The #metoo campaign was used in response to the Harvey Weinstein shame—a man who used his position of power to act with impunity as a sexual predator and the industry that was complicit in his making. It demonstrates just how pervasive, extensive, common, not unique, horrific, etc. experiences of sexual abuse and harassment are, especially for women. I sincerely hope this works as a step towards admitting that, as a society, we have a problem, and that it does not just stop with a hashtag.
I really struggled with my decision to post these emails. I do not think that I (or anyone for that matter) need to ‘prove’ or ‘justify’ that sexual abuse and harassment (a) happen generally or (b) to me specifically. These are only two instances for which I reached out to friends for support, but there are unfortunately many more, including several from my college days as a trainer for the Virginia Tech football and basketball teams. And where, when I brought it to the attention of the highest in power of the administration, I was asked, “Well, why else would you want to be a trainer? Isn’t this the attention you women crave anyway?” I will just leave it at that.
Ultimately, the reason I decided to share these two femails on this rather tough topic is because (1) I feel strong enough to at the moment thanks to all of those who likewise posted #metoo and (2) I wanted to highlight my responses to these incidents. For those of you that know me well, I have a dominant personality and exude a certain fearlessness about me, particularly on issues of women’s equality and empowerment. But if you read between the lines, you’ll notice that I actually do not really know how to deal with these issues on a deeper level. Yes, I can react strongly. Yes, I can speak up when necessary. But in many ways, I still feel made to internalize the bad behavior of what another person did to me and then just move on, with no resolution available and with the knowledge that it will, in all likelihood, happen again.
For me, this is what feels so disempowering. This is what is so distressing. This is what needs to change.
From: Gusmanjl . <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2015 at 02:59
Subject: Re: Hi Johanna. I miss you.
To: —— <——@gmail.com>
Thank you so much for this. I needed it more than you know. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I already had a bit of a traumatic experience upon my return to Samoa. I was hiking and a man exposed himself to me and began chasing me down the mountain while masturbating. It was insane. Luckily, there were people I knew not too far ahead of me and I was able to catch up with them and they yelled for him to quit it. Sexually repressed societies are the worst.
I feel badly because I do not want every exchange we have to be something terrible that has happened to me. It’s always a bummer to hear that from a friend every time you speak, but I just had to get it out and provide a bit of an idea of how helpful support like this can be. It is nice to be told that I am not weak and that I can make a positive change, even in a country where men chase you down mountains with their penis out for all to see. Talk about a need for women’s rights…
I am doing village consultations for the next couple of weeks and will be working my ass off too. Like 12 hour days and working on the weekends, but it will be so good to get out and really see village life up close and personal. It’s important insight for my work and will hopefully help this Report go far. I’m really excited to see the end result and we are approaching the drafting stage fast. Nerd alert: we’ve revised the template to frame the issues in a more receptive language. Things like “Community, Family and Personal Health” instead of ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health’ because putting things in communal terms works better than words that include ‘sex’ (trust me, I’ll still use it, but maybe just not in a report heading).
You’re the best and I miss you immensely. I cannot wait until we reunite again over a bottle of cava either.
From: Gusmanjl . <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2015 at 02:48
To: — <—@gmail.com>
I had to file a police complaint this morning. My gardener exposed himself to me when I was home alone today. It was pretty unexpected and scary, but talk about the wrong person to do that shit to:
1) assertive American feminist
2) works for the Ombudsman’s Office
3) currently writing the part of the State of Human Rights Report on sexual assault
Ugh. I cannot wait to get to New Zealand.
On a lighter note, I got an email last night that I have been shortlisted (one of three) for a job with WHO in Cairo. Interview is next week. Recruited to the position, which feels nice. I’m a fan of getting jobs you don’t apply for…
I hope all is well with you. Getting excited for Seattle?