When women across the world say #MeToo, it’s easy to feel guilty for being silent. But not every woman has to say “me too” and feel exposed.
Not every woman has to say #MeToo and look at her Facebook inbox, her Twitter messages or her WhatsApp messages, fearing the next text will say: What? It happened to you, too?
It began when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted that, if her followers had been sexually harassed or violated, they should feel safe to reply “me too”. From there #MeToo has spread, leaving men to ask: Really, you too?
It took women across the world sharing their pain for men to believe. Women had to make themselves vulnerable, women had to type the words, and press deeply into their trauma, for men to say in surprise: I never knew it happened to you, too.
A child shouldn’t feel guilty for not saying #MeToo. Those 87 pupils at a Soweto primary school will already have murmurs around them, as their peers look for names. As, in the passages of their school, a voice will whisper: No, really, it happened to them too?
We won’t ask if it really happened to you, too. Instead, like many others, we will thank you for your courage. And we will remain in quiet solidarity with the women and children who choose to keep their stories to themselves.
But when will a man say, yes, me too?
When will he say: #MeToo — I never stopped my friends from catcalling her.
When will he say: #MeToo — I slid my hand under her skirt even though I felt her flinch.
And will he ever say: #MeToo — I gave her a hug, even though I’d never met her before?
It took singer and former politician Jennifer Ferguson 24 years to tell her story about a man, a leading politician, who came into her hotel room and raped her. She said it felt like it lasted a lifetime, but was probably only 20 seconds. She will never forget.
So, when will men say #MeToo and feel themselves exposed?