As I recently watched my social media feeds fill up, with hundreds of #MeToo hashtags from women sharing their firsthand experience of sexual harassment or assault, I began to grieve.
I grieved for the sheer volume of the revelations, realizing they will still only barely scratch the surface; how many more women are too traumatized, too protective of their privacy, or simply not yet ready to make such personal declarations to an invisible assembly of relative strangers—many of them, the very kinds of men responsible for these wounds. I know how many more women are carrying these terrible stories around and do not want to tell them.
And that’s the thing: they shouldn’t have to.
No survivor of violence should be compelled to unearth their hidden scars in order to reach those responsible for them. Men, the onus should not be on women who have been harassed or assaulted, to expose themselves to further injury just to show us the scale and the depth of our own sickness. This is our responsibility. We should be the ones doing the soul excavation and the mirror-gazing, and we should be the ones now openly confessing our #MeToo’s, in these moments when the world is watching.
We should be the ones making ourselves vulnerable; the ones sharing with our circles of friends, loved ones, business associates, church friends, and social media acquaintances; how complicit we are in this vile epidemic.
This isn’t the time for each of us to broadcast our self-created good guy resumes, to defend our personal virtue, or to imagine why these are all some other guy’s stories—because that’s largely the point here: these are probably our stories.
The wounds of the #MeToo’s are likely ones we have been responsible for inflicting, if not in personal acts of aggression:
In the times we stood silently in the company of a group of catcalling men; too cowardly to speak in a woman’s defense.
In the way we’ve voraciously consumed pornography without a second thought of the deep humanity and the beautiful stories beneath the body parts.
In the times we pressured a woman to give more of herself than she felt comfortable giving, and how we justified ourselves after we had.
In the times we laughed along with a group of men speaking words that denied the intrinsic value of women.
In the times we used the Bible to justify our misogyny.
In the times we defended predatory bragging as simply “locker room talk.”
In the times we imagined our emotional proximity to a woman entitled us to physical liberties.
Guys, while we may not believe we have committed direct acts of violence against women (however given the statistics, this is quite likely), we have each participated in a culture of misogyny and sexism that continues to victimize and traumatize, to steal safety and generate fear, to deny humanity and to cultivate disrespect. We are fully complicit in these #MeToo stories, whether we have intentionally acted, contributed unknowingly, nurtured with our silence, multiplied with our laughter, our cosigned with our credit cards.
And in these days, we should not be expecting women to further make themselves vulnerable just to wake our consciences up and to call us to places of decency and accountability that we should already be aspiring to.
We should be the ones stepping from the shadows right now.
We should be the one laying our souls bare.
We should be risking the judgment of strangers.
We should be the ones demanding renovation.
We are the other side of the #MeToo stories.
We are the writers of these awful stories.
It’s time we owned this sickness.
It’s time we stopped it.
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