A lot of us read the #metoo post and automatically said YES, let’s talk. It’s still early days for it so I have no idea how it will all play out on social media but yesterday I saw a woman I know post that she wished people would stop posting #metoo and cited a screenshot of another woman’s post who said ‘victims do not owe anyone their story’ which is totally fair, but it made me realize that they’d completely missed the point as I saw it.
Every conversation that is started by those posts makes a difference, which is ironic since their posts about not posting are what got me writing this. So, I guess thank you?...
#metoo in my view is not about standing on a stage screaming about injustice, or blaming men and pointing angry fingers, to me #metoo is supposed to bring awareness to the number of women who are simply and honestly saying yes this has happened to me.
I think we get caught up in the fact that if someone hasn’t been physically harmed, nothing ‘that bad’ has happened. This is about the fact that we have at the very least felt very uncomfortable solely because of our gender in situations where we shouldn’t have been.
I’m so proud of the women sharing some of their stories on social media, that takes guts, and I fully respect anyone who doesn’t, but I personally think it’s so important to post #metoo. Despite some of the posts I’ve seen about this being “just like changing your profile picture to include a flag on it in empathy”. This is not that. This is personal and real and honest. The hardest part is explaining that to both men and women (it’s not just men who are oblivious). The best example I have of this was a ladies trip a couple of years ago to the mountains with 8 of us. 1 of the ladies we didn’t know well was shocked when it came up in conversation someone said they had been sexually harassed by a co-worker. She stated that that had never happened to her or to anyone she knew. We all sat there silently for a minute almost dumbfounded at that statement. It then led to an incredible conversation with all of us citing incidence where our gender played the role in unwanted sexual comments or advances in all different ways both at work and in our regular lives and she then said “OMG I had never even thought about it that way, that’s happened to me a lot”.
Therein lies the issue. It is normalized in our society. We grow up learning that “oh he’s just teasing you, or oh he’s just kidding around, or don’t let it bother you, he doesn’t really mean it” or some other variation. When we don’t talk about it, we don’t bring awareness to any of it and when we aren’t aware, it keeps happening. Not being aware, and not being affected are two totally separate things. We are all undoubtedly affected by this.
I believe there are a silent majority of women out there who have experienced this and who want change for ourselves and for the next generation, but who also don’t believe that getting angry will solve anything. I think #metoo is a brilliant way for us to acknowledge the prevalence in our society. Talking about it is where it starts. This will no doubt be discussed among women. We love to band together and support each other, but I think a really important piece is to talk to the men in our lives about what #metoo means for you personally. Even if it’s just one conversation with one male.
The men in our lives need to start understanding what we are talking about. Again, I need to stress that this isn’t a blame game or pointing fingers but I hope it opens the conversation where they can start to hear our stories and understand what its like to have your day ubruptly disturbed by someone whistling at you in a grocery store parking lot when you’re running in for milk, or the uncomfortable feeling you get when you know someone is staring at your backside while you are trying to deliver a professional presentation, or the fact that the big boss of a project has whispered to ask you what colour of underwear you’re wearing when you’re putting on your boots at an industrial site and when you reply “none of your business” the knee jerk reaction is “wow, bitchy much? I was only teasing”.
The stories go on and on and it’s never an ‘oh that happened to me once’ story, it happens to this day, all the time, and there’s where I think the conversation needs to start. There is a perception out there that it’s just a few bad dudes, a couple of bad eggs and that they are the ones who are doing this. Nope. Unless those few bad dudes are working overtime to be everywhere we all go on a regular basis, it’s society, it’s what’s still socially acceptable. Until we start to talk about specifics and how they makes us feel, most guys around us won’t even know how they have participated in it, or have not said anything to discourage it when they’ve seen it happening around them which is the same thing in terms of a solution moving forward.
I left a corporate sales role working in a predominantly male industry not because I couldn’t ‘handle it’ but because it sucked the life out of me every day when I had to put up with way more than sales stress and I know I am not alone. This is a conversation starter with hope that we can create real change in the future.