Valentines Day in Wake of the #MeToo Movement

Jacob Tafrate 18', Editor and Writer

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Over the past few months allegations of sexual assault and harassment have been relentless in the news. From Nassar, Senator Al Franken, to Weinstein the scope of sexual abuse knows no limits. As the victims gained the courage to speak out a national discussion on the topic followed. This took the form of the #MeToo movement where victims from around the globe were encouraged to share their stories in hopes of empowering others to do the same. The dialogue made many realize the widespread nature of these issues, and is now shifting to a discussion of methods we can use to tackle these problems as a society.

Before I begin addressing Valentine’s Day in relation avoiding sexual harassment, I want to clarify a personal stance in order to avoid possibly offending anyone. I think we can all agree that any form of sexual harassment is horrible and has no place in a progressive nation. Any individual engaging in these behaviors should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and we all must do our best to empower victims to speak out and inspire a shift of thought. With this holding true, I believe it is also important that we understand not all cases of sexual harassment are equal. Being a victim of physical assault is significantly different than receiving an unwanted verbal complement. Both individuals should be encouraged to speak out, yet perspective must be maintained. Keeping this in mind, as we enter the season of Valentines Day now seems the time more than ever to begin to set clear boundaries between compliments, regular awkwardness, and true sexual harassment.

I would like us to all think back to our younger and more immature years when Valentine’s Day would bring about candy swapping infused with romantic and flirty messages such as “Crazy 4 U”, “Kiss Me”, “ Say Yes” and even “Don’t Tell”. When reminiscing on these days the exchanges were innocent, and almost never had malicious intent, yet the idea of a 9-12 year old boy telling this to a girl feels incredibly unsettling. So, are candy sweethearts perpetuating rape culture from a young age? Is giving someone you like a compliment on valentine’s day sexual harassment?

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is left very open to interpretation and personal perception. These issues are complicated and will not be solved by broad generalizations that all men support sexual harassment, or that all women claim victimhood for attention. We live in a generation more focused on equality and social justice than ever before, yet these grossly simplistic lines of thinking contribute to the divisive identity politics which created so much of the sexism and racism we are fighting today. We must asses people by their individual actions and condemn them when they illicit harm in others. I believe that we live in a society where the majority of men are equally disgusted when they see allegations of men in power abusing it by sexually harassing and assaulting women, and that so much change can be initiated by simply speaking out and showing that as a country we will no longer turn a blind eye to these problems. So, as we all go about our lives this Valentines Day, I encourage everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to address these complex issues rather than ignore them, and most importantly for us to speak out against sexual harassment in order to create a better school, nation, and world.

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