Tuesday, 31 October 2017
I was offline for the month of october and when i logged on to facebook this weekend, my wall was mostly "meToo". Upon closer examination it appeared to be my female friends who had unanimously decided to state their agreement. Such waves are usually broken by a "you missed so-and-sos birthday" message and a few newspaper articles, but on this day, the first two pages were exclusively meToo.
Now, i'm sure you know exactly of what i speak: the harvey weinstein-provoked wave of women opening-up on social media about sexual abuse and misconduct...
What surprised me most was not, as perhaps it should have been, the percentage of women coming forward to say they have been treated inappropriately, but the discrepancy between the online conversation and real-life conversation as i have experienced it. The earliest meToo that i could see was posted on october 16th. Between then and the day i was sat reading it, october 28th, a week and a half had passed in which i, living offline but among people, heard not a single word spoken about it. With the scope of the meToo movement, a great big shift in human-conscience should be happening! Is it?
That evening i asked a few people about it - the female reactions were inviting me for dinner and coffee to talk about their situations and how we can best act / react / change in the future - invitations that i will be accepting in due course... the male reactions were polarised between "it's a terrible world" and "its great that this is happening!", the latter reaction, i have been considering since - it's true, but what exactly? What is happening? This seems barely to be a dialogue - the issue of how we treat our fellow-humans has just been spread out clearly in front of us all. This should be talked about and addressed in that sort of face-to-face way that forces you to look in someones eyes and really understand.
Here i should pause to reiterate that i don't have a mobile-phone connected to the internet and am aware that most people do. I realise that the chatter on social media may supplement conversation in our now-time, and perhaps everyone else actually has been talking, listening and understanding. Perhaps the change is happening and i am going to catch up a bit late!
I read, as i'm sure you have also, all sorts of accounts from horrific situations of sexual abuse that you would wish on no person to the sort of situation where a hand rests where it shouldn't or a gender-specific slur is uttered when a neutral phrase would have been more appropriate or, quite simply, a stare lingers so long that it feels creepy and makes you avoid walking through the park on the way home... In public... In private... At work... At home... When stories of situations were brushed off as unimportant or as the sort of thing that women deal with every day... Well, i'm sure we can all agree that nobody should have to deal with this shit every day - nobody should ever feel uncomfortable and unsafe to call it out!
The more stories i read; the more i consider situations i have found myself in: both where i have felt that silent, recoiling discomfort, and also in close- and would-be-close- relationships where i may have caused discomfort to another, and while i have never forced myself on anybody and feel that i have never been abusive (physically, emotionally or psychologically), i feel i may be guilty of having acted inappropriately on occasion - continuing to try to convince such-n-such even though i knew they were not interested... There should be no ambiguous line here: inappropriate is wrong, and i just feel shitty that i may have caused someone to feel this way - i ask and expect to be called out, if i find myself there (though would hope not to).
Furthermore, i don't feel that we can, or should, isolate this conversation to men preying upon women. Having felt the discomfort described in some of the posts myself, i am aware of such behaviours and attitudes being everywhere. I imagine that most people of any gender have experienced this and can empathise which, in itself, is reason enough that inappropriate or abusive behaviour can not endure. We must constantly call out such behaviours, words and attitudes, whether directed at ourselves or somebody else, and stop situations before they become abusive, or even discomforting. I believe that most people are fundamentally good, and if we all identify and call out these things, it will become habit for each of us to stop in our tracks before mistreating or disrespecting people.