Not Her, How not me applies to our daughters (and sons)

Not her

 

I started thinking what does this me too lesson mean to me as a mom. I often ponder the take-away and deeper lesson in things. People started posting “me too” as a status on social media last week in response to recent headlines concerning sexual abuse of women. Although deeply personal, I felt that it was important to post “me too” as well. To illustrate the cause intended.  I didn't add my own story or take. The most difficult abuse I have faced was what stood out in my mind initially. But, it was too raw and intimate to share in this way. The more this subject poured across my newsfeed and my mind returned to it, the more that subtle causes of sexual abuse and degradation of the feminine stood out to me. The point of the me too post was to show just how prevalent and also silent of a snake sexual abuse is in our society. And the reason it matters is because we want to look at our daughters and be able to say “not her” and look at our sons and be able to say “not him” So, how can we fix this problem, by finding the root of it.

 

The thing about First world problems is that they are hidden. We have hunger here. We have extreme poverty here. We have torture and oppression here. It is systematic and there are laws that keep it going. The difference is that it is hidden. It is silent. It is ignored and denied. This denial and covering up of our problems is a sadly rampant social disease we face. We cover up with lies, excuses, drugs, money: transactions that keep  people quiet. Things like police brutality, mental health and chemicals in our foods to sexual misconduct and abuse are all kept under the radar and off of media while our focus is placed on sensational,  materialistic and emerging trends.

So this issue of sexual abuse, it is an undeniably huge problem, and one head of a larger monster. Not only is this denial and excuse response being drilled down onto women (and men) from above. We inhabit it within ourselves. We view it as normal. We are brainwashed to deny and make excuses for things that in all sensibilities should be nothing less than egregious. Leaving our feelings stuffed inside, our brains feeling insane, curtailing our ability to serve in our world, flooding our bodies with antidepressants, stoking anxiety and anger. And this applies to men too. The men committing these acts are brainwashed just as equally to act toward women as if they are superior and objectify women’s bodies. Men are taught to fear a woman’s power but to recklessly throw his own around whenever he wants something. Men are discouraged from expressing their emotions and encouraged to express aggression. Women are taught to please others and hide every other emotion. Women appear in images as sexual objects but are equally jeered for expressing sexuality and confidence.

The message to women: you are an object of affection and to be used for other’s pleasure, but you are not to celebrate your own power, pleasure, beauty and self.  Stuff your unpleasant feelings and true desires, including femininity deep, deep down within where it can fester into poor self esteem, unhealthy sense of self, disorders and depression. The lesson to men; you are an object of money making power, to use others for pleasure and to get ahead, not to express any sensitivities, compassion, love or fears. But to stuff them inside where they can fester into  damaging mental health and unhealthy expressions of sexuality and anger.

This translates into “me too” in a systematic way for both men and women. Because we know the most prevalent symptom. We know when we get that final diagnosis of the social cancer; what it looks and sounds like and how one cannot deny its destruction. We know the terms: rape, molestation, abuse. Do we know the causes? Do we prevent them? Do we see them or deny them? Do we look the other way or worse contribute actively without even maybe realizing it? I would say that as a society, as a whole 110%.

While these are my personal responses to ‘me too’, I would bet not ONE person could not say me too to at least one of these, in your own version of how it resonates true in your own life.

The thing is, most of these are so subtle yet powerfully deadly to the emergence of femininity, equality and humane treatment across gender. The point being, we must pull these weeds before they manifest into  impossible to ignore and deeply hurtful effects.

Me too-when my father felt he needed to abandon his kids and go into the world seeking power, money and fame yet he is the most kind, sensitive warm hearted man I’ve ever known.

Me too-when my brother was shamed for his kindness, and artistic, sensitive soul.

Me too-when my girlfriends started turning their backs on me, as my value as friend became nothing in comparison to the threat of “stealing” their boyfriends, which I had no intention of doing but that didn’t matter.

