Why I Didn't Tweet #MeToo
By: Renae Salunga
I stared at my computer screen for an hour, my feet tapping the floor, my hands shaking, struggling to type two simple words: me too, a phrase that recently started streaming down my feed. A phrase that inspired friends, family, faces I barely recognized, to share stories of that time: that time they were standing in the subway and a middle aged man grabbed their ass, that time they were drunk at a party and a stranger took advantage of them, that time their friend, lover or relative, decided to claim their body like it was theirs to use without permission.
It all surfaced after actress Alyssa Milano asked victims of sexual harassment to reply to her tweet with the hashtag #MeToo (adapted from a movement started by Tarana Burke over 10 years ago), gaining a response from 1.7 million women from over 85 countries. Within the first 24 hours alone, over 12 million people on Facebook shared their stories, hoping to call attention to the often understated issue of sexual assault.
While this movement was in line with what I strongly believe in, I couldn’t help but feel a dip in my stomach as I read through the posts: trying to push down my own experiences that resurfaced with every word my body was too familiar with, trying to suppress the stories I have long tried to forget. As more and more women gathered the courage to speak up, I beat myself down further and further; asking myself why I couldn’t just move past it enough to finally feel comfortable leaving it out in the open, asking myself why I wasn’t brave enough to share my story when millions of other women shared theirs, asking myself why I wasn’t strong enough to read through another’s experience without getting triggered.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe this movement is valuable and necessary. At a time when sexual harassment is normalized and sexual assault is covered up, it is important to speak up and disrupt unchallenged spaces. In a society where women are told to “stop making a big deal out of it”, it is important to provide victims the agency to share their story the way they want it told. In a place where we often feel alone, it is important to validate other survivors with shared experiences.
But it is equally important to realize that for every person that gains visibility, there are hundreds who brave through similar incidents but are not ready to show themselves, who have chosen to continue fighting and resisting through their mere existence, who smile despite being forced to relive some of the worst moments of their lives.
So to everyone brave enough to share your story, thank you for having a voice and using it. And to everyone who hasn’t, thank you for being brave enough to exist in this world. You matter, your story matters, regardless of whether or not you choose to share it.