Updated: Sep 12, 2019
While watching a news story about Roy Moore, I heard the news journalist ask a question that I guess is reasonable for a man to wonder or ask....”Why didn’t she tell anybody?”
But if you’re a woman...you already know.
Honestly if I recounted all of the times a man made an inappropriate gesture/pass at me...well lets just say it wouldn’t be a blog, it would be a book. And I don’t say that with pride, its just been my experience as a female. I would say as a woman but I can honestly remember walking to school at the age of 9 and grown men rolling up on me in their car telling me how nice my legs were. I was in the 4th grade!
One time...I got a traffic ticket and the officer who gave me the ticket showed up at my door in the middle of the night asking me for a date. Yep...a cop...with a gun...who got my address from my drivers license when he had given me a traffic ticket earlier that day showed up UNINVITED at my freakin door. I turned him down but I didn’t report him. Because stuff like that had been happening to me since I was a girl. And forget about when I got into the entertainment industry. I could tell you stories that would make your blood run cold...and many of the women I know could too. We just dealt with it and kept it moving.
Its almost like asking a black man to recount every time he has experienced racism. Did he report every incident. Hell no he hasn’t...why...because it is apart of the reality of being Black in America. And no it’s NOT okay but you have to understand why people who have become accustomed to dealing with a certain kind systemic abuse don’t report it. And when we do...what do we get? The black man gets told if only he would “comply” with the police they wouldn’t have shot him or beat him up. The woman gets told that an inanimate object (clothing) is responsible for her being brutalized, raped or harassed. Yes...its her fault because the cotton and polyester blend she chose to wear some how forced another human being to violate her humanity. Damn that cotton! Shocking we don’t report more! And now we have a president who endorses men who violate women and girls...because...well...he violates women and girls.
My point is this and I hope you can feel my heart. Women in this country and in the world at large have been conditioned in many ways to accept bad behavior from men. Even brutal behavior. We just take it. I’ve taken it. So much so that I just decided it was a normal part of being a woman. Now that I am older and married I don’t get it like I used to, thank God...and often times I wish this forty something mind could go back in time and jump into my twenty/thirty something reality and let the younger me know that I get why she’s trying to laugh it off just to get out of the situation or out of the room without making someone mad. I get why she didn’t tell on her cousins or the other little boys on the block for trying to force her into adult scenarios. I get it. You don’t report whats common. And she just didn’t want to cause trouble...she, me...wanted it to go away.
But...its time we make this all to familiar phenomenon NOT COMMON. It's time we make it rare and disgusting. It's time we hold no space for it. It's time we relinquish justifying it with "boys will be boys" analogies and "you were dressed provocatively" justifications. It's time we send a message that only "Yes" means "Yes". Not an absence of "no"...but an affirmation of, "YES".
Although I have never been brutalized, thank God. I have unfortunately had to fight my way out of more than one extremely inappropriate situation from a man in power who chose to manipulate his role. And its been from the church house to the hen house. So when a woman doesn’t initially report it’s not because it didn’t happen. It happened. It’s been happening FOR YEARS.
Recently with the onslaught of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement I found out that some men in a news organization that I championed had been guilty of sexual misconduct against women. Learning that this sort of Mad Men behavior was a prominent staple in a news organization that is supposed to be a bastion of 21st Century Millenial progress was DISHEARTENING to say the least. But more than that it echoes the sentiment that I have had since the beginning of this movement: This mindset that men have is systemic of our culture. It is in our movies, our music and our media. How many times have we seen the use of a half naked woman in a commercial to sale a hamburger? And how have these images and messages effected all of us growing up?
The objectification of women has been going on since the beginning of time. And no, it is NOT okay but when we examine this issue we need to also examine our cultural culpability. We must look at it like any other oppressive mindset and begin to restructure the way we teach this new generation of boys and girls. And we as women must also make room for men who desire to do better and learn from previous erroneous mindsets. And no I am not talking about pardoning rapists or abusive men. They must be held accountable for their criminal actions. What I am talking about though, is creating space for a “teaching moment” for decent men who want to learn.
What we have now with our current #MeToo and #TimesUp movement is something productive and wonderful: the empowerment of women voices. However, we also have something counter productive, a growing culture of bitterness, fear and finger pointing. As an African American, I can tell you what we have learned in our pursuit of equality. Bitterness, finger pointing and fear, do not breed lasting change, understanding and education do. And for that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement need to become more inclusive. We need men as well women in these movements. Just like the Civil Rights Movement needed people from ALL cultures to unite and take a stand against inequality in order to facilitate change...so do the #TimesUp and the #MeTOO movement.
My hope is that we stop demonizing men who may say the wrong thing and instead use it as a teaching moment to educate them so that they can be useful in our cause. Its time for change...its time to move forward to a society where women feel empowered, respected and safe. But to get there we must have understanding and unity.