Most of those active on social media recently will have seen posts in their feed including the hashtag #MeToo. The #MeToo campaign was started in 2007 by Tarana Burke, in order to help sexual assault survivors. It has trended since Oct. 15, when actress Alyssa Milano invited women to highlight the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and assault by using the hashtag and sharing their stories.
On Monday, as I saw an ever growing stream of #MeToo posts from both female and male friends, I wondered what to do. First and foremost, I love my friends and wanted to show them compassion and support instead of turning a blind eye. While I respect that some may choose not to speak up, eventually I also felt it was important for me to say “me too,” to briefly list the unsolicited and inappropriate advances I have experienced, and to offer some inspirational ideas.
Ms. Burke said that the phrase “me too” was intended as “a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.” I agree. As large as the problem of sexual harassment and assault is, it helps me to remember that the potential for prevention and healing is even more impressive.
All of my engagement along these lines is empowered by seeing and loving myself and others as God made us: as God’s spiritual children, composed of indestructible God-given qualities such as joy, peace, and wholeness. This does not mean turning a blind eye to evil. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, illustrated through her founding of the Monitor that we must be willing to confront and handle even the most difficult trends and events in the world, while simultaneously striving “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind,” as its motto says.
In praying to respond to this (longtime) trend, I’ve found that the Bible provides a tremendous example of how to overcome evil without becoming bitter, particularly in the life of Christ Jesus. Though hated, slandered, put on trial, and executed in one of the most painful and demeaning ways possible, Jesus still rose above all he had been subjected to through a clear vision of his, and everyone’s, truly God-provided and God-sustained substance and purpose. Sexual assault can threaten to be a death-dealing blow to life, joy, and feelings of self-worth and safety. Speaking out about it can be an arduous trial. But I have found that prayer affirming the qualities that make up our fundamental essence – none of which can be touched or harmed – can make all the difference. It has empowered me to realize that I am not weakened, I am not ashamed, and I am not stained. And I firmly believe that is true for everyone.
Prayer to see everyone in this spiritual light has been key to my response to the #MeToo trend on social media, leading me to offer supportive comments on the posts of friends who spoke up – whether sharing their experience or posting simple but powerful phrases like “I believe you”; or individuals taking on the responsibility to rebuke unacceptable behavior and support others when they feel unsafe, responding to the call for better models of manhood and womanhood to be raised up in our society, and starting a discussion for fellow parents to offer insights into how we can best support our sons and daughters given the trending conversation.
I am heartened by the support I have received, and by all the prayers, conversations, and actions coming forward as a result of the #MeToo campaign. May it continue. And may we increasingly discover that evil is not inherently a part of anyone, male or female, nor is it the ultimate power. Instead, may all feel the tender but mighty touch of the infinite good that is God – omnipresent, omnipotent, divine Love – that protects us, washes us clean, reforms us, redeems us, and causes us to rise up renewed, in ever fresh and increasing expressions of mutual freedom, blessings, and love.
To read about one of Ms. Jostyn’s experiences and related ideas, check out her article published in the Nov. 7, 2011, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.