Strong Women (and Men) are Made Not Born
Sometimes we are willing to accept things that we know are wrong because we believe it is the 'way of the world' and we are powerless against a force so large.
In response to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others, and the whole “Me Too” campaign, I have seen numerous variations of the following opinions posted on social media:
“Why didn’t these women speak up for themselves?”
“I don’t understand why they waited so long to speak up.”
“If women want to be considered equal, they have to have the balls to speak up.”
“Saying ‘I was too afraid to say anything’ is crap.”
“Women need to stop playing the victim.”
“I was sexually harassed, and I spoke up for myself!”
I applaud strong women, women who are able to speak out and stand up and say “this isn’t right!”
And I understand why so many women didn’t speak up, didn’t think they would be believed, and didn’t think their voice mattered.
If you are one of those strong women who has always spoken up, can you take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of someone who feels disempowered?
Sometimes we, women and men, have to grow into our strength. We may have a lot of old messaging to overcome...we may need to re-learn the truth about our own power.
I am a strong woman now, but I wasn’t always. I would speak up now, but I didn’t always.
A lot of us were not socialized to speak up, question authority, or challenge the status quo.
Laurie Penny writes:
"It turns out that this isn’t about individual monsters. It never was. This is about structural violence, about a culture that decided long ago that women’s agency and dignity were worth sacrificing to protect the reputation of powerful men and the institutions that enabled their entitlement. Everyone, including the “good guys,” knew it was happening. We just didn’t think it was all that wrong. At least, not wrong enough to make a fuss about, because the people groping their callous, violent way through life knew they’d get away with it, and most of the men around them were permitted the luxury of ignorance."
Yep, good guys and good girls knew what was happening and chose not to make a fuss about it.
I, too, was raised to be a “good girl”.
I was praised for being respectful and compliant both at home and at school.
I was not expressly taught that if someone talked to me or touched me in a sexualized way that I hadn’t invited, that I had the right to call that person out, to yell, to respond in anger, to cause a scene, or to make anyone (other than myself) uncomfortable.
This is an inherent right, but I didn’t believe it was inherently my right.
My parents may have assumed that I *knew* this because I was a smart girl. But I did not--I was book smart, not street smart.
To top it off, I went to a very conservative college where it was plainly taught that girls were responsible for managing boy’s sexual urges. Yes, this is true. It’s ridiculous and it’s true.
Shaming women and men who speak up NOW for not speaking up sooner is not compassionate action.
Sexual harassment isn’t about sex, it’s about power.
When someone speaks up they are coming into their own power.
Some of us grew into our voice early on, and some of us did not.
The more we support others in speaking up, the more we make it okay for for everyone to have a voice, the more we begin to equalize the power differential.
Compassionate action involves doing everything that we, as a society, can to make sure that women and men, young and old, in any industry KNOW that they can speak out and stand up for themselves. It means standing together against sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, sexual assault, rape, and everything along the spectrum of disrespect for basic human rights.
This is a messy, uncomfortable time for a lot of people. The pendulum may swing too far before settling into it's new normal. That's how progress works. Lean in.