It’s been roughly a year since #MeToo erupted and the world got a glimpse into the reality of what life is like for a woman. Many celebrities and public figures started by simply sharing #MeToo, but others started to share more. Details, stories, encounters, emotions. Then women everywhere started sharing #MeToo. Your aunt, your old Sunday school teacher, your neighbor, your co-worker, maybe even your ex. They all started sharing their stories. And suddenly this wasn’t just some Hollywood publicity stunt, this was a real-world-right-in-your-face issue.
And to a lot of men, this was a jarring revelation. How could someone be sexually harassing my old college best friend? Could this really be about more than just drunk and crazy men on the street screaming at strangers? To most women, this information was just a normal Tuesday. Because women already knew the reality. We already knew that sexual harassment and assault is part of our daily lives. And that it comes from the men in our daily lives. It was just men who were shocked.
A lot of men in the public eye have fallen from grace and had to go into hiding (though not to jail) and some have been uglier than others. But not a lot of men in our day to day lives have had to face any consequences. Most likely the men in our daily lives haven’t even change anything about their day to day actions.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last year. Despite all of the women in my life who shared their #MeToo moments, not one named names. Not even me. Despite sharing our truth, we felt this urge to protect the men who made us feel unsafe. Perhaps because we understand the harsh reality that no matter how calm, collected, eloquent, and convicted we are, we will not be believed. Perhaps it’s because we fear further danger by escalating the truth too much. Or perhaps it’s because we have been conditioned our entire lives not to embarrass men.
But also, none of these guys stepped forward. Not one man who I called out (anonymously) when I shared my story attempted to apologize to me. All were friends. All could and most likely did see my post. All would have recognized themselves in the story. But not one tried to make it right. And yet I still protect them.
Justice wasn’t the point of #Metoo. Tearing men down wasn’t the point of sharing our stories. The point was to show just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault is. That it happens every day to every woman. That it is a problem that needs to be address, and change must happen.
There are plenty of men who were shocked by the information and shared #IBelieveHer type things. But there are also plenty of men who are mostly concerned with how this past year will affect them. Men who are worried their “good intentions” will be misunderstood. Men who fear women will confuse flirting with sexual harassment and they will have to face unfair consequences (even though none of them have faced any consequences). But there are still no men taking responsibility. All of the change is either unneeded or some other man’s responsibility to make happen.
What if, and stay with me here, men started sharing #ItWasMe? What if men started sharing their stories owning their mistakes, taking responsibility for their actions, and continuing the conversation. I know it’s crazy. But what if the next step of this story is men owning up to their actions.
-I used alcohol as an excuse to grope my friend;
-I used alcohol as an excuse to ignore boundaries;
-I coerced my partner into sex;
-I wouldn’t take no for an answer;
-I was only interested in a relationship with women if it turned sexual; or
-I considered being Friendzoned an insult;
-I laughed at stories about assault rather than calling people out;
-I knew things were happening and didn’t report;
-I refused to get help when I realized I had a problem;
-I wasn’t an ally when I was needed;
-I could have done more, but I didn’t.
And of course, I know why this won’t happen. It’s an admission of guilt. It could lead to consequences. Right now, we live in a world where men can downplay all of their actions, they can gaslight all of their victims, and spend their days doing what they want to who they want and nothing bad really happens to them.
And god forbid a man be confronted with his past, attempt to be held accountable, face his accuser, he can cry and be as hysterical as he wants denying his responsibility, and still rise to power of Supreme Court Justice, or even President of the United States. So there really is no incentive to take responsibility, to apologize, or make right. And little boys everywhere learn that nothing happens when you assault women.