This week, my Facebook is streaming with #metoos, a hashtag movement that sprang up in light of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. In parallel, women of the California State Legislature are stepping up to say #wesaidenough to the sexual harassment faced by females in government and politics. I’m so moved to see women post the painful details of their experiences and equally so to simply witness the sheer number of posts that just say #metoo and nothing more.
For anyone who missed the memo: females are sexually harassed en masse. It’s no longer over-dramatic or humble-braggy to admit it, but rather powerful and timely.
It’s Monday and I stand waiting on the light rail platform. I catch a man staring at me, probably because I’m in dressy work attire. I shift my bags to cover up my body. He continues to eye me up-and-down. Now in solid discomfort, I walk to wait in the space behind him. He turns around anyway. Repeat.
I go into work and swear that I will wear different clothes, or a large cover-all jacket, or not wear as much makeup, or just pay for more expensive parking rather than taking the light rail. #MeTooButItWasMyFault
It’s after hours on Tuesday but I take a work call since the caller is a long-time ally in the Vietnamese community. The conversation is a cacophony of “We’ll need to talk further about these issues” and “You’re gorgeous” and “Let’s set up a meeting when I’m in town” and “Do you have a boyfriend?” He’s my father’s age and I think: #MeTooButIt’sMyCulture.
It’s Wednesday and I skip the light rail. As I rush into work, a man matches my stride to ask for the time. Ugh, he’s up to something, but I’ll give him—like every other man—the benefit of the doubt. I tell him it’s nine. He keeps up and veers closer. “Nine-oh-six,” I roll my eyes. “Thanks,” he begins. “That’s nice of you. You’re pretty. I like pretty girls. Can I get your number?”
I dart off and shake my head, unsure if at him or myself. “Bitch!” he yells in the distance. #MeTooButI’mABitch
It’s Thursday and I attend a political fundraiser with my colleagues. A man that I’ve known professionally for more than a year drops by and makes a bee-line to me. “Man, did you see Liza on Sunday at the charity event? Gorgeous.” My colleagues and I uncomfortably acknowledge him.
“If I wasn’t twice your age, I would’ve asked you out by now.”
“Wow, you are so beautiful.”
“Tell me, Liza, you saw Leona Lewis up close at the event. Was she wearing underwear underneath that dress?”
I’ll comfort you by sharing that my colleagues then stood up for me and berated the man for disrespecting me. So #MeTooEvenAmongFriends
I want to begin talking about the #MeToo movement through a daily lens. Rape and quid pro quo may seem like rarities, but these interactions—the weight of the male gaze, the tactics employed to touch or get close to you, your growing inability to separate an innocent male from a total creep—happen every day. I shouldn’t need to tell you about the time I got an unsolicited Snapchat of a man’s private parts. Or when my 14-year-old cousin did. Or how, growing up, my single mother would describe the horrific dating scene for Asian women. Up until now, it’s been #MeTooButThat’sLife.
It’s no wonder that men can go on to commit more heinous acts toward women (and other men), when they’ve been green-lighted to holler, touch, bug, and stare. When daily life has become a practice ground for manipulation and misogyny, I implore you to stand up against it, speak up when you see it, and share it if you can.
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Liza Nguyễn Chu
Liza is a Vietnamese-American political junkie, world citizen, and daugther. Born and grazed in Stockton, CA, the migratory hub of many Southeast Asian families, she has developed a passion for addressing the major social justice issues of our time: income inequality and building healthy pipelines for underserved communities, all while preserving the beautiful earth that we inherited. In her free time, Liza runs a quirky blog and can be found weekending in San Jose to find the best phở gà in town. Or bánh canh. Or ốc len xào dừa. A graduate of UC Davis, she happily reports political news to Chopsticks Alley straight from the State Capitol, where she works as a legislative aide.