Erna Mahyuni

Erna tweets too much on @ernamh. Angry Sabah native, slave to her dog/cat and blogs at ernamahyuni.com

OCTOBER 25 — I’ve spent most of the month hiding from Twitter after a Tweet triggered a rage that’s been dormant, one that I know will likely never truly go away. It was just a passing Tweet, callous, but it still hurt to read a man saying a woman only calls it harassment if the harasser is ugly.

Thing is, just a few months ago, I was just as angry but at a woman. How dare, I thought, a woman of all people, imply I call it “attention” when I like it and “harassment” if I don’t.

Funnily enough, the time I was off Twitter, Rose McGowan started a Twitter movement of sorts that encouraged women to boycott the platform while Alyssa Milano encouraged women to share their harassment experiences with the hashtag #metoo.

The last few weeks, I’ve seen friends and acquaintances share their stories or, at the very least, hint at their experiences by mentioning the hashtag and nothing else.

Of course, the usual devil’s advocates have come out in full force. One woman said the movement would be pointless if it all did was share stories among women, which women “did anyway.” 

We can’t just have nice things, can we?

I’ve documented my experiences with sexual harassment and assault a few times in my column, treating the incidents as matter-of-fact. 

They happened. The scars are still there. I’ll talk about them because there really shouldn’t be a stigma attached to what happened.

Yet I understand that for many women, it’s just not the same. The shame, reliving the trauma, the strong emotions still attached to those memories and the fear of how other people will react... I know too well why women are afraid to talk.

What matters now is that other people learn to let them talk. Save your unnecessary judgement or armchair psychology for other, less serious matters. 

If you need to shout “but not all men”, do the rest of the world a favour and shut up. Of course not all men harass or assault women, but the proportion of men who do in comparison to women is marked enough that yes, it’s a gender issue.

The average man doesn’t need to worry about a woman overpowering him, drugging his drink, or murdering him if he turns down a proposition or breaks up with her. 

Women are afraid of men and for good reason. It’s not about there being good men or bad men, it’s about a society that normalises rough treatment and downplays assault. 

It’s important that people can now talk about these things; to get it firmly accepted that the status quo can no longer go on. Remember that there are still people alive who remember when slavery was acceptable, when it is no longer acceptable now. There needs to be a new normal where sexual harassment and assault are no longer tolerated. 

Yet we also live in an age where prominent men in power with various allegations of sexual harassment levelled at them can still remain in power. 

So here’s what I say you do if you hear stories of sexual harassment. Be quiet. Listen. If you can help, do. If you can’t, don’t make things worse by injecting unasked for pontificating. If it bothers you to listen, turn away. Just don’t make things worse by defending the acts or defending an entire gender when frankly, men don’t need defending. 

They need educating and maybe, just maybe, so do some women.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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