On social media, anyone can throw a thought out into the world and often find dozens, even hundreds of people who can relate. We can use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share our experiences and to connect with others who have had similar experiences. This happens to almost all of us every day, but it rarely happens on the same scale as the #MeToo hashtag which has been all over the internet this week.
For anyone who’s missed it, people (predominantly women) who are victims of sexual assault or harassment are currently being encouraged to share the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter or Facebook to demonstrate how widespread these crimes actually are. It’s a movement that only works if everyone takes part, and it worked — by Oct. 15, pretty much every third post in my news feed was about this.
I spent a while thinking about my own #MeToo post before making it. I almost posted criticizing the movement, because I felt pressured into it. I didn’t have a choice in my own sexual assaults, and now I didn’t have a choice in talking about them. Eventually, I decided that showing solidarity with other survivors was more important than my own difficulties discussing these issues, and I made a long post opening up about my past, and also mentioning that sexual harassment and assault aren’t just limited to men against women — anyone can be on either side.
Personally, I got a lot of support and was ultimately glad I made the post I did. But not everyone felt the same.
A day after making my own post, a friend reached out to me. He told me stories about when he was sexually assaulted, a long time ago, and then added that I was only the third person he’d ever told this to. He went on to say that he felt like he couldn’t make a #MeToo post because so many of his female friends had told him that only women should be using the hashtag. Even in a movement specifically designed to show the magnitude of a problem, people are still trying to keep others out.
Another friend of mine has had to temporarily leave Facebook because the constant posts are bringing up too many bad memories. Other people can’t post because they’re afraid of being accused of lying, shunned or even threatened. I know that if this was all happening a year ago, I definitely wouldn’t have been brave enough to speak up. People, mostly young women in liberal areas, are being applauded for their words, but we have no way of knowing how many people are still silent.
The #MeToo movement has shown some sexual assault survivors that they’re not alone, and made others feel more alone than ever.
Overall, is it worth it?
I think that depends on the impact it has. If enough men in positions of power, enough boys heading off to college for the first time, enough people in general who have ever been tempted to do anything sexual without consent — if enough of these people start rethinking their actions, then maybe it will all have been worth it.
But I worry that too many of these people will look at all the posts tagged #MeToo and think ‘not me.’