Two weeks ago social media exploded in cries of ‘Me Too’ in an effort to show the magnitude of sexual harassment and assault. And I stood up and said Me Too with them.
Sexual harassment and assault seem particularly bad in the film and TV industry. Or maybe it’s anywhere where a few people hold all of the power. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I was thinking of my own worst experience with workplace harassment. Nearly a decade ago, I was a young editor breaking in to the freelance game. One of my first clients consistently and aggressively harassed me. All the while dangling other jobs in front of me. Even as uncomfortable as I was, as a broke kid in an incredibly competitive industry, these jobs meant a kind of financial security too powerful to simply write him off.
I posted anonymously on a filmmaking board to ask for advice. No one was sympathetic. Most people thought I made it up. A few suggested that I might be latently homosexual because I must have somehow encouraged it. Despite the callus indifference of my peers and the lack of actual advice, I ended up making what I still think was the right call- I finished my project as fast as possible and would not accept any other work from my client.
For years I wouldn’t talk about it at all. I was embarrassed, ashamed of what I’d let happen. This wasn’t something that happened to men and it was a blight on my own manhood that it had happened to me. Until paragon of masculinity, Terry Crews, talked about how it happened to him. His story made me understand emotionally what I’d always known intellectually- that sexual assault is due to the perceived invulnerability of the abuser and no amount of flexing or beard growing would dissuade them. It was never about us, it was about them.
When #MeToo started lighting up my social feeds I was conflicted. In the had talked to maybe 3 people about the workplace harassment and I wasn’t eager to share it with everyone. Harassment is painfully prevalent, so that wasn’t my only experience, but if I posted, I knew that incident was the intention behind it. But I thought about how much solace I took from knowing that I wasn’t alone, Terry Crews, James Van Der Beek, and others had been through the same thing, and I decided that I needed to follow their example and pay it forward. Although it made me feel incredibly vulnerable I posted “Me Too”.
The truth of it is that men are harassed and assaulted far more than people seem to realize. Even without all the masculine gender norms tied up in it, it’s extremely hard to speak out if you feel alone and isolated. Male silence on their victimization is a self defeating cycle and needs to end.
The only way the situation gets better is if we make harassment entirely unacceptable. And that starts with talking about it. So even if it might make you feel uncomfortable to let people know what happened to you, know that you’re not alone and you can show other people they aren’t either. Me Too. And I Believe You.