December 5, 2017

Me Too 

By now, you've heard about the #metoo movement. Even if you aren't on Facebook. Even if you don't have a Twitter account. Even if you don't watch television or read newspapers or magazines, you must have heard about #metoo. In fact, you may have heard so much that you are getting sick and tired of the whole thing. There's the danger.  We are so inundated with bad news that we just want it to end. We want to cover our eyes and our ears and hum a happy tune. Resist the urge.

When I saw the Facebook post "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 I looked at all the friends and acquaintences, women and men, who responded "me too", I was shocked. So many stories. So many ways in which people were hurt, were damaged. The little girl I knew in school who was a victim of incest, whose mother abandonned her and her sisters, leaving them with the father who was abusing them. My sorority sister who has suffered a lifetime of PTSD after being sexually abused by her brother. Her family was upset that she was "tearing them apart" when she finally brought up the subject as an adult. Her brother said "Oh, sorry".  Another was raped outside of Suzzalo Library on the University of Washington campus, and then, years later, she was attacked in the parking lot of the Museum of History and Industry. She suffered about 40 cuts to her face, neck, and chest. So many others. Some experiences were less horrific but still so wrong. Being groped on the bus, bosses making inappropriate comments, being propositioned while walking with a friend for Heaven's sake. Well, yeah, that happened to me when I was 17, and I thought it was pretty funny that this man kept trying to convince me to "faire amour dans le foret" (we were in France). But it could have been quite nasty with a different man. Did he really think I would say yes? I thought about other experiences I've had, ones that angered me, others that just made me roll my eyes and think "What a jerk!"

I've been lucky compared to so many others, but no one should put up with these things. No one should excuse them. Boys will be boys? Locker room talk? If I were a man, I'd be pretty insulted. Most men I know like and respect women. I hope that they speak up when other men make demeaning comments about women. The problem doesn't rest solely with men. What about the mothers who tell their daughters they are making up stories? What about the mothers who blame the fact that their sons raped a girl on the victim? What about the women who buy into the myth that women who are raped are "asking for it"?

I am glad that so many people feel they can speak out about what has happened to them. Holding secrets for a lifetime only causes more damage, but even now, victims are attacked as liars, attention seekers, crazy, unreliable, vengeful. The problem is that there are some liars and attention seekers. In 1955, 14 year old Emmett Till was brutally murdered. His crime? He whistled at a white woman. Only he didn't. Recently, the woman who accused him admitted that she made it up. (Read a new book in the Library The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson.) Nothing is simple, but, as a society, we can't go back to secrets and cover-ups.

What happens next? Here is an exerpt from an article by  Jessi Hempell in Wired magazine:

"On its surface, #MeToo has the makings of an earnest and effective social movement. It’s galvanizing women and trans people everywhere to speak out about harassment and abuse. It’s causing everyone to weigh in on systemic sexism in our culture. In truth, however, #MeToo is a too-perfect meme. It harnesses social media’s mechanisms to drive users (that’s you and me) into escalating states of outrage while exhausting us to the point where we cannot meaningfully act.....And before any of us can muster the focus to take action, we will certainly be confronted by the next outrage-inspiring meme—another Trump comment; another vicious act of nature in a heavily populated place; another violent atrocity.

It’s possible for #MeToo to rise from a meme into a social movement. There’s a chance the stories accruing in my feed can begin to transform our culture into one where every woman can say without fear—and with certainty that she will both be believed and received in good faith—“me too.” But for that to happen, we must put down our devices and talk to one another." 

And here are more books which touch on this (touchy) subject:

Half the sky : turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide /Kristof, Nicholas D.   362.83 KRI

A call to action : women, religion, violence, and power /Carter, Jimmy   323.34 CAR

Men explain things to me /Solnit, Rebecca   305.42 SOL

Violence against women in contemporary world religion: roots and cures/Maguire, Daniel C.   200.82 MAG

-Suzanne Sanderson, Plymouth Librarian



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