Every woman’s story of harassment or assault is worth telling
Over the weekend, the #metoo movement on social media went viral with women changing their statuses to signal that they too had been a victim of sexual assault or harassment. But not every woman felt her story was “bad enough” to warrant telling.
That’s what motivated video producer Leena Norms to write a thread about dismissing her own experiences of harassment and how silence surrounding any instance of abuse can help normalize that behavior.
In a brilliant series of tweets, Norms explains her thought process behind holding back her stories of being harassed because they’re “not that bad” compared to others.
She says that although she’s never been raped, it’s still a “slippery slope” to write off more minor experiences that police wouldn’t necessarily see as punishable.
But like most women and girls, Norms has still had her share of unwanted advances, harassment, and outright abuse throughout her life.
Despite this list of terrible and demeaning occurrences, Norms still sees herself as having “gotten off the lightest” among friends who have had “worse” things happen to them at the hands of men.
She then lights on something some of us might be thinking, but have never said out loud — women who haven’t been raped or physically assaulted don’t want to take away sympathy or attention for those who have for fear of lessening the response to their experiences. Because the world’s threshold for listening to these stories is pathetically low.
By leaving our more minor incidents out of the conversation, we’re trying to amplify the voices of women with a “bigger case,” and that’s left Norms wondering if the silence has done any good as far as helping those who have been victim to more serious instances of assault.
Judging by the sheer number of women and girls changing their statuses to “me too” over the last several days, it looks like that silence over lesser instances of abuse hasn’t helped anything — it’s still happening, all the time. Women are still fighting to be believed and heard. Many men (and some women) are still incredulous or in denial about the severity of these issues, and that means that if anything, we need to speak loudly about our experiences if we’re comfortable doing so — no matter how “small.”
Twitter was very much on board with Norms’ thoughts as other women chimed in that they felt the same way, but stayed quiet for the same reasons she did.
The more we talk, the louder our voices, the harder it will be for the world to ignore the very real problems of sexual assault and harassment. By normalizing speaking out, we give courage to those who are holding back — and every single story matters and deserves to be heard.
Although we wish those stories didn’t have to exist at all.