Freitag, 3. November 2017

About #metoo - How a little hashtag changed my view on sexual harassment

Were you as shocked as me, how many people - of course mostly females - posted #metoo?
This campaign actually started a huge process in my head and I decided this is worth more than a facebook post - esspecially because I heard similar things from a huge number of female friends and it's time to speak up and make this louder.

For those who have no facebook and haven't heard about the Me too campaign: It recently became famous in October 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to use the hashtag #metoo on social media. The aim was, to show how widespread and "normal" sexual harassment and abuse are for women these days. It was actually social activist Tarana Burke, who first used the term "me too" as a public statement but after Alyssa Milano accused her producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, she twittered the famous statement:

"If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

The hashtag went viral within minutes.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media were full of #metoos and the stories behind them. Girls and women talked about their experiences and feelings and even men started to spread the hashtag.

this is for us ladies
As usual, when I write about controversial topics, I want to point out that the following is a personal opinion. I write about my experiences and my conversations with others. About my thoughts on this topic and I am open for and happy about any conversation that gets started. This is what #metoo is all about. Starting a conversation. Ending the silence, making things visible. So feel free to join the conversation. But: This is a sensitive topic for many - please keep that in mind. If you feel like saying anything that would compromise someones feelings, or that could give someone the feeling that her (or his) experiences are not relevant - please don't. This whole campaign started to create a safe space for people and especially women to speak about what happened to them. Without judgement. And I think it's really important that we learn to listen to that. What did it do to that person, who speaks up? Even if it wouldn't have done the same to us. Maybe especially then.

So. What do I think about #metoo?
When I first saw it - and that is the whole thing that started to change - I thought: "What a nice campaign, I think that's important." But would I post it? No. Of course not. Because that would be offensive towards those, who had suffered from "real" sexual harassment. I mean - I didn't have any emotional scars - right...? 
But then I read so many #metoos and thought  "Well, we should make this bigger and support those, who really have suffered from it!"
And so I posted in my sometimes-social-activist-behavior:

"If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
Reading my Facebook feed and all those "me toos" that popped up made me realize that there doesn't seem to be one single woman (and I'm pretty sure men as well..) who hasn't experienced any kind of sexual harassment. Raising awareness for this is important - changing it is more important. Please do not let that happen around you. Stand up for your mother's, sisters, daughters as well as for you brothers, fathers and sons.

And then I read more. And I slowly started to realise.
A friend of mine wrote this:

Of course #metoo. I've always thought this was an obvious reality, but then I'm a woman and I talk to other women. For the small minority of people on my flist who aren't aware of this reality, of course.
(thanks for this, Lisa!)

This statement was the moment, when my mind started to change. Because she was right. Of course had I experienced sexual harassment, even sexual assault. More than once. And I didn't even think of it. Because it WAS normal. It didn't bring me into hospital with physical scars and it might not had left me with horrible emotional scars (do we ever fully know..?) but OF COURSE it had happened. Many times.

When a stranger asked me on the street (I was 5 or younger!) if I wanted to earn money - I would only need to hold his penis.

When another stranger in the swimming pool came way too close and touched me several times "by accident" (I was still not even a teenager!).

When this boy in my gymnastic class, who I played "marriage" with, touched me between the legs and kissed me on the lips, eventhough I pushed him away - every week. (I was maybe 4 and he was about the same age. And I'm sorry that I never told you this Mami, but that was the reason why I wanted to quit gymnastics. I dont even know, why I never told you - I think I was ashamed, because I didn't understood and everyone told me, we would be such "a cute married couple" - so I thought he would be right, doing that).

The uncountable times, when I wasn't ready for the next step and I somehow didn't know, how to say "No!" but never said (or even showed) "Yes!" and the next step happend.

The too many times, when the sex took too long and it started to hurt so I asked, if he was ready or could stop and it didn't stopped.

The uncountable times, on festivals, parties or elsewhere, when someone grabbed my butt, touched my breasts or even touched me between the legs.

Those times in the train, when it was full - but not THAT full and the guy behind me would press his penis against my butt and pretend he just had to make space for someone else. And then I would look at him angrily and ask him to step back and he would look at me and say "Sorry there is no space" - so I would make space and 2 minutes later he'd be behind me again, pressed against my butt. Several times. In several trains. With several men.

That one time in Morocco, when Nori and me almost got kidnapped.

That one time in France, when this drunken guy pressed me against the wall and went under my skirt. And I pushed him away and he'd just press me harder to the wall. Lucky me that some strangers came down the street and heard me yelling at him and came to support me.

That one time in Sri Lanka, when a guy was sitting in the bush near the beach and wanked, looking at us in our bikinis.

