A shocking trend recently flooded many forms of social media: #MeToo. The hashtag was constructed so people who have faced any type of sexual harassment or assault could not only share their own experiences, but also express the magnitude of the problem. According to Twitter, #MeToo appeared more than half a million times on that platform alone. Both men and women came forward by tweeting the popular hashtag, with many accompanied by personal stories of sexual harassment or abuse. While this was liberating to many and extremely difficult for some as they opened up for the first time about their encounters, there has been criticism of the movement.
Surprisingly, these disapprovals include judgements from people who have experienced sexual harassment themselves. As one user on LetsRun.com wrote, “It’s a joke for me to say, ‘Me too’ when my experience is limited to catcalls and such.” People argued that, because others have suffered far worse than catcalls, inappropriate stares or degrading comments, joining the #MeToo movement would degrade its efforts. Their viewpoints were backed by the notion that if someone has not encountered actual, physical violence, they really have nothing to complain about. This belief ultimately brought about the question another LetsRun user wondered: is the #MeToo campaign “watering down the stories that really deserve to be told?”
The answer to these curiosities is quite simply no.
No one story deserves to be told more than another. While many personal encounters of sexual harassment or assault may be more impactful or disturbing than others, that does not place them above someone else’s experience. Just because someone shared an incident that was kept to only harassment does not mean their story is any less valid or inexcusable than an instance that escalated to physicality. The idea that a situation only becomes a true problem once physical assault is reached is not only wrong, but extremely harmful as well. The view that sexual harassment or assault occurrences are a type of competition is revolting and flawed.
We must move beyond the idea that someone’s experience is only valid once it reaches a certain level of harmfulness in order to properly resolve the obvious problem of sexual harassment and assault. We must acknowledge that vulgar whistles, uncomfortable glances or undignified remarks are degrading and are as inexcusable as physical violence. Until we realize any form of harassment is wrong, it will continue to be a problem. Only once we accept this notion will we be able to combat it properly. If we hope to terminate sexual assaults, we must start at the initial phases, such as sexual harassment. By placing an emphasis on ending harassment, we block the beginning stages that often lead to physical attacks.
It is important we do not belittle those who have endured any milder form of harassment because it is still destructive and often results in further violence. An incident should not have to be extreme to still be recognized as wrong. Those participating in #MeToo were not, as proposed on RedState.com, out to cheapen “what is a very real struggle for women [and men] who have been truly victimized” in an attempt to relate. They were just relating.