I don't normally get much into politics or social stances on this platform. I often feel that social media isn't the best place for honest and respectful discourse. In addition, up until now, a lot of the social and political commentary involved groups that I am not personally a part of, so I felt that it was my duty to listen to these people and hear their point of view rather than to add my own comments. I would ask people questions in person if they felt like expounding upon it, but on social media, I mostly listened.
I'm a woman. Let's talk about 'me too'.
I'm not going to go into the worst that I've experienced as a female. There are many brave women doing this on social media and I applaud their guts. We should respect and listen to their stories. It takes a lot to put that out there. I don't want my family hearing about some of the things I've been subjected to. It would only cause them anger and sadness and I don't want that. So ... if there are things I'm not saying for that reason, what about your sister? Your aunt? Your mom? Your niece? Your friend girl pal? I bet you at least one of those has some stuff she doesn't want to talk about. Let's respect that. And respect the ones who are able to talk and to share. Those of us who aren't there yet are behind them, thanking them for representing us too.
By putting 'me too' in a status, the woman posting is not declaring that she doesn't think other genders have not gone through harassment. That isn't what this is about. Sadly, everyone's been on the receiving end of some kind of abuse at some point in their life, whether intended or not. Women are not trying to marginalize anyone. We're just pointing something out. Maybe you already knew it, cool. If your friend says to you, "I spilled hot tea on my hands today." do you reply that you totally have also spilled hot tea on your hands in the past or maybe not hot tea, but definitely a hot liquid and just put ice on it like the rest of us and stop whining? No, you empathize that it sucks and ask if they're okay. If you're a good friend. I don't know, maybe you laugh. Maybe that's who you are.
I say to my students all the time 'discomfort causes change.' You have to hang out in that uncomfortable space in the workout, or the diet, to actually start making any changes. We're all very uncomfortable now. A lot is shifting. A lot is happening. Change is going to come no matter what. Deal with the discomfort. Learn with it. Listen. See how you can direct the change that you have control over (yourself) for the better. Don't we all want to be better when it comes down to it?
I was talking to a castmate at a cast party once. She was of African descent and had very cool hair. I complimented it and reached out and touched it. I caught myself, instantly pulled my hand back and said, "I'm sorry, I should have asked." She kindly replied, "I appreciate that." We continued talking and I eventually got over the discomfort of my own making. I didn't try and defend myself by saying I had been drinking or that I was just trying to pay her a compliment. I apologized, she accepted and we continued our adult conversation, me having hopefully grown a little.
I guarantee you that every adult woman you know has had her ass grabbed. I will bet you that it's never happened like this:
Strange man, "excuse me, miss, I can't help admiring your ass. You must work really hard on it. May I please touch it?"
Woman he has never met, "Please do, I love it when strange men squeeze my butt. So flattering!"
I also bet that it's not been apologized for.
In saying this, I'm not saying that YOU, person reading this, are guilty of this transgression. I'm also not saying that you haven't had your own ass grabbed. I'm not saying that women don't do inappropriate things at times. I don't think anyone is saying any of those things, actually. But I am a little shaken by some of the responses I'm seeing to people sharing their experiences, or even asking for respect of the content of sexual harassment.
I wasn't always a black belt. (I know, shocking!) In January of 2005 a friend of mine was brutally raped and nearly killed in her own apartment on New Years Eve by a man who followed her home and into her building. It made me take a hard look at myself. She was a strong girl. I had always considered myself strong and athletic, but really, what could I have done? I signed up for martial arts and began in February.
You'd think that would have been a safe place, but I experienced harassment there also. I'm not going to get into that further because the good that I experienced outweighs the bad and the friends that I have made there are some of the best I will ever have. I naively thought that because of the space that I was in and because of the trust we all put into each other learning a physical, combative art, that I was safe. I learned fast enough. But it's something women are constantly learning. We're never safe. I'm sitting here trying to think of ways to qualify what I've just said, that I don't want to tar all martial artists with the same brush, that it was just a few 'bad apples'... see what's happening? I'm hesitant to even say that I experienced something negative because I'm anticipating the wave of indignation that will thunder my way. So I'm going to stop this paragraph here.
I'm straight. I have no idea what LGBTQIA people go through. But I can listen. I'm Caucasian. I haven't experienced the same things that a person of color has. I can empathize, but I can't KNOW. But I can listen. We're all different. None of us know anything but what we've dealt with. It may be that that's all some of us want to know about and that's sad because there's a lot of interesting things happening in the world. Sometimes you don't even know how to support someone who is different than you. I can say; start with listening. Don't shout over them. Maybe you'll learn something. At the very least, how to be a friend.
Maybe you don't know everything.