As anyone who is remotely tuned-in to the current political climate knows, especially if you are on social media, the past two weeks have been increasingly volatile in regards to women and men. With every new #metoo allegation comes another wave of anger, hurt and frustration.
In the past two weeks, with the subject being a Supreme Court nominee, the stakes were raised exponentially. Because this is a lifetime appointment of someone who will get to pass judgment regarding laws that affect women, and because the woman alleging the misconduct gave her testimony live, on TV, in front of millions of people, opening herself up to criticism and ridicule, tensions have been even higher. If you have been engaged and paying attention, the rage from women is understandable, and the fear and resistance from men has been…well…predictable.
“Predictable” because, as a man, I get it. I won’t be getting into the politics here as there is plenty of that going around. I am not even going to address the whole Supreme Court thing and the players involved. I am, as always, interested in the healing and communication that needs to take place if we want to move past this.
I have seen a considerable amount of men arguing the case that it is not safe to be a man now; “Anyone can accuse any man of doing something he didn’t do,” is a repeated argument I have heard.
The reality is, that has always been the case. I say this partially in jest, but it is true that one of the defining qualities of the United States is how often and easily we hurl allegations and bring lawsuits. According to the FBI, only about two percent of rape allegations against men are found to be false, whereas only about forty percent of rapes are actually reported by women, and sadly, the statistic for women being raped is one in five. So, to those men who are concerned about a wave of false accusations coming our way, take a breath. Women are not looking to come after men and blame us for harassment that didn’t happen, they do, however, want to feel safe for once.
How do I know this? Because I have been talking with them. And more to the point, I have been listening.
As I mentioned, the tension over the past two weeks has been palpable. I have seen many of my women friends on social media posting things like, “I’ve had it, the gloves are off and I don’t give a fu*k!” The usual “not all men” responses come through and are met with even more anger.
Listening to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, along with the two other women who have made allegations, was triggering even for me. And I knew if I was feeling shut down, women and men who have actually experienced this had to be dealing with all kinds of emotions. Because of this, I threw up a post: “I am making myself available, for free, to anyone who needs to talk, wants to talk, and wants to feel heard.” Seven women responded.
I told them that I was just going to listen and be a safe space for them. There would be no opinions, no judgements and no advice coming from me. Saying that alone brought many sighs of relief, and then they began to unload the years of experiences they had been suppressing.
Some told me about the times they were victimized. They all told me how they have had enough from the majority of men; Men who would crack jokes on their #metoo posts, men who would have to assert their opinions on what they could have done and men who felt the need to prove they were allies, by doing the opposite of what an ally would actually do. They all thanked me profusely for doing what I do: listening and hearing them. They all said that is what they have needed more than anything.
What did I do that you can also do?
I said, “I am here for you to say whatever you want and need to.” While I listened, I attempted to put myself in their shoes. I imagined how it must be for them to experience the things they have.
And then I said: “I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with that.”
Then, as I would wander out into the world in between calls, I noticed other women focusing straight ahead so as not to make eye contact with me, looking away from the cars passing by so as not to be seen by the men in them. I noticed the woman with the dog tense-up as I passed her while another man passed from the opposite direction. I didn’t feel rejected, as I may have in the past. Instead, I felt sad.
I always have considered it a gift when a woman makes eye contact with me and smiles as we pass each other. I had never really considered why the ones who don’t, don’t. It is for their safety and survival.
I contemplated that, as a man:
I have never told a guy friend who I was going on a date with, what her phone number was, where we were going and what she looked like, just in case.
I have never thought twice about going for walks at night, even well after midnight, because it might not be safe.
I have never second-guessed what I was wearing because I didn’t want to give her the wrong impression.
I have never planned a date, making sure it was in a very public place, just to feel safe.
And I have never scanned a restaurant, looking for the people I could run to if I needed help.
This list could go on forever, but I am hoping you get the point.
In addition to listening, women have also expressed their desire for us men to call each other out when necessary. The “Bro-Code” needs to be modified.
We cannot be silent anymore; not if we are serious about protecting and providing. I believe that once we start listening, and really getting what women have been dealing with in our presence, we are going to want to let each other know when things are said and done that are not appropriate.
It is kind of hard to stay quiet, when you know the pain that is there. Perhaps that is why we have avoided this conversation for so long.
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