggested any woman who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to write the phrase on Twitter. (Activist Tarana Burke started the “me too” movement a decade ago; Milano’s tweet is just the latest iteration.)
“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,” Milano’s Sunday call to action read.
By Monday afternoon, the phrase had been used a half a million times on Twitter, and it dominated Facebook, too.
It was a wave of consciousness-raising, of unburdening, of comforting. It was a collective shouting into the void (and hoping maybe someone, this time, would listen). And it was (hopefully) a wake-up call to the people who somehow remain unaware of the “magnitude of the problem,” as Milano’s post had put it.
Harvey Weinstein, the recently disgraced movie executive, has been ostracized from his life of fame and fortune in the wake of decades of sexual assault allegations, which were brought to light first in the New York Times and then The New Yorker earlier this month. In a tape released by The New Yorker last week, Weinstein can be heard cajoling and badgering a woman he had previously groped to come into his hotel room.
I was not nearly as surprised by his behavior on the tape as I was by the reaction to it. People acted surprised, sickened. To me, it seemed par for the course.
I remembered the boy who stuck his hand down my bra while we were backstage during the seventh-grade school play. I remembered the stranger who kissed me on the mouth in a nightclub as I stood at the bar chit-chatting. I remembered the boys and men who would cajole and badger and guilt-trip. I remembered the other examples of sexual harassment I wrote about in this space pretty much exactly a year ago, after the leak of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, on which our now-president brags about assaulting women. I hate to repeat myself, but, here we are again. And don't worry, I've got lots more memories for next time. (Sadly, I'm sure I will write about this again.)
I remembered not telling anyone about the encounters (the first time I told, I was told boys would be boys. So, why bother?), or, if I did, usually months or years later, hearing, simply, “me, too.”
I remembered the similar stories I’ve heard from my female friends and family members. And I remembered when they told me the stories, as they had done, all I could answer was, “me, too.”
Women have long said “me, too” in living rooms, salons and bars; over brunch and beers and in book clubs. I commend the women who are speaking up for the first time, and speaking up more publicly, who are thrusting themselves into the spotlight in the hope that sharing the terrible things that have happened to them will somehow make things better. And for the women who have chosen to stay quiet, we say, “me, too.”
For many of us, the sexual harassment and assault started when we were still children, when the hormones started to make us look older. We look at the generation coming up behind us, and we want to do something — anything — to make it better for them, to help them have just a little bit more of a childhood than we had. So, we say, “me, too.”
For many of us, there are sweet men in our lives who just have no idea what it’s like, who are surprised by the sheer volume of the social media posts and the stories we tell. For them, we say, “me, too.”
Many of us feel alone. Many of us never told, because we were embarrassed, or we didn’t want to lose our jobs or our friends or the respect of our teachers. We didn’t want to hear “boys will be boys” again. Or we thought it was somehow our fault. So, we say, “me, too.”
It may seem like a small and insignificant phrase, but for each person who typed it this week and hit send, it was work. It was courageous. To those who are surprised by the volume of these posts, by the details of these stories, what will you do so fewer women can say “me, too?”