#MeToo

I’m going to start this post by saying what this is not about: it isn’t about me being a victim; it isn’t about looking for sympathy; it isn’t about selling anything; it isn’t about ‘one-upping’ another persons story; it isn’t about blaming anyone. What am I adding this caveat before my post? Because I’ve seen all of this in the #metoo movement.

In case you’ve been off of social media for the past several days, you have likely noticed that “me too” has popped up in news feeds, twitter feeds and who knows where else from women of all walks of life. It is indicating that someone has experienced some sort of sexual harassment, abuse or assault. It’s not about stories of these things, so there could be anything from rape of a child to name-calling. None of these are ok, but I’m not sure that putting all experiences into one neat ‘me too’ box really addresses these quite varied issues. I understand that the idea is to get the scope of the problem – just how many women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual offense. My thought? Ummm…try all of them? All women have experienced something; being called a name like slut or cat-called, being kissed by the guy who thought you wanted it, being harassed at a party by someone who wanted to ‘date’ you because he thought as a single mom you would be desperate (ok, that one was personal). We’ve experienced leering looks or looks of disgust or comments made to make us feel small or less than because some guy is insecure and thinks that’s the only way he can keep you (case in point, my ex who told me my butt looked big in certain clothes when I was 21 and frankly, had an ass to kill for!). I think a lot of women have also experienced other abuses.

When I was about 15 I awoke from a drunken stupor to find not one but three guys with their hands all over me. Down my pants, on my breasts. I was passed out in a field near my house. I was with friends, or so I thought. These were three guys I hung out with all the time. Teen-aged guys who maybe should have been my protectors as opposed to predatory. I’ve never told anyone that; not my sister who also hung out with these guys, not my mom, not anyone. Why? Because I passed out in a field and I was 16 and I didn’t want to lose my “friends”. I pretended to start waking up so that they stopped. So they didn’t need to get caught. Apparently I was their protector in my silence.

I was likely pre-programmed for that sort of reaction to this because I had been sexually abused as a child. By the time I was 10 years old  I had experienced my uncle sexually abusing me (and many other girls in my family), my father sliding into bed with me when I was very small and getting on top of me before my mother came in and caught him in the act, and my step-brother slowly and carefully grooming me for more and more. It started small “let me put this up in your vagina” he said referring to a piece of hay. Later it was “put your mouth here” referring to his penis. It felt wrong, but I wanted acceptance. I wanted love. I didn’t know how else to get it. I was always told to keep quiet about it and I did. Never said a peep.

I’ve found my voice over the years. And these experiences are just that now. Just experiences. Things that happened in a society that is fraught with underlying issues of misogyny, oppression, racism, sexism, and so much more. As much as it is easy to play the victim it’s through our strength that we prevail. Is it up to men to change things? Sort of. But would you change things easily if you were the one in power?

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Maybe we need to recognize that all of these issues have the same backdrop: power over. What happens if we all stand together- people of colour, people who are differently-abled, people who identify as LGBTQ , trans, binary, women and more. What happens if we all start looking to the root and how systemically these things are staying in place and work together to rid our society of power over?  If we could recognize how similar our issues are maybe we could finally start to make improvements. Or maybe this is a pipe dream.

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I am woman, hear me roar!

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Helen Reddy, 1971

I was recently told a story where a man referred to women (all women) as marginalized. My first reaction to this is “I’m not marginalized!” To me, that word screams out ‘victim’ and I am not a victim.

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There are definitely issues in our society with how women are treated differently than men. Women are overly sexualized with too much value placed on appearance (a couple of good examples of that at right). This leads some people to conclude that there is no other value in women. This message is sent to young women who internalize it and try to meet unrealistic standards. There are issues with how girls are raised vs boys. Experiments have shown that adults (even those who call themselves feminist) often push certain types of toys or play on children based on their gender. That can lead to girls growing up with little to no interest in traditionally male dominated fields. See this video for an example:

 

There is a vast difference in how women communicate in the work force in particular. I feel that this stems from being thought of as a bitch when being as direct as our male counterparts, for example. Women sometimes end up coming across as wishy-washy or weak because we’ve been trained to be ‘ladylike’ in our approaches. That means what is said is open to interpretation and our soft approach ends up being ineffectual at times – which is then interpreted as women being ineffectual or incapable in general. When we are direct – even with other women – it is often met with discomfort or even anger. And of course, women are often treated less respectfully or less intelligently than men. Case in point, would a man ever ask another man whether or not he put the clutch in on a vehicle that won’t start? On a vehicle said man has been driving for years? I doubt it, but that happened with a female friend of mine.

All that said, am I marginalized because I am a woman? Am I okay with men assigning that label to me? Not really. I’ve worked hard, and I am quite direct and honest in business affairs. I don’t really pull punches and I feel entirely capable even when I’m being thought of as a bitch. I am comfortable in my way of presenting myself to the world. Sometimes I wear makeup, mostly I don’t. I dress for my own comfort, not to please anyone. I speak to men and women the same.

There are policy issues around the world that affect women in ways that men are not affected. When I look at a photo of Trump and his posse of men deciding on issues like abortion or women’s reproductive rights I cringe. But I don’t want to be referred to as marginalized. I don’t think anyone does. People of colour have been referred to as marginalized too. It’s not a good term. It means to “treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral”. Who wants that label? Can’t we just tackle issues rather than label people?  Is labeling in this way helpful?

I’m a bit concerned that we’re going too far. Every compliment is not a sexual innuendo that needs to be punished. I fear that when we start to walk on eggshells with each other we end up in a situation where sexism is pushed underground or pushed aside because people are afraid to talk things out – you know, how racism is? Then issues like the ones above can’t be looked at and dealt with. Then nothing ever changes. It’s important to have everyone’s views heard, how else can we collectively learn as a society?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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