#MeToo: a hashtag that took over the world in 2017. Thousands of individuals stepped forward to share their stories of the sexual harassment they’ve faced in both their professional and personal lives. Sharing these stories required not only courage and bravery, but also faith. Faith that the people around them would understand the situations they have faced. Faith that these attackers would be held accountable for actions that they had long believed they had gotten away with. Faith that the world was ready to step up and do something about it.
And step up they did.
Women all over the world took a stand and refused to stay quiet. To say the effect was beautiful would be putting it lightly. Justice was finally served and disgusting excuses for human beings finally got what had been coming to them for years. While I sat there and watched it all unfold through my Twitter feed, Instagram account, and Snap News stories, I (and I know almost all other teenage girls as well) felt a mixture of pride and disgust. Pride for the women who were fighting for what was right and for the strength females had been able to find in each other, but also disgust that any of this had happened in the first place.
When I was talking to other women in my life who are older than me, I also could hardly believe it when they said that by 16 (the age I am at right now) they had been sexually harassed numerous times – whether it be through cat-calls or through grabbing and groping by guys who saw nothing wrong with the fact that it wasn’t consensual. As I sat there and listened, I found myself extremely confused. I have never experienced anything even relatively close to this before. I have no stories of my own to throw into the mix, no memory to look back on that could relate to this scenario at all. I have literally no idea what it feels like to be sexually harassed.
I am very aware of the privileged life I have been born into, and I also know that I have been incredibly blessed with the cards I’ve been dealt in my life. However, I know I can’t chalk up my lack of personal understanding and inability to relate to just some good luck. So, I talked to other girls. I started conversations about what was going on around me, and I shared that I had never experienced anything like this before. That I was having a hard time relating my personal life to any of this, and much to my wonder, people agreed. While we all felt empathy and anger for the women who had faced issues like this in their life, we didn’t know the first thing about what that felt like, because we had yet to experience it. Those experiences our mothers went through when they were 16? We haven’t gone through anything like that.
As one little person, it’s easy to believe that what you say doesn’t impact the world. If you have experienced something like this, it could be simple to say that your words aren’t going to make a difference. But I’m right here, telling you that it does. Because, if women hadn’t stood up and shared what was going on, if they had just continued to stay silent, then I know there is a very good chance that my life and the lives of all the other girls around me would follow suit like the women before us. And, we would NOT be strangers to sexual harassment.
But, here we are in 2018 and change is finally rippling through our society. Kids are learning right from the start that these actions aren’t right, and that looking the other way is NOT okay. That doing nothing is just as big of (if not bigger) issue. Young girls and boys are being raised with the mindset that you don’t have to sit around and just take it anymore. They’re being taught to stand up for themselves and know that sexual harassment is not an accepted reality – it’s something that you speak up against and fight. Girls and boys are learning that we are done rolling over.
Earlier, I was talking about how the women who came forward had to have enormous amounts of faith. Well, as I look around me, I too have come across a sprinkle of faith. Faith in my generation and the generations that follow. While I know there is a lot more progress to be made, and many future obstacles to tackle, I have faith that together we can get through it and forge a reality where no human will have to say the words, “Me Too.”