Two words said it all.
Those two small words broke the silence, shame and secrecy for countless women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted.
It showed up on my Facebook feed, so I copied it and confirmed, yes, it happened to me, too.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem and how problematic it is for more than 50 percent of the population.”
And when I say me too, I mean me too.”
Then my heart broke as dozens of women I knew shared it and confirmed, #MeToo. Friends. Co-workers. Nieces. Sisters. Cousins.
CBS News reported the results: “The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours, according to Twitter. On Facebook, there were more than 12 million posts, comments, and reactions in less than 24 hours, by 4.7 million users around the world, according to the company. In the U.S., Facebook said 45 percent of users have had friends who posted ‘me too.’”
And that doesn’t include those unwilling to speak up.
#MeToo became a movement after Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to ask women to tweet #MeToo if they had been sexually assaulted or harassed.
The news of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual assaults set off a chain reaction, with these actresses on that chain: Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lupita Nyong’o and Rosanna Arquette.
Those women empowered us to say, “Me, too,” although most women didn’t share the details. Why? Too private. Too painful. Too powerful.
Or because it happened so many times. Pick one.
Like the time I was alone in a park as a teenager and a stranger took my arm and tried to drag me away, but I broke free and ran faster than him.
Or the time I was on my first trip to the beach and a stranger grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go until I screamed for help.
Or the time I was interviewing a politician in Lorain and he gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek.
Or the time a dentist set his tools on my chest – no, my breasts – while he worked on my teeth and it felt creepy, but who can speak up to a man on the other end of a drill?
Or the times one editor in the newsroom always looked at my chest – no, my breasts – instead of my eyes whenever he spoke to me.
Or the time I was sitting in my tiny orange Ford Fiesta near a college when three big frat boys lifted up my car as a joke – with me in it.
Or the time I was in line at a Browns game to buy a drink when a stranger’s hand grabbed my crotch.
Or the time the football player in high school wouldn’t stop even though I begged and pleaded.
Or the time the basketball player in college wouldn’t stop even though I begged and pleaded.
Why don’t we speak up?
Sometimes we do and no one believes us. Sometimes we do and we get threatened. Sometimes it happens so often we simply lose the ability to speak.
Sometimes you feel it’s just what you have to endure as a woman, and why wouldn’t you, when serial sexual assaults become the norm for guys like Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump, who somehow got elected president even though he once said, “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p---y.”
And before any of you dash off an angry letter to the editor claiming I’m attacking your president, answer this: Would you want your wife, sister, daughter, niece or granddaughter grabbed by him?
The next generation gives me hope. One of my nieces in grad school posted this on Facebook, right after she wrote, “MeToo.”
“I challenge you to find a woman who hasn’t. But something I’ve also done: say nothing when the coworker/classmate/friend/whatever says or does something that upholds the very things that make harassment possible.”
“It’s so easy to just sit awkwardly, brush it off, or say ‘it’s just how it is,’ but it doesn’t have to be. Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and it should be treated as such. And I, for one, am going to try to do just that. It can’t just be the voices of victims, because they are so often ignored. If you haven’t experienced this, I am so glad. But you have to step it up. Dare I say it: with great power comes great responsibility.”
Who has that power?
All of us.
Yes, guys, that means you, too
Connect with Regina on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans.