Why MeToo Matters

I started taking the bus home from school when I was 13 years old. I had just started high school, and my mother was finally willing to give me some independence.  

The bus I took passed two schools on its route – the first was mine. One day, my friends and I were sitting together, talking about our French teacher, when a guy from the other school came and sat next to me. The bus was packed, so it made sense for him to take any empty seat. I thought nothing of it, and kept talking to my friends.

But then he started talking to me. He asked how I was, so I said I was good. I asked how he was as well, just to be polite. He said he was good too. Then, he asked for my number.

I’d never been in a situation like that before, so I didn’t know what to say. I laughed awkwardly and told him I didn’t feel comfortable with that since I had only just met him. He told me to ask him whatever I wanted so we could get to know each other better. I said no and turned back to my friends. He tried to get my attention by telling me I was “sexy.” I almost threw up.  

He kept trying to be a part of our conversations. When we talked about one of our assignments, he would jump in and tell us about one of his. When we spoke about our parents, he would do the same. As much as we tried to ignore him, he wouldn’t leave us alone. I was praying he would get off the bus before me.

He didn’t.

When I got to my stop, I bolted out the door without even saying bye to my friends. I just wanted to go home and pretend it never happened. I was rushing down the street when all of a sudden, my best friend was beside me.

She said the guy had gotten off right after me and she was afraid something would happen. When I glanced behind me, I could see him further back. I hadn’t even noticed.

She was willing to walk me all the way home, but once we noticed he was gone, I told her I’d be okay. We said bye at the next bus stop and she told me to text her when I got home. It’s been 8 years since, and I’m sad to say that wasn’t the last time that’s happened.

Since then, I’ve had men make me uncomfortable in multiple ways – whether it was making crude comments or ignoring the fact that I said no, it’s been a consistent theme throughout my life. It hasn’t just been strangers too. These have been my colleagues, friends, ex-boyfriends.

Growing up, as I was taught “boys date girls and girls date boys,” I’ve simultaneously been taught to be careful so I don’t get hurt. As a woman, I’m expected to live in fear. I’ve taken countless self-defence classes and I’ve been lectured about how I shouldn’t walk home alone at night, or get too drunk. The onus has always been on me to keep myself safe, not on men to be decent human beings.

Lots of people think this era and the MeToo movement, is all about naming and shaming men for their actions. Because of this, you may think I’m an angry man-hating feminist. I am angry at how normalized this narrative is, and I am a feminist, but that’s not my point.

I was lucky enough to hear Tarana Burke, the founder of the movement, speak on International Women’s Day this year. She’s an excellent speaker, and her words helped me gain a better understanding of my own beliefs surrounding the movement.

She emphasized that the movement is about changing hearts and minds, not on shaming people for their actions. Although it is important to hold people accountable, she says there needs to be a narrative shift so that we focus on the stories of survivors, rather than on the perpetrators. The core of this movement is healing and action, and we need that to be the main priority.

I would also like to bring attention to the fact that I call it the “Me Too Movement” rather than #MeToo. The hashtag is not the movement. It brought attention to the movement and helped to raise awareness about the situation. However, simply tweeting something with "#MeToo" doesn’t make the kind of change we need. It’s important to continue working towards a better society, which requires beyond the hashtag. 

When I share this story, it’s not to slander the boy who sat next to me on the bus, it’s to acknowledge it happened, and that it does happen to many women. It’s so that we can collectively share our stories and say “hey, something like that happened to me too.” We shouldn’t have to feel singled out and alone because of our experiences.

We can’t work towards healing and action if we don’t recognize what’s happening around us. I think it’s important to have these conversations, and to acknowledge that the culture we live in, as a whole, is oppressive and degrading to women.

Only then can we move towards a better future.

If you’ve experienced sexual assault or have some general questions, you can reach out to Hayley Moody, who’s our sexual violence counsellor and advocate on the Laurier Brantford campus. Her email is [email protected] and she’s located in the CSEDI office, room 300, on the second floor. You can also call the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant’s anonymous 24-hour crisis and support line at 519-751-3471.

If you’re not ready to reach out for help, that’s okay too. Remember, what happened to you wasn’t your fault. There are multiple people who love and support you, including me, and we’re always in your corner.