I, TOO

#MeToo: I Can’t Distinguish What I Do for Myself From What I Do for Men

‘It is the casualness of sexual harassment and assault… that stings most and makes me feel less inclined to speak out. That, in itself, is why I must add my voice.’

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

#MeToo, I’ve been staring at you, wondering, Do I qualify?

Did that thing I’m thinking of count? It seemed small at the time, because who hasn’t that happened to? And it wasn’t even the first time, nor the last. And if I talked about it, it wouldn’t be surprising or interesting, or maybe it’d be shrugged off as a “gray area,” pushed to another day, forgotten.

It is this casualness of sexual harassment and assault, no matter how you define “women,” or who you do or don’t choose to have sex with, that stings most and makes me feel less inclined to speak out. That, in itself, is why I must add my voice.

To all the men who’ve “lost” condoms; to the men who’ve pressed hands against strange women’s lower backs in dimly lit bars, thinking we’d like it; to all the men who just assumed women would like anything at all; to the men who’ve honked at women from cars, letting their eyes roll down women’s bodies in praise they never asked for; to the men who’ve called out women for being too “bitter” about sex and relationships; to the men who’ve told women to “eat more” or “eat less,” who’ve asked what “date” a woman is going on because she’s wearing lipstick; to the men who’ve pushed women against beds, against walls, thinking that was acceptable because the woman didn’t sternly say the word “no”; to the men who pushed past anyway, when the woman did say “no”; to all the men who didn’t ask—to all of you, I’ve got your number.

We all do.

Because—and this is the hardest, most sickening thing to explain—of all the stains you’ve left, the darkest is that craving for your approval that we, as women, have all felt or understood to varying degrees at moments we’ve wanted to least, regardless of how we identify. Because we’ve been told outright and subliminally, over the course of our entire lives, that it matters, that everything we do only matters if you like it, because it’s a man’s approval that is the ultimate prize.

It’s why we worry our bras might show through our shirts at work; why we’ve ever wasted an extra half-hour in the morning hating ourselves deeply for a fold of skin, the way our stomachs squeezed against our pants, the way our hair shone greasy in certain lights.

We can’t escape this gaze, even as we’re told we don’t need you, that we should focus on ourselves (subtext: “...and the man will find his way to you, because your focus makes you hotter”)—because your admiration is our reward.

There it lies in Victoria’s Secret, folded between lacy thongs; in beauty parlors, hot wax pressed to skin, ripping away the offensive; in bachelorette parties, as we gather to pin penises on posters; in movies, even in ones where women succeed in major fields, there’s always the kiss, the promise of your desire; in pop songs, even the ones that champion “independence,” it is still independence from YOU, the almighty HE; and so on, so that at some point, we can no longer distinguish what we do for ourselves and what we tell ourselves we do for ourselves, but ultimately, we do for you.