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October 18, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

It took me all week so far to write this column, because I was trying to avoid this particular topic. My bosses tell me they'd like it if there was more happy content in our newspaper. I think there is a fair bit of happiness and fun, and I'm sorry our communities generate some bit of bad and contentious news to report. If everyone would behave in public, all the news would be happy and fluffy, and our newspaper would go out of business.

Am I correct? What is it you open the newspaper to read? My guess is most of you look to us for a mixture of both: the pictures of your local friends and family, the fun of local live performances, the happenings around the area; and the latest on whatever might be going on in the cities and county governments, crime, and other things that are not always so happy. It's our job as journalists to keep our public entities transparent and accountable to the people. That job is easier at some times than at others.

If you're on social media, you likely saw the hashtag #MeToo, and the stories that went with it. While the movement for MeToo is credited to Tarana Burke, the program director for Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity in a movement begun over ten years ago, it went viral after the accounts surfaced of Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein's treatment of women.

Twitter reported the hashtag #MeToo had been used 825,000 times as of Tuesday. Officials from Facebook said that in less than 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the world have engaged in the "Me too" conversation, with more than 12 million posts, comments and reactions. According to Facebook, more than 45% of people in the United States are friends with someone who's posted a message with the words 'Me too.'

The posts usually say, "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sese of the magnitude of the problem."

Among celebrities who joined the campaign are Lady Gaga, Debra Messing, Anna Paquin, and Rose McGowan, America Ferrera, and Evan Rachel Wood.

Fact Box

In less than 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the world have engaged in the "Me, too"?conversation, with more than 12 million posts, comments, and reactions...more than 45 percent of people in the U.S. are friends with someone who's posted a message.

In France, Twitter users are using #balancetonporc or "expose the pig" to encourage women to name and shame their attackers.

So is the point to say men are pigs? Of course not all men. Of course not any man all the time. I'm fortunate to know, love, work with, and spend time with a number of men who are decidedly respectful, circumspect and forthright. I hope and believe I'm raising two of them.

Some men on Twitter have launched the #HowIwillChange campaign to support #MeToo. Men who might have been part of the problem at some point. Those who knew and chose to not be upstanders or get involved.

Some of the men assembled a list of how men can help:

1. Be quiet. 2. Listen. 3. Learn. 4. Lead/teach young men by example. 5. Stand up to friends and family who act in an abusive manner. 6. Stand behind women, not in front.

I may not have a big, traumatic story I will share in the #MeToo space, but it made me aware of how pervasive the harassing culture can be.

I was spending 20 minutes catching up on my Words With Friends games on Facebook. Think Scrabble on the screen. I play several games at a time, some with strangers, some with people I know.

There is a chat window on the side of the game. In the last game, "Chris" said, "Hello?" and "Will you please chat with me?" before resigning the game. After he started a new game, I said, "Hi. My name is Amy."

His response: "Your [sic] sexy. Wanna see me naked?"


I replied, "Just don't."

Chris: "Awww. I'm bored."

He's bored? To be clear, I didn't feel fearful, I didn't feel intimidated, I'm not in danger, my job is not in danger, my children are not in danger, there was nothing to publicly shame me over, this was just one of those things to ignore and block.

But this thought hit me: how many times a day or week do women have to take in the words or gestures of (usually) men who would objectify us, who think we're there for their sexual pleasure, who think we're there to keep them from being bored, who think we're there to shock, embarrass, or annoy, who think it's funny?

We're taught to just keep our heads up, keep walking, and ignore them. And most of us do. But what if we lived in a world where it wasn't our responsibility to do so?

This makes me tired.



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