In the last twenty-four hours, social media worldwide has been flooded with one post. It asks women to write “Me too” if they have ever been sexually assaulted or harassed.
I’ll be honest with you – the first post I saw this in, I hesitated a moment before typing it in myself. But by day’s end, I had seen those words posted by every single woman I know, and I know a lot of women.
At first I felt stunned, and then, heartbroken, because our collective silence not only let this culture continue to exist and thrive, but it somehow made each one of us feel that we were to blame, we were powerless to do anything about it, and that the shame of it was ours alone to bear.
It doesn’t matter that none of those things are true. Somewhere we got the message that our silence was mandatory. So we were each left to figure out how to deal with it in our workplaces and how to reconcile it within our souls.
And it’s no wonder we feel that way. The president has himself said, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
So why should we be surprised when his son says, “If you can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today, you don’t belong in the work force.”
Enter Woody Allen, that pillar of appropriate sexual conduct, chiming in, “You also don’t want it to lead to a witch-hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right, either.”
Oh, where to begin. Yes, Woody, you should be worried…if you’ve done something wrong. And I think we can all (wink, wink) agree that marrying your own child, adopted or not, is, if not illegal, at the very least morally repugnant. So I can understand why you’d be sweating right about now.
Weinstein and Allen aside, though, what do we, as women, do to change this culture? How, when men are traditionally the ones in positions of power in the workplace and in government, do we affect change?
The truth is we need our jobs, and most of us fear retaliation if we speak up. And we don’t want to be labeled “troublemakers” and risk being ostracized by future employers, either.
So what do we do?
I think there is safety in numbers. I think that as long as we are willing to remain silent, we are complicit. I would not have said that before the Harvey Weinstein exposure, but I’m saying it now, because this is a pivotal moment, and if we retreat and go back into hiding in our silence, then this not only doesn’t go away, it will get worse.
These are tumultuous times we are living in, but if there is any good whatsoever to be found in them, it is in the exposure of the underbelly of this country in every way and on every level.
This is a moment that gives us the opportunity to say, “Enough is enough.” But it only does that when we get involved, take a stand, find our voices and have the courage to be the ones to change things.
If we want to see systemic change, then we, meaning women, would do better to raise daughters who stand up to men, instead of fear them, and even more importantly, to raise sons who treat women with respect. Behavior is learned, not inherited.
We would do better to run for office on every level, because legislation needs to change in order for discrimination to stop. It would be great if that weren’t the case, but historically speaking, justice has not arrived voluntarily. And there is no way we gain the respect of our male counterparts without first having enough respect for ourselves to come out of hiding.
It is not man-bashing to want to go to work and not be made to feel like our gender inherently puts us in harm’s way. It is basic human decency, and men should want that as much as women.
This is not a problem that will go away overnight, but this is a defining moment, and it is one that can serve to change things for the better.
So take a good look around. You are not alone. It is time for every single one of us who has been on the receiving end of this to not only say, “Me, too,” but to add, “And it stops now.”