That one time, when my boyfriend at that time wanted to try something new in bed and I answered, I wouldn't want to try that and I don't think I'd like it so he just started it while I was asleep and when I finally was fully awake he just smiled and said "see, I knew you'd like it, if I'd just tried. You were just scared of trying something new."

That one time, I was on a beach, topless and this 50+ years old guy would look at my boobs constantly and when I asked him to look somewhere else because it would make me feel uncomfortable, he would answer "Well if you put them out, you can't expect me to NOT look."

The uncountable times in Afrika or Asia when I was not able to read my book, because men would talk to me, even when I told them "I want to read my book."

And the list goes on.
Training with my trainingspartner after the brown belt examen
Honestly - I have a hundred stories like these. Not to mention a billion times of stupid blabla, whistles and so on. I won't even complain about it - I personally take it as jokes and joke back. But yes. A lot of women feel uncomfortable about these kind of things.
And the whole thing is so much worse: Every single female friend that I asked, had just as many stories herself.
And THAT is a shocking. It really is. I remind you: I thought I shouldn't post #metoo, because nothing "really bad" had happened to me. Eventhough that guy in France was pretty damn serious. Especially because I was not able to get him off me. And I'm freaking doing Karate. I could have. And I couldn't. I couldn't punch him in his face. I couldn't protect myself. Me. Who I always considered as strong and safe. I could yell at him (yell, not scream), I could push him. But I could not do whatever it took to set myself free. When his hand was already under my skirt. It didn't feel "bad enough" to hurt someone. Luckily he didn't hurt me in the end. I doubt that he would have hesitated to.

And all the other stuff was totally not okay either.

I spoke to so many friends afterwards and a lot of them thought similar. It really is something normal for us, something "not bad enough" to talk about. But it does happen. All the time.
And just because it may not leave us crying every single time - it still doesn't make us feel good after all.

#metoo started the conversation and the more I read about it, the more I realise, how important it is, to finally speak about these things. Because men do maybe NOT - different to what I wrote in my original post - have the same experiences. At least not every day and in this huge numbers. And for sure it not seen as something normal for them or the world around them.
And yes, it is never okay, happening to a man or a woman. But it should also never(!) become acceptd every day life and that seems to be something that only(?) concernes women. Please! Correct me, if I'm wrong. Never have been a man, so I don't claim to be right here.

And to be honest. Reading all these things, that happened to me or others and knowing that there are plenty more - that is not nothing. That is fucking shit.

working together instead
of fighting each other
One last thing about the reactions: I personally was absolutely pleased. From my female friends and their openness - but also from my male friends. I heard that there were some quite shitty reactions on social media from men, saying "women are overrating" or "Not every compliment is an assault". And eventhough I often agree by saying "jokes are jokes and harassment is harassment, you as a woman can decide if you take something serious or not and how to deal with it" - in this case I don't agree. People open up here. Women speak about their - partly horrible - experiences. Sorry dude, but it doesn't matter if you think, someone is overrating. If she felt assaulted, it is NOT OKAY - even if you didn't mean it that way. And if someone wants to speak about it: Let them speak. Now it's time to shut up for the rest and listen. And learn.

But as I said: Personally I had only good conversations and reactions - especially from men.
And that's amazing, because we do need to make girls stronger and more self confident - but we also need to educate men.
This project in Kenya is an amazing example, how both ways can be combined.

And since I do believe in the good, I want to end this post with two quotes. The first one from Ather Zia, an Anthropology professor assistant and one from a (male) friend of mine. Yes. This. Thank you for understanding and being an example, Vivek.

dear men, #metoo shows you from east to west, how men have chosen the path of least resistance when it comes to gender justice. please, do not ask women what the use of #metoo is? do not ask what the project of feminism (whatever you think the word means to you) is? respect these admissions. these are not admissions of any personal/sexual shame (for God's sake) if anything it tells you, of your constructed perversions which have been naturalized and invisibilized.
it is not the job of women and survivors of other marginalized genders to tell you what they intend next or how useful this campaign is. they just did their part. they just showed you a mirror. respect it. if anything it is your turn to look.



I'm really sorry that it's you too.
Each time I see #metoo posted, I think of you and I feel very sorry that you've had those experiences.
I know a lot of you are reliving trauma brought up by this little hashtag, and I have seen that it's all too often dismissed and trivialised once again. So I just want to be a voice saying I hear your story, as much as you choose to tell, and I'm sorry.

thank you for all your openness and your stories, ladies, sisters and friends.

As I said: I am happy about any conversation. Feel free to share, comment or discuss.

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