Were you too scared to publicly post #metoo? Yeah, me too. In theory, I think it was a really powerful idea. I understand where actress Alyssa Milano was coming from when she spearheaded this campaign, and I appreciate her desire to show the nation just how much sexual assault and harassment are present for (typically) women in today’s society. According to the Huffington Post, the #metoo campaign actually originated with a woman Tarana Burke in 2007. Burke explained that she wanted the campaign to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities.

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” said Burke. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

However, the campaign turned into a viral phenomenon when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a call for sexually assaulted women to come out and share their stories. According to Global Citizen, after just 24 hours of Milano asking women to use the hashtag “me too” who have ever been sexually assaulted or harassed, more than 500,000 women had tweeted using the hashtag (not including other social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.) However, what about those too scared to publicly announce that they’ve been sexually assaulted? What about women who didn’t feel the need to rehash their traumatizing past and put it on display for the entire internet to see? There are well more than 500,000 women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed, and I don’t necessarily think asking them to post it on their social media profiles was the best method to raise awareness – regardless of how good Milano’s intentions were. For me personally, it made me feel worse about myself when I didn’t have the strength to follow what my peers were doing. Why couldn’t I just type two simple words into my computer as my status? Why did I not want to be a part of this movement? The answer is simple: not all victims want everyone to know that they’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed – it’s embarrassing, traumatizing and far too personal to share with my 880 “friends” on Facebook.  

I know what you’re thinking, if I’m so scared of writing #metoo on social media, why did I decide to then write an article admitting that I’m a victim of sexual assault and/or harassment? To that, I have a few different answers: one, a solid 90 percent of the people that follow me on social media – who I didn’t want to see me write #metoo – probably will never read this article, and two, I would never have disclosed this information to the world a week ago, but after scrolling through social media and seeing post after post admitting #metoo, I felt the need to write about my own experience with this campaign, in hopes of letting someone else who was too scared to write the hashtag know that they aren’t alone.

It’s time for a little disclosure, I actually did post “#metoo” for a hot second – and if you’re one of the two people who reacted to it (shout-out to Zach Newman and Kayla Kay) then you were probably confused while reading the first part of my article. Yeah, I did post #metoo because I wanted so badly to be strong enough to say that I’m a victim. But after 22 minutes of agonizing regret, I decided to take it down. There are just certain people, family members, old friends, high school peers, that I really don’t want to know about what was perhaps the most vulnerable moment of my college career. I know I should want to be a part of this movement, and I should want people to know that I was hurt and disrespected, but that’s just not the way every woman feels. And so, I’m speaking on behalf of the other 500,000 women who couldn’t bring themselves to write #metoo, and say that it’s OK to not have posted about your past; there’s a reason why it’s called your past and sometimes it’s better to just not bring it into your future.

Instead, what I think would have been a more beneficial movement would have been to change the meaning behind #metoo to, “everyone who has ever been a bystander to sexual harassment to say #metoo.” Don’t pretend you haven’t heard catcalling or witnessed someone grab the ass of a girl at a townhouse, who clearly wasn’t expecting it. We’ve heard people be called “teases,” and at Fairfield I’m sure you’ve heard the line, “hey hottie, feel free to ride my Stag any day.” A statement like this is often times said while someone is simply trying to get an artsy photo for Instagram by climbing on top of Lucas, but instead was turned into yet another demeaning moment of being a girl on a college campus. Instead, maybe we should have asked people to say #metoo if they’ve ever accused someone of “over-exaggerating” their experience with sexual harassment or assault. Or maybe ask people to write a #metoo, if they’ve ever questioned how men could possibly be sexually assaulted. I scrolled through my Facebook and not only did I see women write #metoo, but there were also two men in my feed who decided to join the movement. In fact, men nationwide decided to respond to the #metoo campaign. There was a mass hashtag by men, saying #howiwillchange. This opened the conversation for men to announce how they will take more action against the sexual assault culture. There are so many different angles this hashtag could have taken, and I think by choosing the one where victims, yet again, had to identify themselves as a victim was disheartening.

According to CNN, 23 percent of women report being sexually assaulted in college. As of 2016, there were 2,308 full-time undergraduate female students enrolled at Fairfield University. That means about 530 of those 2,308 students have been sexually assaulted, or will be at the conclusion of their four years at Fairfield. You know someone who has been sexually assaulted, so why don’t we throw up a #metoo for knowing a victim. That would take the pressure off of victims, while still gaining the same impact of recognizing sexual assault and harassment as a major issue. In fact, it would probably give a more accurate description of just how present sexual assault and harassment are in today’s society, because people are more apt to admit they know someone who has been sexually assaulted, rather than admit that they themselves are a victim.

Sexual assault is an issue, especially in today’s society on a college campus – but I think the #meotoo campaign may have missed the target. Let’s hear a #metoo if you’re tired of being too scared to walk from the library to your dorm room at night. Let’s hear a #metoo if you’re sick of asking “is this too slutty?” when wanting to go out in a cute outfit. Let’s hear a #metoo if you’re done accepting that “hookup culture” means allowing a random guy to walk over and start grinding on you. Let’s hear a #metoo if you’re sick of having people tell you that catcalling is a compliment. Let’s hear a #metoo if you’re so tired of identifying yourself as a victim, because let me tell ya, I am too.

2 Responses

  1. Nanine McCool

    Alicia, I think the beauty of this post is how you articulate exactly the courage that most of us who have been, and may still be, victims of sexual assault and/or harassment have been inspired to show by #metoo. You didn’t do it for yourself; you did it for other women, in spite of how uncomfortable it made you. That’s true courage and I commend you for it. #strongertogether

    • Alicia Phaneuf

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Ms. McCool. Reading such a positive message from a national and international women’s rights leader, such as yourself, truly made my day.


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