Anyone with somewhat of a presence on Facebook has seen the extent of the “#metoo” movement. I had a lovely conversation yesterday with a gentleman that reflected on all the times he may have been part of the problem and surely some times he saw a woman be mistreated and he didn’t speak up. It was a heartfelt confession and I’m grateful he felt safe telling me.
A lot of conversations went on this past week about the validity of such movement. Some people thought that there was a pressure for women, and men, to speak up about their abuse and harassment, some thought that men were being excluded from the conversation, some started to compare the level of pain and stigma per gender, some claimed their guilt, a lot of people opened up and expressed their pain. Another point of view I saw was the one of a woman demanding others to not victimize themselves, to stand in their power so they can recover from the trauma. I use the word “demanding’ very carefully and intentionally. I seldom think we can demand much of anyone really, especially not when it comes to processing painful experiences. I am a passionate supporter of inviting, modeling and being curious about others and that post wasn’t an invitation.
That campaign reopened a lot of wounds and teased people to ask themselves questions they didn’t dare to think about. At the end of the week, I see the conversation as a steady fire, burning strong, warming us up to others perspective. It’s no longer a spark or flame fighting in the patriarchal wind, this conversation, and the change with it, is here to stay.
What’s done is done, we can’t go back and rewrite hundreds of years of patriarchal culture and abuse. We can embrace the present and nurture each other and ourselves to the full extent of our ability. We can set new standards in place to build a future that is balanced, embracing and respectful. We can start today!
I spoke about boundaries before when it comes to time management and emotional productivity, it obviously would apply to sexual harassment as well. Do you think people would behave a certain way if they knew it was culturally forbidden and disconnecting?
We don’t have to speak up about our past to set ourselves up for a successful future. Setting boundaries is one of the easiest and most productive habit we can develop for ourselves. I invite you to contemplate an answer or action for each case scenario so that by the time it happens, you can be empowered and ready. Yes, it’s exhausting just thinking about it, I’m right there with you. Change is scary, and tiring, and we’ll loose friends in the process. And we don’t have to change if we’re comfortable with the Status Quo, but what if you’re not?
Imagine somebody making an advance to you at a job interview, what would you do?
Imagine somebody catcalling you on the street, what would you do?
Imagine your friend telling you they were touched in a way that felt like a violation, what would you say?
Imagine somebody touching you in a way that you feel slimed, what would you do?
Here’s a 3 step action:
- Reaffirmation, as needed
What does that look like in real life?
People have been touching my hair since I was a child, without my permission nor my request, they just helped themselves. Hair is a body part, it’s connected to my nervous system and I prefer people staying away from it especially if they are touching it to give themselves pleasure. A gentleman touched my hair a few months ago. I’ve known him for a while, he’s a nice man, I don’t have a single bad thing to say about him. He was behind me and he yanked my ponytail, in play, I assume, the way you would a 5 year old child. I turned around immediately, called him back to me in a room full of people and said: “Hello Darling, you pulled my hair, I don’t like it, I prefer you wouldn’t.” He looked at me completely stunned so I reaffirmed: “I prefer people don’t touch my hair, it’s a boundary issue for me.” He agreed and walked away, end of story.
That’s a scenario when you can have the opportunity for a conversation. I’m not a violent person but I do believe in self defense. I invite you to decide what line is not to be crossed for you with coworkers, friends and strangers. Set your boundaries and be ready to fight for them. It may look like a loosing fight right now but I promise you it’s changing. People won’t stay on the sideline any longer, women, and men, won’t be silent as much any more.
People that abuse were abused and/or find cultural validation in their action. We have the opportunity to offer compassion as well as to model the behavior we desire from others. We change the world one small action at a time, one small step at a time. And it will take time, but we can start today. Change comes when we speak up.
Reach for the Greatest Version of Yourself