When the Harvey Weinstein scandal hit the news, the first thing I told my friend was: “It’s a good thing I filed my sexual harassment complaint when I did so nobody could accuse me of jumping on a bandwagon.” I paused and added, “That’s the next dark cloud on the horizon.”
I filed my complaint last winter, and it is ongoing, so I can’t join everyone saying, “Me too,” on social media to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault. Most of these posts add, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”
Even if I could copy/paste “Me too,” I wouldn’t. I’m afraid that this move plays into the dangerous logic that sexual violence is serious because it’s everywhere. In fact, it’s serious because it’s anywhere. We’re showing work places that we’ll make a big deal when sexual harassment and assault impact large numbers of employees. We’re prompting the minimization but not necessarily the eradication of sexual violence. And yes, we’re inviting people to see future victims as if they’re on a bandwagon. That is not fair.
As it is, I can’t copy/paste “Me too” online because I said it on the record. I filed a formal complaint. I had a lawyer until I couldn’t afford one. I halted my career progress to research law and policy so I could prepare my own documentation and evidence. I lost interest in my life as I saw it through the gaze of an investigation and the rumors it brought. I heard through the grapevine that all my colleagues know I filed a complaint. Only two of them reached out unprompted to say they were sorry about what happened. After writing this statement, one more colleague wrote to me, acknowledging that the “Me too” posts must feel isolating. During a time when few people will look me in the eye and when someone who spread the word about my complaint recently pretended not to know me at a meeting, that message made me feel human again.
I remind myself that I’m not objective about the way people are treating me. Others explain that everyone at work has been mandated not to talk to me about my complaint. That seems fair, but a speech act of disclosure is different than a speech act of hospitality. We live in a culture that is more curious about disclosure than invested in hospitality though. People will ask each other what happened. With few exceptions, they will not reach out to say they’re allies.
Ultimately, I’m afraid that everyone who copies/pastes “Me too” is responding to the spectacle of an issue that has finally become legible in scale and volume. This is okay if they’re also responding to the instances of actual violence that are legible right in front of them. What I’m saying is that my social media feeds are full of “Me to’s,” but my life is not full of allies.
Saying “Me too” in a formal complaint silenced me. Finding the news wires circulate everything I cannot say is deadening. I inhabit the isolation of dysphonia, but a lot of victims currently embroiled in sexual harassment and assault cases do so too. To them, I say: thank you for trying to prevent others from becoming victims where you work, live, study, dream, and hope to thrive. To them, I say: we will get our voices back, and until then, we must believe that we expended them when it mattered most.