The grim present tense of sexual harassment
I wake up some mornings, and wonder, “What freaking decade am I in again?” This past week, I was abruptly reminded that certain things are timeless, that the decade I’m in doesn't matter. Yeah, Weinstein Week is certainly ringing in the timeless.
Then, something genuine and special happened. It was special, but coupled with it was a lot of shared pain. That pain, was caused by indifference, inattention to expression and impulsive out of controllness. Yes, controllness, it’s now a word.
I had a weekend of sad acknowledgement and remembrance. Too many of my friends have suffered from harassment or assault. Or both. That will make some of people quite angry. I’m one of those. With great sadness and righteous fury, we must all recognise this one thing: not enough has changed.
Men, unfortunately, continue to have propensities for female degradation
I seem to recall as a youthful young man, a time when women (well, in my world experience of the time, ladies in their teens) were full of new vigour and life. We were in the midst of the womens right’s movement. I was fully on board, since many of my best friends were women, as were my sisters, my mother, etc. I mean, I considered them all equals from the get go, not necessarily because I was taught to think that, but because, wait for it, drum roll please…I wasn't taught it.
I've chosen, throughout my life, to always see women as equal. I've experienced frustration caused by the consistent, man’s world impact that I've seen everywhere. The issue I continue to work upon, because the issue evolves along with people, information and imagery. It is also a continuing evolution in confronting harassment as soon as I see it (that harassment training as a manager was a good reminder).
This is not the complete story
Because, I am a male, in a man’s world, I had many influences that could have sent me in the direction of abusers. I was exposed to pornography at a young age. Yeah, that stack of Playboy’s and Penthouse’s in the closet, found at age 10. It did some damage, though, so I didn't fully escape patriarchal entitlement lessons I was getting all around me.
I finally did escape, because I got lucky to understand two aspects of what man thinking versus women meant. And I gleaned not only the cost to them, but also the cost to my own conscience and soul. I’m an empathic being, I can put myself in the shoes of others and feel some of what they have felt. It is usually a gift, a joy. In the shadow cast by the many women i know that have experienced abuse, it is both enlightening and horrifying at the same time.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou
The first, was when I was a college student. I visited the daughter of my parents’ friend at an anorexia ward at a major hospital. This was my first real experience seeing what happens when women try to meet the completely and wholly unrealistic view of “attractive” as perpetuated by men. It devastated me to see women who had lost the battle of self image. It was a foundational change in my view of women.
The second, again in college, a woman I had just met, proceeded to tell me about her molestation as a child by her grandfather. Shocked to my core, I continued to listen in abject horror at the trauma that had resulted from a man’s world where women are not believed. I had heard of such atrocities, but never described in so visceral a way, never so real. It also became evident as her story unfolded, that women who have been assaulted, abused or harassed are told they are imagining it, or they are exaggerating it or the absolute worst, that they are seeking attention.
Men behaving in bad ways have protection
Men are protected from the onus of living up to their behaviour. Some might say that this protection is exaggerated and lays more burden on men for their ugly behaviour in unfair ways. That he “isn't that kind of man,” or “didn't really mean that” or “you must have confused what he meant.” This is so very demeaning and oppressive. And anyone who allows it to happen, is as culpable as the abuser.
“Be an active bystander because sooner or later you or someone you love could be a victim too.” ― Shahla Khan
I had many relationships over the years. Nearly all had suffered abuse and had varying traumas that they were being variously successful at variously dealing with. From all of these, I learned that no one can be silent. Silence is tacit approval of bad behaviours. I have since striven to be a protector and ally.
Time has not been kind, and it hasn't brought change
The fact that we are in the present time, and veritable institutional harassment is still rampant and promoted in secret, brings upon us a grim reality: we have not improved. Society still protects men and denigrates women. And not only abuse against women, the running gallery of abusers happens to all genders (in actuality, it is even worse for trans-gendered people, but that is a story for another day). Even some men are #MeToo, but I know that, while as repugnant (see the Catholic Church or how to protect a molester of boys), that it is incumbent upon us all to recognise a difference.
I was reading an article by actor Jim Beaver today, and saw his story of molestation. Rather than “MeToo”, he said something very simple, and I think it resonates on what, rather than just listening, we as men should do.
“Since I’m not comfortable taking on what seems most appropriately a rallying cry for women standing up against a repugnant status quo, I won’t say, “Me, too,’” he wrote. “I’ll say, ‘I believe you.’”
Yes, we should believe. When a woman tells us she has been harassed, molested, abused or raped, we should start with, “I believe you.” Sure, there are some out there who manufacture there victim story, but in all honesty, those are far and few between. There are simple rules for how to behave. How would you feel if someone said harassing things about your mother? How would you feel if your mother was groped? Raped? If you would get all righteous and angry, then, you already know what you should NOT do.
The time is now, to become an elevated human
We have an opportunity. Granted, we have had this opportunity for all history, to be honest, as squandered as it always has been. We, who are of an age, can teach our youth to do a single simple thing: respect women. By extension, just respect people, but lets start with women.
They do not deserve, leers or jeers. No.
Body shaming? No.
No. It is a powerful word. When a woman says no, it means no. When a woman says maybe, it means no, but perhaps ask one more time later. If it is still no, then shut the hell up and be a real man. Prove to us all that you understand boundaries. Prove that you can treat a woman with equality and humility.