I never felt comfortable posting the hashtag. I've been lucky in that I've only experienced the mildest of street harassment, and I felt like I would be taking away from survivors' accounts of "real" abuse. But the more I saw countless friends and family post the hashtag, some expressing the same sentiments as mine, the more I saw just how prevalent harassment and abuse against women are, and that ALL experiences of it, from the most mild to the most heinous, are part of the same toxic system.
#MeToo also had me reflecting on experiences that I had just dismissed as "normal" before. The two that stand out to me were both incidents of being hit on by drunk men. One was on a train on the way back from NYC. I had walked through several jam-packed cars to FINALLY find an open seat...and when the man sitting next to me started talking to me, I discovered why that seat had remained open. The second was when a friend and I went to see her cousin's band perform outside of Ocean City. Both times I felt uncomfortable, but also mildly amused and even a bit flattered...because well, when you have low self-esteem you take any attention you get.
But though I brushed it aside, both times I was obviously uncomfortable enough to attract the notice of other people, and I am grateful for those people, both men and women, for checking to see if I was okay.
Unwanted attention is just that, unwanted. Harassment is not flattering. And while these experiences are obviously MUCH milder than the allegations of assault that have come to light recently, they shouldn't be normalized. I shouldn't have to live in a world in which this is just par for the course for "yes, all women" or one in which I have to adjust my behavior to "protect myself" enough to merely operate in this world.
As stated above, I am grateful for the people who have the decency and courage to speak up when they witness ANY level of harassment. And I am grateful to have many wonderful men in my life who treat women with basic human dignity. Men aren't the problem. The patriarchy is. And as the allegations against Kevin Spacey have shown, not only women are victims. "Patriarchy" is more about the powerful exploiting and abusing the less powerful...who yes, often are women, but not always.
But there is good in all of this coming to light. It reminds me of what a friend was saying after Charlottesville...whether the disease is racism or misogyny and abuse, you don't treat a disease that remains dormant. Maybe now we'll finally start treating our societal sickness, not just in Hollywood, and not just in politics, but everywhere.