#metoo: A Call to Empathy

According to Tarana Burke, the founder of the “MeToo” campaign, “’Me Too’ is about using the power of empathy to stomp out shame.” There’s no better way to describe it. Empathy, not only the emotion of caring and sympathy, but action behind it. The #metoo has provided a means, an outlet, and a united front to speak out and voice pain and anger, despite the unjust shame we now realize so many felt that prevented them from doing so sooner.

But it has gone a step further. While #metoo has helped decrease that unjust shame that has prevented so many from speaking out before, it has given rise to the realization that many of us men are the cause of pain and suffering – knowingly or otherwise.

It has increased our shame. Shame at things we may have done or said. Shame at things we may have seen or heard, but did nothing about. And for us who have seen friends posting #metoo throughout the past week, shame that we could not share in their grief.

And while the goal of the campaign is to “…stomp out shame,” it is hard to imagine that the shame it has caused us to feel isn’t what is needed right now.

The shame has caused many men to react to #metoo with their own #Ihave, or #Itwasme. Admissions of guilt and shame over their parts in causing such a widespread problem. It shows that #metoo is causing us to look inward at ourselves with a microscope. Examining our past to determine our guilt, and many of us can’t help but realize that we have been culprits of the problem without even realizing it. Unintentional though they may have been, we have very likely done and said things that were abusive in one way or another. But #metoo has opened our eyes, and shown us that we are so unaware and blind and that it is our own fault. It has shown us that the only way to turn the tide is to make a conscious effort to police ourselves, change ourselves. We need to make a conscious effort to be empathetic. We need to do more than feel sorry and ashamed about our part in the problem, we have to act against it.

The pandemic is too often swept under the rug. As more well-known figures such as entertainers, politicians, and prevalent businessmen are accused (guilty or not), the sheer commonness of the accusations will begin to provoke more eye-rolling than shock and outrage. And that proves the problem! We are so desensitized to the horror of it that we ignore it entirely, and the problem continues. It should shame us even further.

But that shame should not cause us to sit down and be silent. That does the same thing. The shame should shock us into EMPATHY.

12 Million #metoo posts on Facebook within two days. 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of sexual harassment (Huffington Post). 1 in 6 have experienced a sexual assault, one occurring every 98 seconds (RAINN.org).

To deny there is a problem is foolish.

To choose to ignore it is cruel.

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