I’ll get Part 2 of the Life Shift thoughts up next, but I have been overwhelmed with the amount of “me, toos” in my Facebook feed over the last two days. In light of the Harvey Weinstein story of insidious sexual harassment in the motion picture industry, women have been responding to this call: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
My Facebook Feed has been flooded with “me, too”, some with just those words, some with painful stories, some with expressions of fear of saying it out loud.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
For everyone who posts, there are countless others underneath the surface who aren’t ready to say it, who don’t feel safe to say it, who feel conflicted about saying it, who feel shame for saying it, who still are questioning whether it’s their fault, who don’t have the margin or computer or space to say it, who wonder about the consequences if they say something out loud, who are processing in different (and often expensive) ways other than posting something on social media.
The grooves of misogyny and patriarchy are deep into our culture.
While we have come a long way as women over the years, the truth is that this small “me, too” river is indicative of a vast, roaring ocean behind it.
Almost every woman I know has some kind of story.
A story of harassment.
A story of rape.
A story of their “no” being ignored.
A story of men exposing themselves to us.
A story of some kind of assault or violence or accosting.
A story of hissing inappropriate things in our ears.
A story of unexpected and inappropriate hands upon our bodies.
A story of power being wielded—“if you _____, I’ll give you ______”, no matter how subtle or direct.
A story of shaming us.
A story of telling us not to tell anyone.
A story of being used.
A story of carrying the load of all of this and knowing that sharing it with others will mean we might lose our jobs, livelihood, respect, a seat at the table, our ministry, passion, family members or friends.
This list only scratches the surface, too.
Underneath all the me, too’s is a deep and insidious web of patriarchy and misogyny and ways that women are disempowered and used in the workplace, schools, at home, in the church.
As I wrote my own “me, too” and read the stories of so many, a whole host of images and feelings flashed before me… (trigger warning).
A friend’s dad exposing himself to me when I was in the 4th grade.
Being groomed and sexually abused by a coworker when I was 14 and thinking for years that it was consensual.
Nursing my infant son in the car at Target parking lot and having a man come to the car window and expose himself to me.
Saying “no” and “please don’t” and having it mean nothing.
A boss telling me I had to choose between my career or my husband because you couldn’t have both.
Way too many hands and looks in all the wrong places by co-workers and random men and ministry leaders at conferences.
“If you share this, you will make it worse for yourself and all of us.”
Countless inappropriate comments by “upstanding Christian leaders” that they thought were funny or okay and I didn’t have the strength or courage to call out at the time.
Elders and leaders standing against me and making me defend myself for helping women leave abusive relationships.
A big conglomerate of things over many years that aren’t harassment or assault but are made of what’s underneath it all—being on the underside of dominant unhealthy male power with no help, no recourse, no advocate, no safety.
Underneath each of our experiences lies much more than just the incidents.
It’s a deep and insidious web of patriarchy and misogyny and ways that women are disempowered and used in the workplace, at home, in the church.
Bringing things to the light is a good step, and I’m glad for it.
But goodness gracious, there’s a lot of work to be done underneath the surface.
Yes, we can tell our stories.
We can share our sisterhood.
We can stand with each other.
That will help heal and strengthen us.
However, real change will not happen until men start acknowledging their part and power and the deep and insidious web of patriarchy and misogyny that lies underneath the surface.
We need more than I’m sorry’s.
We need safer, braver spaces created by men not only to talk about it but also offer ideas for change that won’t just be dismissed.
We need public acknowledgement of the problem.
We need men seeking healing and recovery.
We need humble, vulnerable male leaders who recognize their privilege and use their power and authority to partner with women to create healthier systems.
We need huge tilts in power so that it is equalized.
We need Jesus-y turning over tables on behalf of women and change.
We need our brothers to not only weep with us but also pay the cost of standing with us (because there’s always a big cost to disrupting power systems).
Thank you, sisters, for sharing your “me, too” and for the ones unsaid, too. I stand with you all in solidarity and hope.
And thank you, brothers who are trying to honor the tip of this iceberg; your care matters and your safe and good friendship heals.
We’ve got a lot of work to do underneath the surface together to tackle the deep and insidious web of patriarchy and misogyny that we long to see healed.
God, help us. Icebergs are hard to break.