We also asked our respondents to offer examples of incidents that, for them, fell into a “gray area”—a category of behavior that isn’t unequivocally harassment, whether because of the intent of the perpetrator, the reception of the target, or the severity of the offense.
They classified each anecdote as “in a gray area but ultimately OK” or “in a gray area but ultimately not OK.” There are a few visible patterns in the stories from our 56 respondents.
One male director of a design firm told the paraphrased, “it has been figured out how men and women should interact.” But the rules of interaction haven’t changed—it’s just that, for the first time, women are publicly calling foul en masse.
People who felt flattered as teenagers or young adults by sexual advances from older authority figures grew to see such pursuits as “gross” or an abuse of power as they aged.
Survivors of verbal harassment were sometimes wary of naming it as such if it never escalated into anything physical.
To anyone bearing witness, #Me Too is writing an alternate history of the workplace, the classroom, the corner store, the dance club, the sidewalk, the friend’s party, and the intimate confines of the romantic relationship.
To people who’ve experienced harassment and abuse, it’s also an alternate history of our own lives.
Though the lines between acceptable behavior and harassment feel in some ways clearer today than ever, there still isn’t anything close to broad agreement about where all these lines should be drawn.