#metoo Series: Other is Your Mother
THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2018
It was like a prison break for me. I'd been living in this cage, for 27 years, where many men felt they had to come at me sex first. And for some of them, when I refused the sex, it became about control, domination and power. It was this fucked up game where they could apply the ultimate in rules – just take it – if they wished. While this was going down when I turned to some women for help I got told I shouldn't spend time with men because 'they are all dogs', I shouldn't 'look like a pin up', I shouldn't try to know people or must be nice to be so good lookin’ because they too had been convinced sexual harassment was related to aesthetics and that high cheekbones are a credible source of 'power'. Like the structure of my face could fend off 200 pound man determined to have me in some way. I felt misunderstood and not seen by both parties. I felt hemmed the fuck in. And then, a bunch of people stood one at time. They said they shared the same experience....I guess there is something to be said of safety in numbers. We saw each other like ghosts who come to realize they are prisoners trapped in time. As the swelling numbers of people materialized the prison, the construct, it's walls fell over unable to contain such presence. I felt free to speak for the first time ever and a real conversation began. A conversation with myself and between millions of people - between couples, between friends, between HR reps, between families, between between between. I read an article that asked what the actions behind #metoo would be so I began to think about what I could do to move forward. How could I be of service in the managing of the rubble, the ruins of a system we've all been operating under for centuries? I have always been inspired by Nelson Mandela. I was 10 years old when he was released from prison and my teacher at the time, Mrs.Musselman - also an inspiration to me, gave a lesson on who he was and what he had accomplished. He was a man who believed the world could change and I guess I've always believed the same thing because as I move forward in freedom, no longer bound by the expectations of silence and shame placed upon me by men and women alike, I remember a quote by him. He said, “When I walked out of prison that was my mission – to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.” This is MY role. I have no expectation any other person should share the same opinion as me for I know every survivor is dealing with a gamut of emotions unique to who they are and their experience and there is no wrong way to find a role in all this. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and so I will move forward as a willing educator. I will use my voice to educate my son on the subject matters, harassment and sexual violence, which for so long have been classified as 'womens issues'. I will teach him these are, in fact, mens issues too. I will live honestly with him and relate my experiences to him so that he hears the perspective of a person labeled 'woman', a perspective which for so long has been relegated to the idea 'other' in our culture. Other is your Mother, son. I will teach him about equality by treating him not as child, but as a person, an individual unique and important to this world as I am, as all of us are. As for the world of oppressors at large, I will educate them as well without resentment. I will no longer play the game I have played. When I am uncomfortable I will say something. I won't just forget about it. I won't play defense or try to extricate myself from a 'situation' either politely or in subsequent passive aggressive rage or laugh it off or practice avoidance. I will speak directly and use accurate language until it can no longer be said, “I didn't know”. I will not change the way I look nor will I apologize for it. My compassion, empathy and friendliness will remain in tact and when those qualities are read as a 'signal', I will be quick to correct the mistake. I will never be sexually harassed or assaulted in my workplace or by figures of authority again and not report it. I have determined my value as a person and I will no longer be come at as an object and remain silent like an object would. I accept there are people who will never see my value but I will continue to relate my experiences because some minds can be changed. I will reevaluate my 'friendships' where ultimately desire is the root and cultivate the ones where mutual respect is and I will continue to believe these friendships can exist between all kinds of people. I will not give up hope that one day we will be able to look at one another as equals not as survivor/abuser, powerful/powerless, oppressed/oppressor. I will practice kindness and forgiveness and I will listen to the histories and opinions, though I may not agree, of those who have oppressed because I believe the key to dismantling behavior is to first understand where it comes from. I don't believe my actions can stop a predator but perhaps they will assist in not creating new ones. #metoo has helped me to change me. The movement may have knocked down the walls but I embraced the freedom. I feel so grateful to be alive during this time of evolution, this time in which we are coming to deconstruct an old paradigm – masculine vs feminine. There have been days where I have been angry and sad since this movement broke but as I write this day, I feel I know myself better, I value myself deeply and I will be of service to my community, the human race, as we begin to restructure our minds.
Photo Credit: Andras Schram, 2017.