Rebekah Hawkins, Associate Editor

Two words.

Two very small words. Together they form a thought meant to give power to anyone who has been harassed or assaulted.

In the wake of the sexual assault and harassment allegations brought on film producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter and asked for anyone, women or men, who have ever been assaulted or harassed to use the hashtag me too to show support and to draw awareness to just how widespread the problem is.

However, the phrase “Me, too” actually started with activist Tarana Burke who started it as a way to show support after being unable to help a young girl that shared horror stories of her sexual assaults at the hands of her stepfather while at a camp that Burke was a counselor at. The phrase has blown up on social media with some people going so far as to share their stories of assault, rape, molestation and harassment. Others are content to just share the phrase so that others know they too have experienced it in some form.

I haven’t posted the phrase on any social media, although I love the idea behind it and think it’s important. As a woman, of course I’ve experienced harassment, although up until a few weeks ago I brushed most of it off as harmless enough because I’ve only ever felt threatened by a man a few times. I have had my fair share of catcalling. Men calling me attractive or pretty, a man watching me round a corner and saying, “Damn you’re sexy.” Things like that.

But I watched a video last week that showed women being catcalled as they walked down the street minding their own business. The women in the videos then showed the film to their boyfriends or husbands or fathers or sons. All the men were angry and disgusted, although in my mind the catcalling the women experienced in the videos was the same as what I, and I’m sure other women, have experienced as well.

I never considered it to really be catcalling, which begs the question: Am I just numb to it? Are we all just numb to it?

I’ve had conversations with my female friends who also talk about being catcalled by men. Most of them agree that the simple act of telling us that we’re pretty, or following us around talking to us, or telling us that we’re beautiful, asking if we have boyfriends or asking if we want boyfriends doesn’t really bother us. It’s when they get aggressive that it bothers us.

But why is it just when they’re aggressive? Why is it that we just have to put up with it even when it’s just annoying? Why do men feel like it’s okay to come up to a random woman and comment on her appearance or ask her if she’s in a relationship completely unsolicited? As women are we just trained that this is how it’s going to be and we need to get used to it?

I’m guessing that’s how I thought it was too. But it isn’t okay, it isn’t just how it is. Those women that were sexually assaulted or harassed by Weinstein thought that it was “just how it is” too. That’s why it took them so long to come forward. Other women who are victims are taught that it’s “just how it is” and they never speak. But what happens when the annoying men become the aggressive men? What happens then?

It’s not much, but me too.

 

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