Christine Rose calls it the tweet heard around the world.
“Me too. Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women and men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote, ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’”
The author of the tweet, actress and activist Alyssa Milano, probably expected some results when she hit “post” on Oct. 15, 2017.
But she was likely unprepared for the tweet to become the No. 1 trending post the next day, nor did she likely expect #MeToo to be posted more than 85 million times on Facebook over the next month and a half. Instagram noted the hashtag was used 1.5 million times in 2018, making it the most-used advocacy hashtag that year.
This is where Rose’s new book, “Life Beyond #MeToo,” begins, though she quickly makes it clear this is not where the story starts.
It took the Bonney Lake resident more than two years to put everything together, not just the research into the #MeToo movement, but beyond it to examine the many facets of our society that not only permit, but sometimes even encourage, the discrimination, objectification, and sexual harassment and violence toward women.
This is best exemplified by the short stories that open each chapter.
There are 17 stories in all, ranging from workplace sexual harassment to child sexual abuse and rape, told by women (and one man) from all around western Washington, including one from Enumclaw.
Despite every account being unique, there’s are common threads connecting each and every one — silence, shame, and pain.
“I never reported him.”
“This is the first time I’ve told this story to anyone.”
“I forced the memories down, almost as afraid of how I had survived as I was of the attack.”
But the premise of the book isn’t stuck in the mire of the present. Rather, it’s how to move forward toward a safer world for everyone, which starts with sharing these stories.
“Researcher Brené Brown says, ‘If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too,’” Rose writes. “By reaching out to one another in empathy, we are becoming a force to be reckoned with. We are not victims. We are intrepid survivors and more than overcomers.”
Rose opens by examining the #MeToo movement and its historical roots, from the 2014 #yesallwomen grassroots campaign to the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention that launched the women’s suffrage movement.
“If you’ve studied history, you’ll agree that #MeToo is raising awareness, but despite its magnitude, it is a mere drop in the ocean of complaints from women about men’s enforcing sexual power against women,” Rose writes. “Every generation of women has its stories, and every generation has kept its silence.”
But as the CEO of her own coaching company that helps small businesses take off, develop executive leadership skills, and become a cohesive work team, Rose is acutely aware that #MeToo was not a perfect movement, and that we must do more than share our experiences in an online forum to take us from a world filled with sexual harassment and violence to one of mutual respect and advocacy.
One of the major criticisms of #MeToo, she writes, was that it lacked nuance and treated varying forms of sexual harassment and violence equally.
“Thinking people make distinctions between a hand on your knee and a grope up your skirt, between a sexual attack by a supervisor and a pat on the butt from a guy in a bar just as they distinguish pickpockets from home invaders,” ACLU Board Member Wendy Kaminer wrote on Spiked Online in 2017. “#MeTooism condemns such distinctions as reflections of rape culture.”
Rose clearly agrees, but
also adds that every form of sexual offence harms the targets.
The consequences and damage from sexual abuse and assault are well-known. Abuse survivors, who are often groomed as children, tend to feel a powerlessness and numbness that follows them into their adult lives, and often have a deep distrust and/or a warped view of relationships and sex. And as for sexual violence, Rose quotes a 2011 study that claims “sexual assault is associated with greater psychological hard than any other crimes.”
But it’s the harm suffered from sexual harassment that she focuses on the most, likely because on the whole, most discussions appear to revolve around the more severe sexual offenses. According to a 2018 study, 31 percent of women and 20 percent of men who experience sexual harassment report feeling additional anxiety and depression, which can affect their daily lives. There’s also an increased risk of substance abuse, alcoholism and eating disorders.
Clearly, sexual offenses have a human cost, which Rose poses should be reason enough to not engage in harassment or assault.
However, she believes there’s also an economic cost that should drive companies and corporations to come down harder on sexual offenses in the workplace.
