The sheer volume of sexual assault scandals in the United States are remapping the way men and women communicate in every aspect of life. It seems an afternoon doesn’t go by before another man (or woman) is outed for abuses of power, and each new outcry further pries open our pandora’s box of cultural questions: how did we get this way? Why are victims willing to stay silent for so long? Is there redemption for the accused? When are people complicit? How are these crimes different from one another?
Maggie and I have been delving into the stories as they unfold and finding the discussion fascinating -- the thoughts swirling around get more sophisticated, more nuanced, with every assertion and with every unveiled predator. But it can be difficult sometimes to make sense of it all and like all social movements we'll risk the chance to make an impact if we don't stay focused.
First, not all crimes are created equal -- Al Franken is not Harvey Weinstein is not Louis C.K. is not Matt Lauer or Roy Moore. Even more importantly, sexual harassment takes place most frequently because of how difficult it is for a woman to prove the offense even happened. This is a problem. Imagine, for a woman to confront a serial harasser she must either confront her boss or manager head-on (particularly if he’s inflicting the abuse) or risk starting an excruciating battle of “he said, she said” in which she's likely to loose. In either scenario she’ll face losing everything she’s worked hard to establish, her job and professional relationships, not to mention her dignity and immediate sense of self-worth. So for the people out there who discount women’s testimony just because “they waited so long to speak out,” try to put yourself into her shoes honestly. It’s easier to repress the trauma than take action, plain and simple -- that’s the benchmark of a coercive system in play.
Second, Sex crimes don't just happen in the workplace and they don't just happen to Hollywood starlets. Most abuse happens at home and we need to talk seriously about that as a culture. For generations now, women have lived with a brutal reality: we’re more likely to be attacked inside our own homes, by someone we know and love, than anywhere else.
Third, women are capable of abusing men right back and are more likely to do so after they have suffered prolonged abuse themselves — particularly if that abuse goes on without relief or remediation. Maggie tapped into an interesting interview a few weeks ago with Carol Hartsell where she pointed out that we are all “in the process of dismantling the architecture that this system was built on -- a complicity of abuse”. We’re battling vicious and very personal cycles, so thoughtfulness is key in these moments. Some of us are more directly involved in that process than others.
Where do you stand in it all? What are you doing to change this culture? Please write us: firstname.lastname@example.org
We must not lose our humanity in the tumult of Time. Yes, the saga in which powerful men will be torn from their thrones one-by-one, their heads placed on stakes for social media to devour, will likely go on for a bit longer. Crowds love rotten tomatoes. It’s not enough to just call them out and tear them down however - people are losing entire livelihoods now. We must then lend all of our support to those sisters and brothers who are living models of integrity, and give them the power we’re taking away from predators. This is the time for a seat-change.
Sisters! We are flexing a lot of power right now, and goddess knows we’ve been looking for redemption after all these years -- but let’s wield it deftly, compassionately, and with our human spirit at the helm. The beautiful thing here is that we are waking up to the compromises we make when we silence ourselves, and each other.
Fortunately, we're choosing a new route for which we will bear a cultural transformation. Undoubtedly, we are finding a need to foster a better way of caring for one another.
In closing, our nation is seizing from racialized politics and hate speech; class warfare and growing inequality; and now AGAIN we’re witnessing a battle of the sexes. As Maggie pointed out recently, we can not allow a ‘cultural cold war’ to set in and we’re dangerously close to that right now.
We must stay vigilant and help one another avoid duplicitous compromises that hang our bodily integrity out to dry. That goes for race, class and gender.
Let’s support our little boys in exploring a compassionate masculinity, and our little girls a powerful femininity. And let's get back in touch with the power of diversity. We need to have boys and men learn and honor their feminine sides as well as allow women to have their masculine force lead them on and activate them. We know how we got here. Female sexuality is one of the most powerful forces on the planet and it has been systematically co-opted and manipulated for many thousands of years.
This is why sex crimes matter. They occur frequently because we still live with the same coercive system that enslaved women in the first place. This system of domination went on to colonize the world -- dividing humanity into onerous religious and racial classes, and monetary strata, that still divide us today. As Riane famously says, ‘it’s time to link not rank.’