There is a campaign going around to write “me too” if you are a woman and have been sexually harassed or assaulted. The purpose is so that “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” as the accompanying message that we are supposed to copy and paste, along with the “me too” post or hashtag, says. This, of course, has come from the exposure of dozens of women who have come forward detailing the harassment they received at the hands (or other loosely bath-robed body parts) of Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein.
There is not a woman alive who I know personally who would not emphatically say “me too” to sexual harassment or assault.
For many women, myself included, there is a mixture of nameless creepy guys who leer and jeer, make sexual comments when we walk by, act out obscene gestures, grope on a dance floor, and so on….and then there are the people that you actually KNOW and encounter on a regular basis—bosses, colleagues, spouses of your friends, your kid’s coach, etc. I’ve experienced this mix since I was probably around 10. I can remember being in the 5th grade and going out to eat at the restaurant that my friend’s parents owned. Our group of friends went often and we would often notice some of the guys who worked in the kitchen staring at us. One day, I was on my way to the bathroom and one of the workers looked at me in a way that made me uncomfortable though I probably couldn’t name why at the time. He then proceeded to put his index and middle fingers in a “V” shape in front of this mouth and stick his tongue through the V shape several times in a row. As a 5th grader—I was 10—I was fairly precocious, already into boys and having boyfriends, but I had NO idea what that even meant. All I knew is that I felt gross and I didn’t like it.
I have been able to say “me too” consistently for almost 30 years—more V shapes and fingers, lewd comments, and bold propositions. I’ve had my ass grabbed and breasts fondled in crowded places. I was lured by a 20-year-old camp counselor when I was 14 and fought off an assault when I didn’t want to kiss him anymore—one of the scariest moments of my life. I was chased on the streets of Paris when I refused someone’s advances and hid in a Sephora behind a make-up case until he gave up and went away. In my early singing career, I was propositioned with a role in exchange for sex and I wish I could say that happened just once…guess who didn’t get any of those roles? These are just a few of them and only the ones up until my early 20’s! I could keep going and going and I know this is the experience of most women. There is nothing unique about me when it comes to this issue.
So, saying “me too” feels a bit more like an “of course.” It is so normal for us as women that it is more like a “duh”—it is just something that comes with the territory of being a woman…much like it seems the women who were in Harvey Weinstein’s orbit felt like it was just a part of dealing with Harvey. Jokes were made about it. Other women were “warned.”
The power of saying “me too” when it comes to Harvey Weinstein is that the women coming forward NAMED HIM. They said, HE did that to me too. Because others have said “me too” about him specifically, he is finally being REMOVED from the power that he used to intimidate, coerce, and control young women. And I’m guessing that there will be a new culture at Miramax—maybe no meetings in hotel rooms for starters—because this has come into the light.
I can understand not naming. I never named the 20-year-old at the camp. I was scared, I was 14, I felt like I might have done something wrong to invite that kind of attention, I just wanted to go home and forget about it. Sometimes people can’t name because there is deep fear—that person is “out there” and could come and retaliate. Sometimes, people don’t name because that person is so damn powerful. I opened my mailbox today and saw the cover of my favorite news magazine, The Week, and the cover is Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly all in bathrobes with the cover title, “See no evil: Why powerful men get away with sexual abuse.”
I love the magazine, but the title belies a profound ignorance of the fact that it isn’t just about powerful men. MEN who perpetrate this kind of abuse often get away with it because still…men are IN POWER.
