Sunday, November 19, 2017

Is the World About to Turn? (a reflection on #metoo)

There have been moments in my lifetime that I never thought I’d live to see. Schooled in post-WW2 America, I learned about the Soviet Union and countries we referred to as “behind the Iron Curtain.” I thought that curtain would always be there. Now, not only is the curtain gone, but so is the Soviet Union, and that Wall in Berlin, with all that it represented. I never thought I’d live to see it. Similarly, when Obama was elected President, I was blown away. I never could have imagined I would have a black President in my lifetime. Then again, when marriage equality became the law of the land, I was in disbelief. Was this really happening?

Moments like these are surreal to me. They embody the words of the rousing hymn we sing in church, “Canticle of Turning.” Based on Mary’s Magnificat, it’s meant to be sung with gusto and always beckons me to stomp my feet and dance in the aisles. (Someday I might actually DO it!)

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn!


I’m feeling a bit of this about the #metoo movement as women who long have been silent are finally speaking out about their experience with men who have harassed, assaulted, and violated them on so many levels. But this change feels a bit different, because this time it involves me and my experience. I’m not watching it unfold as an outsider. I’m standing on the inside and am not sure what to think. I’m having trouble objectively grasping the significance of the moment; it's hard for me to perceive that the world may be turning while my head is spinning.

I’m so accustomed to a world filled with toxic masculinity and men who believe women exist for the sole purpose of pleasing them that I can’t imagine one where this is no longer acceptable. I’ve lived the past 65 years deferring to male power, fearful of male power, enraged over male power. It’s been a helpless feeling that I haven’t dared express because, well, that’s just the way it is. I've often thought that if I could suck it up and go with the flow, I’d be a lot happier, as if I myself were the problem.

These days it seems that we’re hearing about sexual misconduct cases involving famous people every day, if not every hour. Some of them go back decades. We have quite a backlog to clear away because women have never felt safe revealing the truth. They haven’t felt that their voices would be heard, and their only recourse has been to remain silent. Now their silence has been broken in a big way, and we’re seeing how prevalent the problem is. And just to be clear, the problem isn’t only that men prey upon women. The larger problem is that this has been acceptable.

Of course, all men are not predators. Every man in my life hasn’t disrespected me as a human being; most have been decent guys. Yet, even among those who haven’t worked against me, I haven’t always felt that they were on my side. Their default setting seems to be looking the other way, rather than confronting the misogyny
that so blatantly affects half the population. Even among the good guys, my hurt and anger have been dismissed and not taken seriously. Rarely have I heard a man ask, “If she weren’t a woman, would it be acceptable for her to be treated this way?” But guess what, guys. That question is always on my mind.

Like nearly every woman I know, I have endured moments of fear, powerlessness, shame and humiliation at the hands of men. I don’t need to enumerate them here. But I will say that I have been changed by the women who have bravely chosen to confess “me too.” It has given me the courage to say “me too”, as well. Doing so has freed me. So, whether the world is changing or not, my world is changing.

It grieved me when I saw my daughter post #metoo on Facebook, knowing that she hasn’t been spared the trauma women suffer at the hands of men who think they are entitled to prey upon women. It rips my heart out that I wasn’t able to protect her from that. Back when she came forward and reported what had happened to her, I was at her side, so proud of her courage. But those in authority didn’t believe her. The world hadn’t turned soon enough for her.

Now I have grandsons who still have the opportunity to grow up in a different world, not just for women, but for all people. May kindness and compassion be their way in the world.

For all of us, but especially for our those who come after us, I’m praying that the world is about to turn.

1 comment:

Kathryn Haueisen said...

This in, IMHO, outstanding. Thank you for it.