Me too-When I too couldn’t see past that threat of women being predators and men being helpless victims to their attraction to others, or the reverse. Both notions not holding ownership for a person and his or her own choices.

Me too-every time I heard a woman hate the other woman and forgive the man, in words actions and deed, in response to betrayal.

Me too-when my boss said just sit there and look pretty with a wink, to me asking to be trained at a job he was paying me for, in fact it was my first job and I was about 13 years old.

Me too-when that same boss would say, you’re lucky you’re cute when I would mess up instead of teaching me how to improve.

Me too-when at my second job, now age 16, I asked for the position of cook and was told I’m too pretty for that and they gave me the position of cashier

Me too-when I felt awkward and ashamed around my bosses his wife as if I were somehow the problem and I questioned if my shorts were too short or my top too tight.

Me too-when working as a waitress and bartender and had to take endless thoughtless derogatory comments from men about my looks, my smile, my personality. Nothing was off the table and I was told many times to ignore it and smile even though it crushed me inside.

Me too-when a drama coach in middle school would wink at me and pat my back, and make comments about my looks until I quit the school play, walked away and never went on a stage again.

Me too-ten years old at camp and called a prude and also a slut and up until then had no idea what either word meant, yet suddenly as a not even matured girl had to reconcile those terms into my identity.

Me too-every time I bought and read a fashion magazine with a half-naked girl on the cover

And read it-

And internalized it-

And fed my low self-esteem with it-

And every time I straightened my curly hair to get “his” approval-

And lost weight to be loved

And gained weight to be liked

And every time I thought my worth was reflected in “his approval” not my own-

And every time I tried to hide my looks so I others would notice my personality or thoughts instead-

And every time I thought I needed to cut my hair short to PROVE I don’t need to look feminine, even though at the same time I am supposed to embrace my femininity, but somehow quieter, and in the corner where no one can hear.

And every time I read a princess story where the man’s love and approval and place of power was the girl’s happily ever after

And every time I cheered at my high school football games in a short skirt and the players broke through the paper banner we held for them to tear through as they entered the field grunting in aggression at the opposing team.

And in high school when my math teacher told me I was a girl so it didn’t matter when I didn’t know how to do the equations.

And in college, when it became really clear that women’s studies are a subject in a book and men study books to create today’s story and tomorrow’s history.

And even in my generation post women’s right movement, I heard that girls go to college to earn an MRS (find a good husband) and men to earn a degree.

And every time I spoke up in a meeting at my job and literally got ignored or at best a courtesy smile.

And every time a male colleague spoke up in that same meeting saying almost the same thing and got emphatic nods, and pats on the back.

And when that male colleague got promoted.

And when I had kids and my job became mommy and i became virtually invisible to society, friends even family at time because of how undervalued the job of motherhood is even though it is the epitome of feminity.

And when I started a business and because I was also a mother, my ability to perform was totally unsupported and ignored in terms of how much time and energy I had to give.

And yet when I see Dads in typical women dominated roles like parenting receive excessive praise for things like changing diapers, making dinner and pushing the baby in the stroller.

And every time I got dressed in the morning having to consider if it made me fit in and be accepted, or be targeted.

And the fact that the questions I am taught to ask are how to get others to accept me, not how to I accept myself, and is there a man around I need to be afraid of, not what other people will I meet and collaborate with or connect with in general, and what do my looks say? Not what can my voice say? These are the questions we are brainwashed to ask for every single move we make.

I could go on and on and on  with just about one example from every hour of my life. And that is not an exaggeration. It is because these ideas and practices are so deeply ingrained into our ways of life. But, the beautiful thing is that these ideas are now being unearthed. We are beginning, to examine these ideas and see what is really going on. I think we are headed in the right direction. Because, we have another generation of boys and girls that need to not have to have this conversation anymore.

We have so much work to do. We have so many conversations to have. And the point of all this? So we can say not her for our daughters and not him for our sons.