I did something today that offended a number of people. I was gutted. I really hate offending people. At the time I had no notion that what I was doing could be offensive. So I’ve been reflecting.
This post has evolved since it was first written, following my developing view. It starts with my initial thoughts when I found out I had caused offense moves through my emotions later in the day and then into a, hopefully, more nuanced view. These are still baby steps, mind.
A) I wrote #MeToo in a messenger chat to indicate that I was willing to participate in a group activity.
I took what has been an expression of bravery, a tool of empowerment and, I imagine, a method of therapy for victims of harassment and used it flippantly. In doing so I undermined it and the severity of the message it represents.
I have no experience of sexual harassment. If I did, I doubt I would have even contemplated using something like the #MeToo movement in vain. Subjects like this are too important to be taken in jest. Especially for an outsider, like me, who has never been affected by the issue in question.
I am truly sorry to those offended and have learnt from the experience.
B) I wrote #MeToo in a messenger chat to indicate that I was willing to participate in a group activity.
I was going to write “Me too” as my response anyway and that brought the hashtag to mind. Without thinking, I posted #MeToo. I was genuinely sorry when I found out I had caused offence.
Yet, at no point was the purpose or severity of the #MeToo movement questioned, mocked or in fact mentioned. I can tell you categorically that no offence was intended.
Furthermore, the post itself did not cast any negative light on “MeToo” or anyone involved. Hence why I was so surprised and disappointed that I had hurt people.
Are such topics simply off limits? Should they be avoided outside their original context? Should someone who is not involved just steer clear entirely? If no offence is intended and none explicitly made, is such an action wrong? Is there a place anywhere for writing on the edge of offence? Is there a tone in which it is acceptable?
Up to this point, writing this article had not helped me resolve the issue in my head. Although it did help me come to the following conclusions:
1) I have a lot to learn about feminism, gender equality and the issue of sexual harassment specifically. I have heard and discovered more in six and a half weeks at SCA than the 23 years previous.
- 2) I am grateful to those who have helped me learn; I both want and need it, so thank you.
- 3) It did not even occur to me that I could be hurting someone by doing what I did. That in itself is a problem. The issue is just not on my radar. That needs to change.
- 4) Everything above needs talking about and SCA is the perfect, diverse, eclectic forum in which to do so. So let’s.
C) I wrote #MeToo in a messenger chat to indicate that I was willing to participate in a group activity.
And in the following 24 hours I wrote the above SCAB and let it simmer. I took my own advice and discussed it with someone whose opinion on the topic I respect. Then I revisited it.
In doing so, I came to a new conclusion.
I did not conclude that the severity of the topic precludes any comment from outsiders. Plenty has been said about darker issues than the one in question. Nor did I decide conversely that everything is fair game for comment.
My conclusion was that taking a symbol of something one is ignorant about is the action of an idiot. Me, in this case.
If I were well versed on the subject, if I knew the meaning of the movement and had an understanding of sexual harassment and feminism, then I could have made an educated decision as to whether my comment was appropriate or not.
In the absence of this knowledge, I was wrong to take that hashtag and use it. I was in no place to know what I was saying or doing and therefore in no position to judge potential consequences.
On a personal note, I’d love to hear what people think of what I have written here and am open to anything people can teach me.