“After experiencing sexual harassment, nearly one in 10 women sought a new job assignment, changed jobs, or quit a job because of the abuse, as did one in 20 men,” she wrote, quoting a 2018 national study by Stop Street Harassment. Additionally, “Women harassed early on in their careers often accept lower-paid or underpaid work so they can leave a hostile work environment, and many never recover the momentum lost on their career journeys;.”
All in all, “a typical Fortune 500 corporation that tolerates sexual harassment incidents will lose $14.02 million annually… because of absenteeism, decreased productivity, increased healthcare costs and employee turnover,” she continued, quoting a 1988 study.
The economic effects of rape are even more widespread.
“In 2008, researchers estimated that each rape cost approximately $151,423, including care for the victim, tests and time spent by medical staff, facilities costs, administrative costs, and more,” Rose writes. “The same study found that violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5 percent of total healthcare costs, or up to $750 billion.”
HOPE FOR CHANGE
“Life Beyond #MeToo” is more than just recounting the statistics of sexual offenses and the cost to individuals and society; as a coach, Rose is always looking for a way forward to a solution.
There have already been significant changes in the way society addresses sexual harassment and assault. Clearly, #MeToo was able to help the country acknowledge that sexual violence is very much prevalent in nearly every facet of life, and according to a 2018 New York Times article, 201 “powerful men” have either lost major roles or their jobs, in part thanks to the grassroots movement.
But there’s also been backlash. In the wake of #MeToo, a joint survey by Glamour and Esquire found “84 percent of men were worried that allegations of sexual misconduct would harm the reputations of men who don’t deserve it,” Rose writes, and one-third of men ages 18 to 55 worried they would personally be wrongly accused of sexual harassment at work.
Rose calls the backlash and resistance to societal change around sexual offenses the “Old Normal” — a simple phrase that describes the societal and cultural pillars that have led to, perpetuate, and even encourage harassment and violence against women, including the historical power imbalance between the sexes, the sexual objectification of girls and women in all forms of media, the growth and influence of the pornography industry, and more.
What she hopes you take away from her book are they ways in which she believes we can achieve a “New Normal,” which would mean a world that no longer tolerates any sort of gender-based discrimination in education, business, and the home, unrealistic beauty standards for women (and men) in media, and sexual harassment or violence of any kind.
It seems like an impossible task, especially when put all together like that.
But, “from a coaching perspective, when we break down a massive problem or an amalgamation of massive, unsolvable problems into a project or collection of projects, we can identify what outcomes we’re looking to attain, figure out what steps we or others need to take to create those outcomes, and take action,” Rose writes. “Change is possible one project at a time for those willing to act.”
One of the places to start would be examining the assumptions we have about sex, sexual harassment and sexual violence, and rejecting the assumptions that are simply not true.
“To create and promulgate nonviolent cultures,” she writes, “we can dispose of the assumption that there is no end to violence, because such an assumption undergirds cultures that promote violence and the use of physical force to reach some desired end.”
This is all about changing minds, the first step of moving from the Old Normal to the New.
“In order to change behaviors, people’s minds need to change first, and to do this, people need two things: one, they need to believe the change is possible and will be worth it, and two, they need to believe they can do what is required for the change to be effective,” Rose writes.
Doing what is required to make change happen is the next step, and it varies depending on the goals being set.
In general, though, it involves being socially aware of what sorts of sex discrimination is happening around you and actively advocating for a change, especially when it comes to a child’s environment.
“Parents can choose to educate children from birth to have zero tolerance for sexual violence and discrimination,” Rose continues. “When you hear a sexist or sexually degrading comment from your child or their peers, step in — and continue to intervene until this behavior stops.”
If the scope of change needed seems overwhelming, well, that’s because it is, and Rose admits that her book can’t contain all the tips and advice necessary for bringing about global change.
“It’s far beyond the scope of this book to outline a detailed strategy and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-sensitive) goals for each person to create New Normal. Please visit www.lifebeyondmetoo.com for information about strategy and goal setting for change to bring about New Normal,” she writes. “I encourage each reader to consider the future you want to see and engage to the degree possible for you.”
For more information about Christine Rose, visit www.christinerose.coach.