“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted posted ‘Me too,’ we could give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
It’s just a simple sentence, really, just a handful of words to try and shine a light on how many women have experienced vile behaviour.
And over the weekend, it swept across social media.
Sometimes, Facebook postings and tweets were so constant in outlining personal experiences that the “Me toos” filled post after uninterrupted post, criss-crossing countries and the internet.
The post started with actress Alyssa Milano, who says the idea came from a friend. By Monday morning, over 6 million Facebook users were simultaneously discussing the issue.
Bear in mind, for many, it’s not an easy experience to reveal. There are likely scores of women who could echo those experiences, but have chosen not to speak out, unwilling to have the difficult discussions that might arise from revealing that something had happened to them as well. And that is perfectly fine. No one should be forced to publicly revisit fear or pain.
But others are seizing the opportunity. Some offer simply the words, opening the door to just how staggeringly common experiences of abuse are for women.
Others go much further, outlining the harrowing details of harassment or attacks by boyfriends, friends or mere acquaintances. Attacks by the fathers of children they were babysitting, teachers, coercion by employers and mentors — and the list goes on.
Sadly, it goes on and on and on.
Some detailed assaults suffered as children; others, discussions with mothers and other relatives about harassment dating back decades.
The scale is truly horrifying. As “Me too” was spreading on social media, the head of the U.S. National Park Service was dealing with an internal survey that found that out of almost 10,000 active employees who responded, more than a quarter had experienced or witnessed harassment. Of those who wanted to report the harassment, almost a third said they were discouraged from taking action by their superiors.
All Monday, “Me too” continued. It probably is continuing today as well as it reaches more and more Facebook accounts.
It’s more than alarming, as friends’ status lines explode like small fireworks: “Me too,” “Me too,” Me too.”
It feels as if most women have something to say on the issue.
To be clear, it’s not only women who are revealing attacks and harassment. Some men are sharing experiences as well, but the cold hard fact is that the vast majority are women, and the vast majority of the abusers and harassers are men.
Perhaps this is not a time for men to jump in and mansplain either excuses or protestations.
Instead, stop and ponder what it means that so many women have had such similar experiences.
Think about that.
And think about what we have to do to make it stop.