Call me jaded, if you will, but as soon as #MeToo began to spread across my social media I simply rolled my eyes.
It felt like another worthless social media exercise; a feminist bandwagon we all jump on and then slowly but surely abandon. Remember #yesallwomen?
It did, however, trigger some deep thought in me…
At first, I couldn’t be bothered to say it. Then as close friends and family decided to do so the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable. I am not the first to write this.I felt guilt for not joining them, but I couldn’t bring myself to even type it out because I know, you know and guess what, he knows.
It isn’t simply commonplace it is normal, from a very young age.
I remember walking home in my school uniform, aged 14, and a man beeping at me from his estate car with a baby on board sign inside. I suppose he didn’t have a daughter because we all know how having a daughter miraculously educates men on women’s worth.
Another early memory is a parent’s friend, a man, deciding to push me forward and spank me hard as if punishing me for, as a teenager without malice, cracking a joke at his expense. He did it when we were alone in the kitchen and it felt disgusting, but I never told anybody.
These are my earliest memories. Perhaps there were instances throughout my childhood that I was too young to fully understand, perhaps not. Either way, it has been a constant barrage throughout my daily life ever since.
What stands out to me when I look back on all those memories that I don’t remember being surprised at any of it, even from the offset.
Who taught me to accept it all?
Everyone and everything I suppose. Adults, older children and the bombardment of gender expectations and ethical norms enforced across the media.
The result of this acceptance means we say it off-hand throughout our lives and that’s why, as I said, I know, you know and he knows. But does he know the prevalence?
What #MeToo fails to highlight is how constantly we endure harassment and assault.
So now, another thing I’m not the first to write – now what?
Theories on how to proceed have proved overcomplicated or equally insignificant, including naming names and compiling lists. Emerging in the last 24 hours is #HimThough and #IDidThat.
#HimThough calls on men to take responsibility, to stand up and speak out, because the war cannot be won by woman alone and it shouldn’t be our fight alone.
This is true, of course, but millions of #HimThough would still feel fruitless.
#IDidThat took me a little by surprise. It is calling on men to admit to sexually harassing or assaulting women and own up to their actions. Much more powerful because, although men know it happens to all of us, they undoubtedly have higher expectations of those around them than they should and this would at least be eye opening to most.
Let that pass and again I will ask, now what?
Journalists before me have referred to momentum across social channels or in the media as the smelling of gas or smoke.
Men and the mainstream get a whiff of the issue, the gas leak or the fire, and it is shouted about but not put out.
I know that every single woman I cross paths with has been assaulted or harassed and I don’t believe any viral hashtag will bring this to a halt. It may temporarily repair the situation, but like a few buckets of water in a burning room, the fire will rage on.
What we need to highlight is the repetitiveness of it all that we simply tolerate. What we need to show is that it will not be accepted anymore.
I’ve thought a lot about my earliest memories and my immediate decision to shake it off.
We must, of course, continue our battle against sexism in the media and our war for proper representation across all industries, but we must also continue to speak up in daily situations that we have historically brushed off.
I know this isn’t easy, the burden falls on individuals.
But I wonder what I witnessed growing up with a mother and two older sisters, what harassment they experienced and in what ways they shrugged it off, that might have set a precedent ideology that it should be ignored.
We cannot depend on #MeToo making change, but we can and should depend on each other to change.
Parents and teachers need to educate differently, women need to continue to speak out and continue to show support, and, ultimately, we need to continue to demand change.
Eventually – for it will take time – our demands will flourish into a change in what men deem acceptable, in the way police treat victims, in the government’s priorities and in the confidence and strength that women have to speak out, fight back, and prosecute.
Now I can see my initial hesitation and distaste leads me to hypocrisy. I am telling others to do something I chose not to do.
My problem lies with online activism so yes, #MeToo, but ladies we have to take it offline.
Share your thoughts in the comments.