It was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.
For decades – heck, for time out of mind – women have endured everything from catcalls in the street to inappropriate remarks to unwelcome touches to outright assault. They were often shamed into silence. When they did gather the courage to speak up, they were frequently silenced again by skepticism or apathy or threats.
A simple hashtag — #MeToo – has upended the status quo. Women and some men, too, began sharing their stories of sexual assault and abuse. In some cases, they began naming names. And some of those names have been very, very recognizable. So far, the waves of allegations have brought down some of the most powerful men in entertainment and politics.
The latest to be upended by allegations of impropriety and even assault has been Judge Roy Moore of Alabama. Until just a few weeks ago, Moore seemed like a lock to take Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. He was a darling of the Christian right running in one of the reddest of the red states.
That was until more than a dozen women stepped forward with allegations that Moore had pursued them romantically when he was a 30-something district attorney and they were in their teens. Emboldened by the #MeToo movement, the women finally spoke up after decades of keeping quiet.
Moore ended up going down last night in a stunning defeat to Doug Jones, a Democrat.
Where did the #MeToo movement begin?
More than a decade ago, Tarana Burke established the #MeToo Movement after she was unable to break her own silence in a crucial moment.
A life-long social justice activist and advocate for young women of color, Burke found herself listening as a 13-year-old girl named Heaven began telling her of the sexual abuse she was suffering at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. As Heaven poured her heart out, trusting Burke to hear her, Burke shut down. She could not hear the young girl anymore, she could not validate her, she could not help her. She found another counselor to take over.
Why couldn’t she listen? Because as Heaven shared her story, the words echoing through Burke’s own heart and mind were “Me, too.”
Burke wasn’t ready to say those words at that time. But after that encounter, she knew something had to change. She knew she had to work to make it safe for young girls like Heaven – and women like herself – to say “Me, too.”
It takes moxie to speak up. It takes moxie to listen, especially when what you’re hearing surfaces your own pain, or scares you, or makes you uncomfortable. But it’s the kind of moxie that can start a powerful movement.
Perhaps it’s the kind of moxie that can somehow bring us all back together. Let’s hope.