I feel pulled in opposite directions and I don't know how to move from here.
On the one hand, I am proud of and encouraged by the women* who are coming forward and putting words to their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. I am touched by their honesty and hurt for them. I feel bonded to women I know, women I've lost touch with, and women I'll never meet. I'm overwhelmed by the magnitude of stories but am not surprised by the pervasiveness of this issue. I feel compelled to join in, to add to the numbers, to show solidarity.
Which brings me to the other hand... I am covered in shame that I don't want to share and am worried if I do share there aren't next steps as readily available as "#metoo." The status quo of women being expected to endure the abuse needs to be broken, but what happens after we raise our voices? I am so impressed with the women who are baring their souls, but what does that mean for their process of recovery? I want to know that by speaking up we are engaging in a conversation that translates to change.
So while I can't speak to my experiences at this point, I want to speak to the injustice at work and the questions that come next.
some pitcures of roses to break up this heavy topic...
It is chilling to know that damping down experiences and putting away emotions is the expected response to harassment and assault. It is beyond reproach that the victims of these situations have to bare the load and the emotional labor of sifting through, "Did I make that up?" "Well, he's my friend (or boyfriend) and he didn't mean anything by it," "That wasn't as bad as it could have been so I should let it go," "It was probably my fault, I was interested in something but not in that," and so much more.
Even now, I'm asking my own questions and dredging up my experiences and comparing them against others' to gauge if mine count.
But these are not the questions I alluded to above. The questions that come next, for me, are, What now? How do I take my stories and those of my friends and family and illicit a change? How does our society shift and protect and believe women instead of coasting and isolating and blaming them? How do we transform from pointing at the circumstances or the status quo or the person being attacked to holding the aggressors accountable?
And from there, how do we instill in humans that respect and choice and equality from person to person are baseline expectations? How do we cultivate women's rights so that the scales are balanced and the power struggle decomposes? This current state of male dominance and entitlement that is fed to us through media, through vernacular, through experience, and through so many more systemic avenues is sustaining a rape culture that needs to be acknowledged and extinguished.
On top of these big-picture, long-timeline questions, this list feels like what I'll offer to men when they ask me for ideas of what to do today. These options range from simple to transformative. They are action based. They apply. #13 is my personal favorite, immediate adjustment that could be made.
And then, what about me? What about us? What about the #metoo-s? What do we do next?
What are your thoughts? How is this impacting you?
*I'd like to acknowledge that this resurgence of discussion began as one perspective, the female perspective, on the issue of sexual predation. This article is a light but direct read on men's roles in this current take on #metoo both as victims and bystanders.