Sunday, November 26, 2017

11/27/17—Ending The Silence

It was just over a year ago that I wrote about my experience with sexual assault, harassment and inappropriate behavior coming from men.

Back then, it was after that Access Hollywood tape where Trump bragged about grabbing women by their sexual organs. To the shock of many, that was all brushed aside and a sexual assaulter became president of our country. It felt like nothing would ever change for women. 

When I wrote about my own experiences, I said I was lucky as far as women go, and I am. Having worked for myself for over 20 years, I don't have to put up with harassment in the workplace. I don't ride public transportation where the ass grabbers and upskirters hang out. I'm just not in the sitations where it is most likely to happen. So why, I ask, have I been bawling like a baby the last couple of weeks as story after story unfolded about prominent abusers and harrassers—and everyone FINALLY believed the victims!?

This past week or two, I feel like I was channeling the collective of women, as finally we were being heard and believed. I could feel the vindication of every piggish move ever made. I did an informal survey to see how many women had had a man place his hands over their breasts as if to grab a joke, like Al Franken did. Every woman I asked said it had happened to them. I also asked how many women had NOT been inappropriately touched by a man in the past, and only one woman could say she's never been touched. For the first time in my life, I thought we might be able to change and heal. It never occurred to me this day would come.

My mom was part of that generation of women who changed the career prospects of women today. When I was born, mothers did not work outside the home. My mother fought with my dad for the right to start a career. And when she got there, I'd hear snippts about the chauvenists she worked with and the piggish ways they would treat her. It was all part of working in a man's world. And women were not just expexted to be at least as competent, but they also had to do it while navigating a gauntlet of grabby hands, lewd comments and subversion. Did they put up with it without making clear how they felt? Yes. But did they have any choice if they wanted to earn a living? No, they did not.

It got better over time, and it eventually settled into an acceptable degree of harrassment—more than any woman deserves, but less than men wanted to do, seeing as how they were constrained by law. And, of course, it varied depending on the man. Not all men are pigs.

I've mentioned before that when my doctor called me a hypochondriac, I became afraid to bring problems to my doctor, even though I got a new one. And it stood between me and my health. Well, that's what women have learned to do. Men wanted to call us complainers or incapable of working in a man's world, so we learned not to complain. It's an ugly manipulation that men have been using on women since the beginning of time...and also that white men have been using on blacks. So marginalized communities have to work twice as hard and put up with way more BS to even be considered equal. It is, I'm sorry to say, the way white men have controlled and dominated throughout time. Intimidation. Manipulation. Marginalization. 

Again, it got better over time. Not all men are like that. But there is a core that is very much in power right now that has always feared the rise of women and black men because it means they have to be good enough for once. It means they have to hold themselves to the same impeccable standards they have held us to. And they haven't had a lot of practice doing that. They've been skating by, creating successes, maneuvering failures and basically not progressing because progress would mean losing their footing. Their leadership over eras has done—and continues to do—society a disservice. They have always led from fear.

So when, in the midst of this entitled white man's world, a victory comes out for the oppressed, it's an amazing thing. Since this past summer, monuments made by racists to intimidate blacks have come toppling down. And men have begun to see the systematic degradation they've perpetrated upon women for years—stuff we just bore as the price of moving forward and tried to keep from holding us back. I would say that stuff no longer bothered me. Like a person with Stockholm Syndrome, you just accept it as "the way". But it has impacted me and every marginalized human alive. It is done, after all, to keep us marginalized. And it has worked.

There is a card in the tarot called The Tower. You get it when the foundation you are currently standing on is no longer stable enough to support you moving forward. It's interesting to see how unstable the conservative white males are who have risen to power by building on a foundation of marginalization and intimidation. The foundation they are standing upon is crumbling. They have no legislative or social successes. They are the most reviled leadership our nation has ever known. And a dizzying number of them are being either investigated for crimes or revealed as hypocrites and abusers. 

As women, and as people wanting to evolve with the times, what started as our massive disappointment last November is nonetheless turning into a win of sorts. I have noticed men in social threads saying, "my god, I had no idea women were being put through this." Or "I had no idea those monuments were erected to intimidate blacks." Whether they are being honest with themselves or not about that is in question. But there is a new awareness. 

And when I mentioned that I had been crying tears of vindication and PTSD lately, women would say "crying never solved anything." I disagree. In fact, "crying never solved anything" is more of that attitude of "suck it up, Felicia, and just keep moving" that men and doctors and employers have been using on us forever. We don't get to complain. We don't get to be vindicated and affirmed. We don't get to release and heal. And I call BS on all of that. We shouldn't have to deny our feelings and to stop being women to succeed in this world. Men are allowed their tempers...their emotions. We deserve to have ours. 

In the 60s, we called the privilege of having men harrass us and undermine in the home and workplace "women's liberation." We were finally able to dream like a man dreams...just so long as we didn't dream too big. Like becoming president. Because then they will lie, cheat, collude and steal to shut you down. 

That's not liberation. Liberation is being held to the same standards as men. It's being free of harrassment. It's being allowed to dream the same as white men have. 

And it's so ironic that our vindication would come from a group of men who aren't even self-aware or honest enough with themselves to acknowledge what they've been doing all these centuries...millennia. All their efforts to hold on to their power and oppression seemed to pay off when the poster boy of bullying, oppression and sexual assault was elected president. But be careful what you ask for, I guess. They got what they wanted and it is leading straight to their undoing...straight to their eventual extinction. Maybe all those years of women sucking it up in silence have finally paid off.