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Why it’s okay not to say #metoo, even if #youtoo

Nish Gorczyca, Contributor

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This week, I stared at my Facebook newsfeed as friend after friend posted #metoo, sometimes by itself and sometimes with increasingly depressing stories of abuse, harassment, and assault. The movement gained so much traction on social media in an effort to show how widespread the issue of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse is among women. I commend everyone who was brave enough to share their stories, and maybe someday, I’ll be able to talk about mine, too.

Although raising awareness of sexual harassment and assault is definitely important to me, I have several reservations about this particular movement. Mainly, that, as female victims, we don’t owe it to men to explain our stories. We shouldn’t have to blast our potentially traumatic experiences all over the Internet to be respected as the human beings that we are, rather than just as bodies to be used. And, as we all know, not all sexual assaults are committed by men; it’s just a fact that a disproportionate amount of women are sexually assaulted by men.

“We shouldn’t have to blast our potentially traumatic experiences all over the Internet to be respected as the human beings that we are.””

The other post that has been circulating social media put it so well: That just because a woman hasn’t posted #metoo, doesn’t mean she hasn’t experienced sexual assault or harassment. Personally, I don’t want to share my stories with everyone I know and I don’t want to worry my family, but I also feel guilty for not doing so, because it might help others come forward. Caught in the middle is a difficult place to be, and I can only imagine what those with stories far more traumatic than mine are feeling.

The main reason that I believe that we don’t need to personally share our stories is that we have been doing this for years now, and nothing ever changes. How many more articles, think pieces, listicles, social videos, news stories, press releases, hashtags and podcasts do we need to put out on the Internet to make our point? If you are a human and connected to the Internet, there is no excuse for not being aware of the severity of the problem at hand. It’s not up to us to keep trying to educate men about sexual violence against women; we’ve broadcasted so much content already and all they have to do is read and understand it. We can only do so much, but even the best teacher can’t learn the material for the student.

This is absolutely not to say that they don’t care. I’m certain most men (and women, because obviously not all rape and harassment is done by men) care very much about the challenges faced by too many women. However, even during these movements, they stay largely silent. Among the dozens and dozens of #metoo posts I saw from my female friends, I saw exactly one male friend publicly calling himself out for things that he’s done and enumerating exactly how and what he’s going to do better in the future. That’s the level of self-awareness that we need from everyone.

And, finally, we are once again putting the heavy lifting on the victims of assault and harassment. Do you know how difficult it is to come forward about these things? I’ll be the first to admit that my experiences are nowhere near what a lot of women experience; however, I still don’t like to talk about them, even with my closest friends. We are putting the victims under a microscope, potentially exposing them to online trolls that could invalidate their experiences and let the assailants off easy. It’s a slippery slope to the victim blaming that is so prevalent in our society today.

In the end, there’s no magic number of women who need to come forward with their stories that will change the status quo. I’m amazed and humbled at everyone who has, and it really just shows me how blessed I am to be constantly surrounded by some incredibly intelligent, caring, and strong-as-hell women. If you feel like you want to share your story, I’m glad you have a platform to do so. Sometimes it’s great to get it off your chest. For those of us who struggle with sharing those parts of ourselves, we don’t need to feel obligated to do so. It’s not up to us to make them understand—we’ve done our part. Now it’s time to let them do theirs.

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Why it’s okay not to say #metoo, even if #youtoo