Commentary: Me too: Simple words that reveal deep pain

By Janet Williams
TheStatehouseFile.com

If you spend any time at on Facebook you might have seen some of your friends and family post two simple words, “me too.”

Janet Williams, editor, TheStatehouseFile.com

Given the events of the past week I didn’t need to read the explanation – that people, women mostly, are typing those seemingly innocuous words to show solidarity with each other and that they have also been sexually harassed or even assaulted.

I am not surprised by the overwhelming number of friends, colleagues past and present, and family who have typed “me too” as their Facebook status. I know from the experience of me and my friends, especially those who came of age 30 and 40 years ago, that most of us have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment or outright assault.

Nor am I surprised by the number of younger women – friends, daughters of friends, relatives – who have added their “me too” to the growing number of Facebook feeds.

But it saddens and sickens me to see “me too” written by those young women. After all these years we haven’t figured out a cure for this cancer, that we continue to treat women young and old as possessions, and now we we have another generation on the receiving end of degrading behavior.

What do we expect when the most powerful people in entertainment and politics regularly demean women and then get away with it. A few years ago there was a movement to allow director Roman Polanski back in the United States and let him off with probation for unlawful sex with an underage girl. Lest we forget this girl was way, way underage – only 13 years old at the time of the assault 40 years ago.

Polanski has continued to make movies and his only real punishment, if it can be called that, is avoiding travel to the United States. Poor guy.

Then there’s my former favorite filmmaker, Woody Allen. Sure, he was mired in unsavory tabloid news coverage back in the 1990s when he was accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter and a few people turned away when he married the young woman who had known him as a father figure.

But until he decided to weigh on the Harvey Weinstein mess this week Allen has largely recovered from the scandal. He still makes movies, A-list actors and actresses line up to work with him and people like me still go see the finished products.

Most of the women who typed “me too” on Facebook didn’t work in Hollywood and didn’t encounter Weinstein in a bathrobe or anyone quite like him.

No, most of them encountered their predators in the office where they worked or in the classrooms where they hoped to get an education. Maybe they could brush off the rude or suggestive comments and go on with their lives or perhaps the invasive and degrading encounter derailed their careers and dreams.

Maybe they went to human resources only to discover that department isn’t particularly human at all, especially when it comes to protecting the rights and dignity of employees.

Or if there was action it probably amounted to a slap on the wrist and then nothing because the offender was quickly rehabilitated and even promoted. We wouldn’t want to ruin a career over one incident, would we.

What else should we expect when abusers rise to the highest office in our country on the tide of people like us who excuse or ignore the behavior. If we really cared Donald Trump would not be president and Bill Clinton would not be treated as an elder statesman.

So, as you read “me too” on the Facebook feeds of your friends, family and colleagues, remember there are deeply painful stories behind every one of them – stories of assailants unpunished, careers damaged, wounds that leave lasting scars.

The solution starts with you and me demanding justice for those on the receiving end of the violence, refusing to vote for the men who display this behavior and most of all, believing the women who say “me too.”

Let me leave you with this from a 20-something young man, a friend, who posted this on Facebook about the “me too” postings:

“They’re not necessarily blaming you or making a blanket statement about all mankind, but they are asking you to listen. Responding with an aggressive edge perpetuates the issue and shows those involved that you may well be part of the problem they’re discussing.”

Smart man. Wise words. We should listen.

Janet Williams is editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. She can be reached at jwilliams4@franklincollege.edu.

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