Say the words. Call it by its name. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape.
These are words the media has carefully tiptoed around ever since the #MeToo movement came alive on Twitter.
They like to pretend they can use the words “Me Too” as a euphemism for sexual violence. Everyone knows what the #MeToo movement is, right? So why bother saying the words?
“Me Too” has become a catchy shorthand for all sexual assaults, particularly in the workplace. Because social media, and Twitter, in particular, has allowed our voices to be heard louder and clearer than before, the public wants to pretend that this is somehow a new phenomenon sweeping the nation.
It’s true that many women (7 out of 10) do not report their rapes and assaults. But there are still many women who have been going public way before the words “Me Too” ever appeared on Twitter. And they have been ignored, or worse, vilified.
Sexual assault is not new. And women have been trying to speak their truths since the dawn of time (the first recorded accounts of rape occurred in Greek myths and later in ancient Roman law).
In 1992, Dylan Farrow testified that her father Woody Allen sexually abused and touched her. She was 7 years old at the time. But the public said her mother manipulated her and fed her these lies. It’s been more than 20 years since she first spoke up and yet still many don’t believe her. And she certainly hasn’t received justice.
Just a year early, Anita Hill bravely came forward with her account of her sexual harassment at the hands of then SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas. Everyone called her a liar. A skank. A whore. They didn’t believe here either.
And even before that, in the 1972 film Last Tango in Paris, 19-year-old actress Maria Schneider was filmed getting raped by Marlon Brando. Although it was portrayed as a fictional part of the film, the truth was so much worse. Years later, she opened up about the fact that the scene was, in fact, not consensual, and it wasn’t even in the script. But it wasn’t until the director himself confirmed Maria’s story that she was believed. In a resurfaced interview with the director, he admitted,
“I’d been, in a way, horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on. I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.”
Do you really need me to go on?
So stop using “Me Too” as a blanket term for all sexual assaults. Stop acting like this is the first time women are calling out their attackers. It’s not only factually incorrect but also extremely insulting to victims everywhere.
Using the term “Me Too” instead of the words “sexual violence”, “sexual harassment”, and “rape” is watering down the incidents. It makes it a more tolerable pill to swallow, an easier headline to read.
Rape, in particular, is a jarring word, and for good reason. It is among one of the worst crimes a human can commit. It is a crime of violence and an abuse of power and dominance.
So don’t use a euphemism. Don’t give it a nice term. Call it by its name.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.