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Last week, we saw the emergence of a movement.
Famous actress Alyssa Milano (whom I know best for her role on the TV sitcom Who's The Boss?) recently started a movement that encourages women to speak out about sexual harassment.
The movement began when many female actors came forward and spoke of harassment they had experienced from Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. When this began happening, Milano had the idea that every woman who had experienced sexual harassment or assault should reply to her tweet, or make a status that said "Me Too."
"Me Too" was very quickly all over everyone's feed on all forms of social media. This began to indicate to many people that their friends, family members, loved ones, and acquaintances were all victims of sexual harassment. It left me wondering, do I deserve to say "me too?"
I don't have a story.
I know people who have stories, but I'm not one of them. I haven't been taken advantage of, and for that, I am so thankful. That being said, I will fight fiercely for those who have had these awful experiences. Myself, I felt as if I hadn't had any experiences deserving of the words "Me Too."
A few days after I had made a post declaring that I would forever fight for those who said "Me Too," I was talking with a friend of mine, discussing experiences we had once had with men being inappropriate. I described a time when I was walking home with a group of friends and a new acquaintance. When I arrived home, I hugged my friends goodbye, and decided to give my new acquaintance a hug as well. When I did, he hugged me back at first, and then his hands flew downward and grabbed my ass.
"You should have expected that!" he declared while laughing. I ran inside and tried to shake the experience off. I was fifteen-years-old.
"...I had brushed off things that were considered sexual harassment."
Describing this experience made me think of all the other times when I had brushed off things that were considered sexual harassment. I had once been dancing at the club with my friends and had my ass grabbed by a stranger. At fourteen, I crossed a street and got catcalled by a group of men in a car. I once had a man follow me from a bus stop at seventeen-years-old to tell me I was cute and ask if I was dating anyone. I had a man walk terribly close to me after a shift at work and ask if I had a boyfriend while I was trying to catch a bus home. I've gotten numerous messages on Instagram from strange men saying that they want to have sex with me, or that I have a "nice, big ass." A boy in my class in seventh grade made fun of my friend for being "flat," i.e. flat chested, but then eyed me up and down and said, "but you don't have a problem with that."
None of this is okay, but I brush it off or laugh at it as if it is.
The truth is, most women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment, and 99 percent of the time, we let it go as if this is what normal should be. This is what has become "normal" to us.
"...we are taught to think of all of these things as normal."
As we grow up, women are conditioned to normalize sexual harassment. We are taught to smile and ignore when we are catcalled, or even worse, take it as a "compliment." We are taught to walk with our keys in between our fingers when we walk home at night. We are taught not to go walking alone in secluded areas at night. We are taught to cover up our bodies so men won't be too attracted to us. We are taught that we are to blame when we are harassed, assaulted, or raped. We are taught that we aren't allowed to drink too much when we go out, because someone might take advantage of us. And the worst part of it all: we are taught to think of all of these things as normal.
All of those things being said, I am still left wondering, have I had a bad enough experience to say "Me Too?" When you compare these little things to the experiences that some of my friends have had, they almost seem insignificant.
One of my best friends was once taken to a guy's house where there was no cell-phone service and she was raped despite the fact that she told him that she wasn't interested. One of my other friends was touched inappropriately by her older male cousin when she was a little girl. The brother of a friend of mine is a convicted sex offender because he sexually assaulted two teenage girls when he was in his twenties. A girl I graduated with was once attacked on a public walking trail at night.
All of these experiences are on another level of awful. That being said, it doesn't change the fact that I have been sexually harassed, and so have the majority of the women I know. We all experience sexual harassment on a regular basis and we brush it aside.
Just because we haven't all been assaulted doesn't mean that our experiences are invalid.
We all experience things that shape us as women and as people. We normalize sexual harassment, and for that we deserve to say "Me Too." We are scared to walk alone at night, and for that we deserve to say "Me Too." We cover up our bodies to make men in positions of authority more comfortable, and for that we deserve to say "Me Too."
We are women, and even if we haven't experienced the worst stuff ourselves, we have friends and family who have, and we have to scream "Me Too" from the rooftops for those who are too scared to say it. We have to scream "Me Too" to let men know that all of the little things that they do every day are not actually so "little."
All of these experiences, big or small, affect us. They scare us.
All women, no matter our background, deserve to say "Me Too."