Why #MeToo matters for travelers
Unfortunately, there are too many “Me, Too” moments for me to count. Whether it’s walking down the street and enduring the lewd comments hurled at me since I was a child, or being touched without permission, the list is endless. And I’m not alone.
What is #MeToo?
Those are the words that blazed the internet and revolutionized how we talk about sexual assault. We are no longer statistics, we have faces and names. We are your next-door neighbor, we are your family, we are your classmate, there are countless of us. You don’t even have to try hard to find us.
We are survivors which have endured sexual assault on all levels and unfortunately numerous times. We are here to be heard.
Now you’re wondering, why does this matters to travelers?
Because, statistically speaking, you can probably also say #MeToo. One in five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime in the United States, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. These are numbers we can’t ignore.
A large part of the movement is to show the prevalence of sexual assault by simply standing together in numbers behind the hashtag #MeToo.
Yet, we can do more by sharing our stories
I first shared my #MeToo story when I wrote about a taxi driver and his inappropriate comments when I visited Puerto Rico. It wasn’t to scare travelers away from the destination or to laugh about the ordeal. I shared my experience again when I experienced catcalls in Belize.
My experiences are relevant because many other travelers experience this. I do not rehash these situations to receive pity or attention, but to possibly offer guidance or solidarity to someone else. To simply say, I’ve been there too.
Now, more than ever, we need to talk about sexual harassment and assault. Because it’s become the norm to slut-shame victims and make inappropriate comments like, “They asked for it.” This needs to stop.
By educating ourselves and others about sexual assault is the first step.
As avid travelers, it’s important that you and I share our experience of sexual assault and harassment while abroad. It’s important so we know that we’re not alone. So if there’s only one thing you take away from this post, it’s that you aren’t alone.
Here I am saying it, me too.
“My experience wasn’t that horrible”
I took the plunge and share on my personal Facebook page #MeToo and I received overwhelming support. Yet, there were other friends of mine who remained silent.
No, I’m not here to shame them. I’m not here to scold them and ask, “Why didn’t you share your story?” I’m here to say, I’m here for you, regardless if you are ready to talk about your horrible experience or not.
I read a great article that glosses the surface of why some decided not to share #MeToo on their timelines. The writer dives into how her experience “wasn’t as bad” as being raped or assaulted. This is why she chose not to share on social media her experiences. The best nugget of the article is the last paragraphs.
Yet I found that I couldn’t say it. And at the time of this writing, I still struggle to say it. Not because it’s not true. And not even because I find these things hard to talk about. I’ll talk to anyone about any experience. I’m an open book. I just…somehow…feel like my experiences weren’t “bad enough” to say #MeToo. I’ve mostly recovered from all of this. I don’t think about any of it too often or feel too deeply affected by any of it long-term. I don’t feel like a victim. And because I don’t feel like a victim, I struggle to call my experiences what they really are: indecent exposure to a child, assault, rape, abuse.
I feel guilty using those words. I feel like I’m being dramatic. Or desperate to be part of a conversation for attention. I feel like I’m exaggerating. And I truly, in my heart, can’t figure out if I am. I can’t and don’t trust my own judgment with the severity of less-than-pleasant occurences that have happened in my life. It’s never been a matter of me thinking people wouldn’t “believe me.” It’s been an issue that I barely “believe” myself. And I don’t know what that says about me.
But I do know this: my attitude, my feelings, and my self-doubt are part of the problem. I consider myself to generally be a strong, educated, feminist woman with a decent platform where my voice can be heard. Yet I have trouble identifying these things, and further excuse them when they happen to me. That’s not good. It doesn’t have to be “bad enough” for it to count. And regardless of whether I’m comfortable or you’re comfortable saying #MeToo, we all need to admit that we have a problem.
All experiences, whether it was being catcalled in the streets or groped in a dark alley, are horrible. #MeToo aims to show, no matter how “small and insignificant” these acts are, they are wrong and need to be stopped. Society forces us to believe they are not relevant. Victims deserve justice.
Society needs to change
Though I’m advocating for society to change, I think it’s important that women know how to protect themselves. Rather than holding victims responsible for the atrocities that happened to them, society should change the violent climate that women face every day. In the meantime, it’s important that women, especially solo female travelers, know how to protect themselves.
If you still choose to remain silent (and no you cannot shame someone for that!), please stay part of the conversation. Just like those who have not encountered sexual harassment and assault, become an advocate and ally for those who have. Be a voice for those who are struggling to tell their story.
Her Travel Therapy also reminds us not to victim blame:
[People say] none of it would have happened if they had just stayed safely at home with people they know. Nevermind that 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone who was already known to the victim.
Instead of blaming those who are assaulted and abused, listen to their truth and learn how we can better society. Continue to spread the message that we all deserve better and all deserve respect. Stop sexual harassment and sexual assault. Let’s change the norm and let people know it’s no longer acceptable.
What else can we do?
#MeToo has spurred on a worldwide discussion about sexual assault and harassment, but we need to keep vigilant. I’ve continued to talk about Me, Too with other travel bloggers and I continue to hear so many heartbreaking truths. (Not stories or tales, because yes, I stand with victims and believe their truth.)
There was a piece of advice from fellow travel blogger Megan at Beat, Broke, Backpacking that I had to include:
Even just these two words are exhausting, but unfortunately, more effort is necessary to make women feel safe around the world is even more exhausting. It’s going to involve repeating, Me, Too, over and over again, until it reaches parts of the globe where women’s rights are still a laughable concept. It’s going to involve men doing a lot more of the work, because we’re talking about men attacking women. Even just framing the problem as “women being attacked” puts more effort on victims. Can we stop that? Can we let women breathe for a goddamn minute? So much work is put on victims and survivors. Dudes, it’s time to step up. Take a note from Joe Biden.
Keep victims and survivors in your mind as you vote, as you make “jokes,” as you support businesses, as you walk down the street, as you enter a bar. You have to work every single moment to make the world a safer place for women. Because women have to deal with the consequences, every single moment.
(Read her entire post about Me, Too here).
Together we need to formulate a community where travelers can always feel safe to share their stories or both good and bad experiences abroad and at home. You can send me your personal stories anonymously or just simply comment #MeToo in the comments below.