Why #MeToo Matters

I attended an out-of-town conference earlier in the week. The conference hotel was a little too pricey, so I booked a well-reviewed Airbnb within walking distance. My host was wonderfully communicative, and the location was great, and while the building was a little shabby, the apartment was very comfortable. I left a positive review when I got home.

But I also emailed the host because of an experience I had with one of the building’s tenants.

One night, coming back from dinner, I took the elevator up to the 6th floor, where I was staying. The elevator stopped at the 5th floor to let another woman off. A man was waiting to take the elevator down, and greeted the woman warmly – they seemed to know each other – before spotting me and giving me a once over. He stepped into the doorway of the elevator – preventing it from going up or down – and proceeded to introduce himself and hit on me while the woman in the hallway called for him to leave me alone.

Eventually he stepped into the elevator and rode up a floor with me, asking me if I was alone, how could I be alone, was I was married, why I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He told me he was a decent man. I couldn’t get off the elevator fast enough, hurrying down the hall to the apartment as he called after me, hoping that he wasn’t going to follow me. I shut the door and locked both locks. I assume he got back on the elevator as I didn’t see or hear him again.

Once I was safely inside the apartment, I tried to brush it off. I chatted with my partner before bed. I took the stairs in the morning. I didn’t mention it to the host as we emailed back and forth about my departure. I didn’t mention it when I got home.

And I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if it weren’t for #MeToo and the ongoing coverage of all of the men who have abused their power to harass and hurt.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt that my immediate response had been to brush it off, to minimize it, to try to believe the man’s assertion that he was a decent man. To tell myself that it was no big deal when in other circumstances, it could have been a very, very big deal. To normalize another experience where a man’s needs or desires were allowed to impinge upon my privacy, my personal space, or my safety.

I hate that it takes even one victim sharing their story to get us to take this stuff seriously. It shouldn’t be necessary. We should believe women. But we don’t, and so the harassing and hurtful behavior is normalized. And because we don’t believe women, women don’t tell their stories. And because women don’t tell their stories, the harassing and hurtful behavior has no consequences.

So I’m telling this story.

Where Do We Go From Here?

A month ago today, I emerged from the finisher’s area of my first marathon in a daze. I squatted down next to a vehicle and had an ugly, jagged, rough cry. The race had taken everything out of me, particularly the last five miles, and the tears of pain and exhaustion and depletion came from some place raw and hidden, a secret store of emotions that I didn’t know I contained.

I imagine that’s what a lot of us felt like last night, as the forecasts and our associated hopes fell through the floor, or this morning, as we woke to the reality of an America all too familiar to many.

I laid in bed this morning between my partner and our son, tears streaming down my face as I remembered the optimism and energy of the previous day, the overwhelming hope embodied in the wave of posts to Pantsuit Nation. People voting for the first time or the last.People casting votes alongside adult children or ailing parents. People flying home from all over to vote because absentee ballots didn’t arrive in time.  People casting votes they never anticipated, either due to the impossibility of a serious female candidate, or because that candidate represented a party whose values were so far off from those the voter previously held. People voting for inclusion, for tolerance, for progress, for unity, for a better country – or even just for a less bad one.

We didn’t get that.

This morning I wiped away my tears, and then I read my son the book about seeds that he requested upon waking. I made coffee. I did the dishes and put away the laundry. I put on makeup. I went to work and facilitated a meeting about statistics. I took down signs advertising events in the past. These were things I could do.

I don’t have to take a quiz to know that my love language is acts of service. But in the face of this, it’s hard to know what to do. I’m so small. I’m only one person. It’s a very familiar feeling.

So many of us are feeling so much fear and uncertainty today – for ourselves, for our loved ones, for those with less privilege or power, for our country. For women and minorities, for immigrants and the disabled, for those who rely on social programs that could be eliminated, for those whose families could no longer be recognized, for operation of a free press, for the right to practice any religion, for the health of our planet. My family has much less to fear than many, and so we owe it to others to do more, share more, help more, understand more, love more – I just don’t know where to start.

I want to challenge you to do as I’m doing right now – to list one concrete thing you can do to keep our country, your state, your city, your neighborhood, your street, your family, and yourself moving forward. And then let’s keep each other accountable, just as we’ll work together to keep our new government accountable.

Overheard in DC

From DCist:

Drinking and spelling: best time ever!!

On a corner in Penn Quarter:

Guy #1: “I guess we could walk this way and look for a bar, or we could get on the Metro and go to a different area…wait, did you bring a dictionary?!”
Guy #2: “Yeah, I did.”
Guy #1: “Good, I totally forgot mine. So I guess let’s starting walking this way.”