I remember being catcalled for the first time when I was 13 years old. I was in oversized khaki shorts, struggling through a tomboy phase, and barely getting used to period pains. I don’t even remember if I qualified for a training bra back then. Two men, perhaps in their early twenties, were asking for my number and calling my attention with the skin-crawl-worthy “Miss, Miss.” Since then, I have learned to ignore, to look the other way when passing by a group of men in the street, to walk with my guy friends when I can if I have to go somewhere. Because when you’re 13, you’re very impressionable. Because when such things happened to you at 13, you believe that being catcalled and disrespected was a rite of passage for every woman.
It’s why as much as it brings me hope that Harvey is being wrung out to dry in the media for his alleged actions, and more women are gathering up courage to speak up against him, it pains me too. The pain comes from the fact that we only seem to talk about sexual harassment when it involves a powerful man, when news outlets get a scoop, when it has already resulted in rape and gruesome violence. But this violence happens so often that we have become numb to it. I hate to say it but we women have learned to live with it.
So please go on and read those #MeToo posts. Let it wash over you how many ways and words women are used to mistreat us. How we never know how to cope with the abuse that greets us from strangers or even in the eyes of someone we trust.
The trend picked up recently when Alyssa Milano (Rose McGowan’s co-star in the ’90s favorite Charmed) used it. The hashtag quickly picked up half a million tweets in 24 hours.
It’s sad how women are united by the fact that sexual harassment is part of our lives. But that’s the point of the hashtag, isn’t it? It’s to show the world how this has gone on for far too long. It’s also given a safe space for people to express something they’ve been taught to be ashamed of. The problem isn’t made up or isolated, it’s real and it is far-reaching. How do you solve generations upon generations of inherited misogyny and sexism?
The answers won’t come in a tweet. They won’t end with Weinstein in court. It will heighten with another scandal waiting to come out. But to talk about it more and to constantly call out that this is wrong and should never be accepted as normal behavior, from the smallest transgression to its criminal results, is a good start.