New Beginnings & #MeToo

As October comes to a close, and the weather starts to get serious about showing us some cold days, I have few things on my mind. I don’t know what it is about the arrival of fall, but it always feels like the real start of the year for me. It could be simply that school starts up again in the fall, (this happens to be my very first year of not having classes to go to), but I think it feels like the start of the year, because for me it is. Every September when my birthday comes, I get this feeling like I get a fresh start, and I can shed past mistakes or bad habits. A few days ago I crossed something off my to do list that I’ve been sitting on for, oh, about a year now. Due to this small step I’ve made, I can now move forward in my career, something I’ve been hesitant about doing for reasons even I’m not sure of. This feeling of ‘new beginnings’ gives me some sort of cosmic permission to make some positive changes and live with a little less fear and hesitation.

Another thing this October has brought is an outpouring of stories of sexual harassment and assault under the banner of #metoo, an effect that has stemmed from the many instances shared regarding Harvey Weinstein, and others like him in the public eye. I’ve heard some criticism of the hashtag, for example, Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente on CBC’s The Current argued that the concept suggests that all men are perpetrators of sexually predatory behaviour and that she cannot in good conscious say “me too” because she has never experienced sexual assault. Of course, the hashtag hardly implicates all men, although men should be thinking about how they may have been complicit even by just listening to another man make inappropriate comments and not saying anything about it. The main criticism I have of Wente’s take is her misunderstanding that “me too” refers only to sexual assault, when in fact the hashtag refers to a scale that goes from sexual harassment, to unwanted touching[i], to rape. #metoo is so powerful as a campaign/movement not only because of the overwhelming truth that every woman[ii] has a #metoo moment, but because as  infuriating as it is to come to terms with that fact, as nauseating as it is to think that every one of us can think of at least one instance where we were left feeling embarrassed, guilty, or implicated due to someone else’s actions or words, #metoo acts as a uniting tool.

When I think of the concept of #metoo visually, I see many different incarnations of it in my mind. I see an intimate scene of two friends, sitting quietly, and experiencing the hope that comes with heartbreak when you are treated to true empathy. I see a woman, reluctantly telling her daughter about the ugliness this world can have, and the unfair truth that will follow her the rest of her life. I also see another image, not of sadness but of rage. Of billions of women holding up signs that read, “me too” and are getting ready to go to war. They no longer want to sit quietly on couches with their friends, saying things like “yeah it sucks, but this is the world we live in”. They no longer want their hearts to break as they hear about the first time their daughter gets her ass grabbed by a boy at school, or men yell at her from a car and terrify her. Those women, standing strong together in anger, in outrage, in solidarity? That is the image I see, and that is what is happening.

~SR

[i] Still technically sexual assault, btw.

[ii] As well as many people who do not identify as women.

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