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Image / Editorial

Letter From London: When #MeToo Feels Wrong


by Kerry Buckley Barnes
30th Oct 2017
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“Ugh not another #MeToo post!”

“I know, it doesn’t count if a builder wolf-whistled at you on your way to work.”

A bit controversial but really not what I expected to hear from a banker and barrister in a wine bar down one of those tiny, cobbled lanes near St Paul’s Cathedral from women slogging away to forge careers in male-dominated industries. Industries where women notoriously have to work four thousand three hundred and twenty seven times as hard as men to earn the respect and recognition they deserve. Industries where sexual harassment runs rife and where girls likethese have definitely encountered their very own “Harveys”. But maybe they had a point?

We were discussing all things Weinstein and got to talking about #MeToo. The hashtag was used 12 million times but far from everyone joined in the online conversation. My feed was completely bereft of them.

As I scrolled through, I saw just the usual cute animal videos, engagements, holiday snaps and ads (ads that show FB has ABSOLUTELY been spying on my googling habits. How else would they know I was in the market for one of those giant wine glasses that fits a whole bottle in it?). Blatantly missing was #MeToo. Not one of my friends had posted it. Was everyone I know really lucky enough to have escaped this sort of behaviour? Not one of them a victim in some sense?

I pressed the girls in the wine bar that evening, and others over the next couple of days, about why they hadn’t posted. Surely their experiences were no different to the multitudes taking part in the conversation. Various responses came back. Some serious like “I was raped, that can’t be summed up in a hashtag” or “I’d be too embarrassed – I didn’t do anything about it at the time so why now?”; but most were light hearted along the lines of “Oh it’s very un-Irish, isn’t it?”; or “I just go on Facebook to look at pictures of cats and Jessica Abrahams’ holidays”.

Later, when someone turned the question back on me, I had to admit that I hadn’t posted as anything I could write would trivialise the more serious stories that other women had shared. I just don’t consider myself a victim.

I didn’t feel like a victim in New York when I stood in a lift with a man who masturbated beside me for 14 floors (he realised that too as the doors opened on my floor and I erupted laughing, squealing “so tiny”). Was I a victim two months later when “lift guy’s” even creepier mate left an unpleasant white stain on my coat on the subway (although it was definitely awkward when the dry cleaner didn’t buy my story)? How about on the mornings men rub against me on the tube or stare for a fraction too long on the bus? I notice it but I don’t feel victimised. I’m not a victim when a man makes an inappropriate comment about my appearance in a meeting – because I am straight back in there with a comment on his new tie, asking if his wife bought it for him.

Those of us that didn’t get involved can be accused of turning a blind eye and letting down the side. And while everyone will agree campaigns like this open people’s eyes to the extent of the problem, I fail to believe they can or will radically change behaviours.

Everyone has their reasons for taking part or not. I didn’t post #MeToo because I believe my stories would belittle real victims and their anguish. And I’m lucky enough to be able to look back and mostly actually feel a bit sad for the creepy men…… Except the coat guy. He owes me $25 dollars in dry cleaning expenses.