By Quinlyn Manfull
Hearing of Harvey Weinstein was nothing of a shock to me — his misogyny was never shied away from and honestly I would not be surprised to hear any powerful man accused of sexual assault at a serial level.
What did shock me with Weinstein’s most recent outing was the globality of the response. I was shocked and in awe to see my entire Facebook timeline filled with “me too” from hundreds of my friends — not because I was surprised by the content, but because I had never seen an opening up and a comradery so visible and unashamed.
This outcry of survivors empowered millions globally to speak about their past, it reassured survivors who choose not to speak, it provided a common space for survivors to find comfort in the fact that they are nowhere near alone. This outcry spread far; all the way to Oregon’s elected officials.
I cried when I read Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Facebook post detailing her experience facing sexual harassment even at work. Seeing a woman you view as a role model, as one of the most powerful and badass women I’ve had the honor to meet speak about such a vulnerable and relatable experience meant more to me than I could ever express.
Women in positions of power sharing their own experiences opens up the floor for more women, and all people, to share that surviving sexual assault and domestic violence is nothing to be ashamed of, that you are powerful and strong and brave.
Now my timeline is not only filled with statuses of my close friends and acquaintances but also of articles posted about people opening the door on discussion of sexual harassment in all workplaces. Sexual harassment and racism in the Oregon State Capitol, for example, have been brought to light.
Senator Jeff Kruse has been accused of “inappropriate touching” by multiple state Senators, one being the Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick. Numerous other women have stepped forward to report sexual harassment and violence occurring within the marble walls of the Capitol.
Lobbyists, Senators, Aids, Democrats, Republicans and our Governor have stepped forward to share their experiences — some are anonymous and some very visible.
It would have been ridiculous to assume that any workplace is free from harassment — it’s absurd to assume any space, especially spaces that have historically been dominated by men, does not exude violence against women.
I did not think that the Capitol was free from harassment, but I did not think that so many women whose jobs require them to seem powerful — to adopt what are seen as masculine traits — would step forward and submit to a vulnerable light, would admit to feeling powerless, to being taken advantage of.
Representation matters. Historically, women have been wronged, harassed, abused, taken advantage of, thrown under the bus, humiliated and assaulted in every aspect of their lives — at school, at work, at home. The least that can happen is these stories can come out, we can ruin the lives of those who attempt to steal our bodies. We can smear their names, we can reclaim our stories and our bodies and show others that the same is possible for them.
It is not enough for abusers to be shamed. Abusers have to feel what it’s like to lose something, lose everything.
I’m exhausted of being told my story makes me weak, makes me less. I’m exhausted of being told that I should be ashamed of being a survivor. Kate Brown and others showed me that not only should I not be ashamed, but that I should be proud and loud (if I so choose to be).
Representation matters because no one should be told that surviving is shameful. Community matters because no one should think they are alone in surviving what seems like the world falling apart around you. Visibility matters because we have to be reminded time and time again that our bodies are our own, no matter who tries to tell us the opposite.