In Writing

A few days ago, Twitter erupted with the hashtag #metoo. It was meant to convey the sheer magnitude of the numbers of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed, in solidarity with Harvey Weinstein’s victims. Similar to #YesAllWomen last year. Like others before.

I didn’t post. Yes, I’ve grown up female in our society, and I know what it’s like to be a commodity in this world. I’ve been told to smile on the street, like my facial expression is a service I owe the world. I’ve been catcalled. Once at a nightclub a guy grabbed my forearm as I tried to make my way to the restroom (alone, against a code of mutual protection most women have learned to adopt, which I beat myself up about, later). He pulled me hard onto the dance floor, and started grinding on me, his sweat wetting my skin with a stranger’s moistness, overly familiar and horrible. It turned cold on me despite the bottled air of the place. When I extricated myself to continue on my way, he leaned in, towering over me, and yelled, “Why do you have to be such a bitch?” It was one of the deciding factors in me coming to the conclusion that it was time to stop clubbing. There it was, like so many times before and since, me making my world a little smaller in accommodation to male aggression and entitlement.

There was the fifty-something year-old boss at my first job who tried to get me to go out with him when I was eighteen.

There are other such tales, but you get the idea. Being female can come along with a certain loss of ownership in a patriarchy. It’s not about any individual woman, because we’re interchangeable, but of woman as collective possession: smile for me, dance with me, be sexually available to me. Refusal leads to petulance at best, and usually to far worse. So, yes, #metoo.

But I didn’t post on Twitter because I’m tired of posting, frankly. I’m tired of people acting shocked at the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. I’m tired of this course in Remedial Equality we’re collectively stuck in, like we just can’t seem to pass this class. We know. We’ve marched. We’ve said. It’s too late to pretend to not be on notice.

Men: will you start creating memes like #notonemore, as in: you won’t tolerate one more crude joke, one more reference to a woman’s shrillness? Will you create a culture of zero tolerance not just when we’re listening, but when we’re not? Will you stop trying to teach your daughters to be pleasant and accommodating? Will we start reporting rape statistics not in terms of victims, but of perpetrators? Will we start teaching our boys not to rape instead of our girls to avoid being victims of it? That’s the kind of #metoo I can get behind, the #metoo of responsibility instead of survival.

This is not painting all men with a broad brush. I know most guys are good. But I wonder if even the best ones know that every woman they’ve ever known has faced this in some way. I wonder if they understand the weight of every little stone placed on the pile of the others placed before. It’s ugly, so I understand the impulse to turn away from it. But if you’re female, that’s a luxury you can’t afford. So you grip your car keys between index and middle finger, fist clenched, as you walk to your car in the dark, the way you first heard about in your teen years. And you wonder why that sounded clever and not sad, this treating a potential attack like a given instead of an outrage.

Women have a right to be heard, and I support everyone who wants to tell her story. But I, for one, am ready for the tales of #NotMe, for the pledges of men.  I am done raising my hand to be counted. You know – or should know – what happens to us. The ball is in your court.

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