I’ve been following with engaged interest as some of our most powerful men in our nation are falling from power because of the words spoken by a victim. Politicians/political analysts (Senator Roy Moore, President Donald Trump, Mark Halperin), renown photographers, anchor men (Matt Lauer), actors (Bill Cosby, Ed Westwick, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey) producers (Harvey Weinstein, James Toback), and corporate leaders are losing the very things which they used to exploit women/children in vulnerable positions.
My dear husband and I had a lengthy discussion after I read through the #TimesUp website and their mission statement. I mentioned that this was an example of a group of women coming together with a vague idea of lifting their voices to support other women who were victims of sexual harassment/abuse, inequality based on gender, and later supporting women in other industries than the entertainment industry. I said that “I may not agree with all aspects of the movement but I am glad they are dong it!”
The most encouraging thing (for me) is that they have a voice…it was not long ago that this type of movement would have been discredited or at the very least, disregarded as a bunch of women…”women being women, you know?”…hysteria that would likely die away soon enough.
We are in a moment when women’s voices are requiring action! What a great time to be alive and to be a part of their voices. One thing that I discovered during my husband’s and my conversation was that I was doubtful at first about the possibility of men being punished for things that seemed not all that serious. I see comments like “he rubbed her knee and that’s considered sexual assault/harassment?!” And then I asked my husband “Would you rub another woman’s knee?”
”Hell no” he answered emphatically.
It was the point of understanding for me that illustrates our culture of excusing men for inappropriate behavior which is so deeply engrained that even I (who has always fought for the voice of a victim in our personal relationships) fall into that line of thinking.
Appropriate flirtation involves an open hand on a forearm, a gentle touch on the back of a shoulder, placing your hand on theirs. This is the most basic flirtatious behavior that provides an opportunity for nonverbal cues of interest or no interest. At the risk of sounding like a prude: a hand on the knee or back are intimate flirtations. That is, if we value another’s body and boundaries. For those that don’t understand how a hand on the knee can be viewed as wrong, I would explain that they have no clue how to value another human being’s body and personal space. Period.
If that’s difficult to understand, I would ask how you would feel if someone you had zero interest in just sat there rubbing your knee? Or how a father would feel if a man rubbed their teenage daughter’s knee?? I think that explains pretty clearly that it would be an invasion of personal space which should be protected.
Other comments I’ve overheard are about why a woman would wait 24 years to report abuse. Abuse breeds secrets whether it an abuse of power, circumstance, or domestic relations. Victims keep secrets after trying to confide in those they trust and have had little support in making the abusive situation end. Some never tell anyone. Harvey Weinstein’s executives made excuses for and even furthered the abuse of power by telling at least one woman that she couldn’t say anything. Why do women wait 20 years? It takes many of us that long to gain the courage to speak about something that shaped who we became. Not because we’re weak little things that cannot stand up for ourselves but because we’ve learned to never trust anyone again. Let me say that once more “trust no one again”. From the point of the first abuse and beyond we wonder whether each person we interact with will exploit situations to harm us. Why? Because we would have never thought it would happen in a million years the first time.
#TimesUp also addresses income and gender disparity which I won’t touch on here (maybe a later post). The movement which I have cautious optimism for is an example of “doing something” verses “nothing”. My caution is about the future problems of the women’s legal defense fund like how they will determine who is more deserving of the funds over another or how they will deal with fraud and exploitation of the funds. But my excitement that women of power are standing with women who have been exploited is beyond words.
Even women who don’t necessarily want to make their exploitation known are showing their support by simple words that other victims completely understand. Sharon Stone was asked during a recent CBS Sunday Morning episode if she was ever in a position where she was uncomfortable. She responded with a laugh and said “I’ve been in this business 40 years…can you imagine what this business was like 40 years ago…looking like I look, from no-where Pennsylvania?…I didn’t come here with protection. I’ve seen it all.” Simple words of “what do you think I dealt with? Look at me, I came with no support” is an example of how she is lifting her voice in support – these words scream to other women that she dealt with sexual harassment (at the very least) without throwing her life into the fire and the cycle of victim blaming. She is courageous for even eluding to the possibility of abuse.
#TimesUp and #MeToo are taking the nation by storm…as it should be. They give victims an open forum to shout to the world that they were victimized (or supporting those that were). They are helping in the megaphone being lent to voices which have been silenced for decades! Kudos to all who have bravely spoken of their secrets!
If you are a victim of sexual assault, please contact:
RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline