My mom tells me I must be lucky because I’m always finding pennies on the streets of NYC. I always toss them in my pocket, and no matter which coat I put on I’m jingling a little all winter long.
Mommy, it breaks my heart to tell you this — more because I know it will cause you pain than because it has pained me. I don’t spot pennies because I’m lucky, but because I’m always looking at the ground to avoid meeting the gaze of some guy waiting for the opportunity to comment on how I look today.
It probably will not help. He will probably make it anyway — I think it makes him feel good. In fact, I hope it does. It certainly doesn’t do anything for me and if I’m going to be made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe, then it better have served some other purpose…I suppose.
But if I don’t look up, maybe I don’t have to engage, maybe I can pretend I didn’t hear. Maybe he won’t follow me — though from experience, I should assume that’s not true.
In fact, by now I should assume my actions don’t matter in this regard, because this stranger, this guy on the subway, this classmate, this friend...he’ll likely do what he wants anyway.
I wrote an article this morning about “me too” trending on social media. I trawled through Twitter scooping up posts to embed, unfazed.
I was unfazed 1. Because this is what we do now, we take to social media to shout words into an online echo chamber because we don’t feel safe enough to even whisper them to the people actually causing the hurt, the ones with the power to stop it.
And 2. Because, though people’s individual stories may surprise me, the magnitude of people with stories to share isn’t at all shocking. As I’m sure any girl or woman today could tell you, it’s expected. If I get catcalled or harassed an average of five days a week, sheer probability should tell you to predict this many stories.
And the shock that men (and admittedly, this is a generalization) are expressing now explains the pervasiveness of this phenomenon. If you don’t know you are doing wrong, how would you know to stop.
I’ve spent the day wondering whether or not I could say something now...when I didn’t before. I’ve spent the day wondering if my not having said something before was what allowed you to think your behavior was acceptable, wondering if the laughter I used to mask my discomfort made you feel justified in your single-minded pursuit of what makes you feel good. If I didn’t insist hard enough, didn’t convey my disinterest strongly enough — maybe that is on me.
An old friend posted her own “me too” status today. We don’t talk often anymore, but texted to acknowledge the irony of a boy we once knew liking her post, when, based on our own experiences, we can now only guess how many women said “me too” today and thought of him. None of that is to say that he is a bad person. It isn't my place to judge anyone.
But while my silence may be on me. His actions are on him. He may not be a bad person, but he did some shitty things that caused people to feel unsafe, uncomfortable, dirty even.
I’ve wondered all day whether or not I can really say “me too” because relatively speaking, I am lucky. I know people who have experienced worse.
But I’ve concluded that I get to say “me too.” Because the fact that I have ever felt unsafe walking home alone sweat-slicked in workout clothes or buying kale from a gourmet supermarket on my lunch break is appalling. And if saying that makes me ungrateful despite being so lucky, then I’m sorry.
I’ve decided I can say “me too” because who could possibly tell me, “no, not you.” I’ve decided I should say it, because there are clearly people out there who believe they are good people — and they very well may be — who will read all these “me too” posts and offer their support to the women in their lives without ever knowing the pain they caused others, without giving their past actions a second thought.
Regardless of who you are, you should give your past actions a second thought — so that you give future actions a first thought.
I wasn’t sure if I needed or wanted to add to this conversation today — but I’ve decided I must say "me too." Not for other women — because even though it has been powerful to actually see how widely shared these experiences are, they already know. I’ve decided I need to for all the good people out there liking and supporting women’s “me too” posts, without ever pausing to realize that good people can do shitty things too.
I don’t find pennies because I’m lucky and I’m not lucky because I find pennies.
I’m lucky because my stories aren’t worse. I’m lucky because I have people who love me and make me feel safe.
And though it hardly needs to be said at this point: me too.