In the wake of the “Me Too” movement, the hashtag has found itself tucked in among stories of survivors and allies alike. “Me Too” is a phrase that brings awareness to sexual abuse and harassment, something that doesn’t just happen to someone’s cousin’s sister’s friend, but rather your classmate, sorority sister or even you. This phrase reinforces that all women face the fear of traveling alone at night, of getting too drunk at parties or going on blind dates. While this phrase has been empowering for many women and often serves as a way for their stories to be shared and their experiences to be destigmatized, some have also interpreted it with a more symbolic meaning. Rather than just the literal interpretation from women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault or any other form of violence regarding female sexuality, the phrase “Me Too” also functions as a narrative symbol to spark debate.
The most recent aspect of this debate surrounds the classic picture of a World War II sailor embracing a female nurse. This has been an iconic image of patriotism and of romance, however in recent years, many have speculated about the circumstances under which the image was taken. Some wonder if the woman was familiar with the man in the photo, or if the kiss was even consensual. On Tuesday, a statue of the famous duo embracing was vandalized with the phrase “#MeToo” written in red along the woman’s leg. The graffiti inferred that the kiss was not consensual and that as a society we must take another look at what it means to be a woman in America, and challenge the notion that women are simply there for the taking.
When asked about the kiss, the woman who is said to be featured in the photograph said that she was kissed by a drunk man as she was leaving work and regarded the incident not so much as romantic but more as one of jubilance and excitement that the war was over. According to an NPR article, she said she wasn’t sure whether or not she would identify with those within the “Me Too” movement.
Many people have been angry about the tagging of this statue and have complained about the historically joyous image being defiled, and even those in support of the hashtag claim that those who vandalized the statue are taking too many liberties on a phrase.
While I would not endeavor to interpret or understand the story behind a photograph from so many years ago, and don’t believe that “Me Too” should be used in too abstract of a sense, I believe that the statue’s vandalism is a way to show that throughout history we often do not seek out the story of women, which is why the “Me Too” movement is so important. We are finally hearing the voice of women who have been silenced through persecution, stigmatization and personal shame.