To All The Women Who Have Chosen Not To Share Their #MeToo Stories
The other day, I received a distress call from a friend who was being persuaded by another journalist friend into sharing her #MeToo story. “I am so angry I can’t breathe,” she texted. Here’s what I told her: It’s your story, and you don’t owe it to anybody to talk about it in public.
Almost all the women in my circle have a #MeToo story to share. But, none of us have shared anything. We have silently witnessed the uproar, relived our own traumas, and endured new ones after hearing some of the stories. We have been shocked by a lot of the names that have come out, and really not surprised by others. We have questioned our own ideas of sex, consent and love. It’s been a process. I won’t speak for anybody else, but I, personally, have wondered if I should share my stories especially given how many who are the voice of the movement (and I am deeply thankful for these brave women who have spoken up), seem to believe that it is almost every woman’s moral duty to share her story.
I beg to differ.
It is not my moral duty to save anybody else, if I don’t feel safe and protected enough. You know how, in airplanes, they tell you to put your own mask on before you help anybody else with theirs? By choosing not to share my story, I am putting my own mask on first, and I’m guessing you’re doing the same.
It’s all very well to say that by naming and shaming the perps, you are looking out for other women. But, one must understand that #MeToo is, in a way, a matter of luxury and privilege. Take, for example, a young woman in her early 20s living away from home, on her first job. Maybe she doesn’t come from a well-to-do family, and has to fend for herself. It is very unlikely that she will call out a colleague or a boss who may be behaving inappropriately towards her. How is hearing all these stories helping her? How is the moment helping her? I don’t know. I’m not that girl.
Yet, I chose not to share my #MeToo story, because my mask first. The mask that I’m talking about now is the mental peace I have of keeping my story in the private sphere. I have dealt with my abusers in my own way (in fact, I have taken one to court). So, my silence on the internet has nothing to do with how I have confronted these demons in real life, or my ability to speak up, or not. I know how difficult it can be to prove to people, or in the court of law, that you have been harassed. It is, after all, a he-said-she-said, and certainly, I don’t think that anybody should be forced to go through this in such a public manner.
I don’t know what your mask is protecting you from, or providing you with – maybe you chose not to share because the hurt and the pain is still too raw, maybe it is because you don’t want to deal with trolls, maybe because reading all the accounts has been too overwhelming and triggering, and you just want to switch off, maybe because your own personal healing is more important to you than this cause whose future is uncertain. But, whatever it is, it is perfectly valid. It’s your story. Not the internet’s!
As far as doing this for the sake of other women is concerned, there are myriad ways to extend support to each other. So, if the guilt tripping doesn’t motivate you to help your fellow sisters in a way that suits you, then please understand that that’s not the real reason why you’re feeling bad. The real reason you’re feeling bad about keeping a very personal story private, which is your right, is because of the years of conditioning that teaches women to feel that no matter what they do, it’s not good enough. Don’t let this movement, which is supposed to empower women, become another tool for shaming the silent ones. Like I said, it’s your story. Not the internet’s!