Sexual harassment: Viral hashtag shows extent, creates dialogue

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Let me be clear: I do not give a damn about Harvey Weinstein. I do not want to hear his name again, and I want it to disappear from the news. If that happens, hopefully this man who thrived on holding power over women will start feeling powerless. Worthless. Alone.

Who I do care about is you, the ones who tweeted #MeToo. The women who have experienced the pain of feeling powerless, worthless and alone. Because you are the ones who deserve to be heard and have a voice louder than those who wish to silence it.

What is #MeToo? Two small words — one big meaning — and a force across social media.

If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook at all in the past few days and follow any of the millions of women who have used this hashtag, you know what I’m referring to. With a simple tweet on Sunday, Alyssa Milano started a firestorm when she asked that anyone who had been sexually harassed to reply with “me too.”

Who’s the boss? Alyssa is.

Difficult conversation about sexual harassment grows larger

Although originally in response to Weinstein and the slew of similar sexual harassment reports now widespread across the news, #MeToo has quickly grown into a larger conversation, and it’s a difficult one. From those worried that the conversation could lead to witch hunts to women calling for fewer hashtags and more change, everyone seems to have joined the discussion.

For me, that alone is very worthwhile. Not that I feel warm and fuzzy seeing women come out en masse to share their horror stories — well, other than Mayim Bialik — I do have a strange sense of pride watching the story unfold, as women are being so open, bold and truthful.

Maybe the truth can set us free?

That sounds so simplistic. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do not believe that the answer to a cultural change is that easy, but I do feel that it’s a start. There’s power in words, just as there is power in secrecy. If our culture starts talking about things that have, for so long, been closed-door conversations, is it possible that those conversations could reduce the frequency and acceptance of harassment? If women no longer feel that they have to be ashamed and bad conduct is not swept under the rug for fear of repercussions, would more voices be heard? And, if the women that come forward are given an active voice to describe the offense AND offender, rather than minimizing the situation as a women’s issue (see video above; thank you, Jackson Katz!), would they be less likely to hesitate?

At the same time that I ask these questions to you, I also ask them of myself. Would I be less afraid if society accepted open dialogue about sexual harassment and rape without implication of fault on the victim? Obviously, I would. Until that day when I can share my own stories of harassment — and even assault — I’ll just say this: #MeToo.