This is a small blog so I can afford to be tangential, but this is my issue with people who see kneeling at the anthem problematic. The flag and the anthem are meant to be symbols of freedom and freedom that is grounded on EQUALITY for all humans. That symbol only works if that is the reality of all people who are supposed to engage with that symbol—whether that is pledging allegiance with a hand over the heart to a flag or standing hand over heart for a certain song. The fact of the matter is that this has not been a country where there is indeed equality for all—for people of color, for white women, and particularly for women of color. It is a deep sickness—a sickness for which we need to repent and allow God to heal through our ability to LISTEN and God’s ability to TRANSFORM that listening into a new life—a new way of thinking, believing, and behaving. Dismissing it, denying it, excusing it, distracting from it by making it about something else, and especially trying to justify it when it is the opposite of all that is JUST is wrong. It is an affront to God’s creative intent that we all are made in the image of God and wholly BELOVED. The symbol that is meant to unify is no longer doing its job, so let’s get a new symbol. OR at the very least let’s just calm down about people expressing their pain at the fact that what the symbol is supposed to symbolize has not been the reality. Every single Christian should be taking a knee because this flag is not where we pledge our first allegiance anyway. Jesus broke all sorts of customs and protocols to stand in solidarity with those who were marginalized, neglected, and treated as less than human and that is where we are in terms of people of color and women.
The fact that it is taking decades of one of our most revered producers (whose movies I truly do love!) getting caught for women to start saying “me too” makes me so sad. It is an indicator of how normalized this is!! One of my favorite preachers and someone I know as a great husband and dad of three girls once said that he has to remind himself to let women speak and remind himself that he doesn’t have to have the “last word” because he was “trained as a man to own a room.” This guy is one of the best of the best. He is acknowledging it, he is looking out for it, so because of that, I know that we are not going to find him clad in a bathrobe luring young girls to hotel rooms and threatening the destruction of their careers if they don’t get in line. This man isn’t perfect, but he is aware and that, my friends, is what I would ask of all men everywhere.
Men, listen to yourselves!! Listen to your inner voice—the way you talk about and think about women when you are by yourself. Listen to your outer voice—the way you talk about women or let them be talked about when you are with your buddies, what our President has called “locker room talk.” Listen to the messages that you get about women from our culture. Listen!! And then ask yourself these questions:
*Does it sound like a human is being talked about or an object?
*Are you feeling threatened? Let me rephrase…do you feel like if women are treated as they should be (equal), there will be less for you?
More importantly, LISTEN to the female voices in your life. What are they saying?
*”No” If you hear a woman say this ever, STOP what you are doing. Immediately. I don’t care what you were doing before, what she was wearing, what you “thought” was going to happen because she “seemed into it.” She said NO and you have to stop.
*”Why?” If a woman (or really if anyone) is asking why, there is usually some imbalance of power present. Think about it…little kids ask why because they instinctively know that they have less power than the person they are asking. If another adult is asking “why?” it is a clue to listen up (first) and make things right (second). “Why am I getting paid less than male so-and-so even though I have more education and more experience?” “Why do all of the guys go out after work and I’m not ever invited?” “Why are you asking about and commenting on my personal life. I don’t want to talk about it.” “Why are you talking about my appearance? Can we talk about my accomplishments and not what I look like?” “Why did you call me a butch? I’m not a bitch. I just take my job seriously.”
Listen to what you say in response. Do you apologize? Do you stand up for her? Do you question practices when you notice that women aren’t included? Have you ever asked if you have made a female colleague or friend uncomfortable or made to feel “less than.” If you are in a position of power in your organization, have you ever asked if anyone has sexually harassed her and then listened to her? Believed her? Does your company have on-ramps to easily notify HR of any issues?
Asking and answering these questions is a start to hearing and hearing is start to healing. However, not asking and answering these kinds of questions is a start to inoculating oneself to the every day reality of those who are marginalized–let’s say people who have not been in power in the last 500 years.
There is an organization in my city that comes alongside those who are in the restaurant industry and are struggling. They like to say that they meet people right before they are about to “jump”—not when they’ve hit the ground. There are other organizations for when you are at rock bottom. I feel similarly. I don’t know what to do with people who are full-on on misogynists or sexual predators and in terms of my brief foray into the territory, total and unabashed racists. I honestly don’t. I hardly know what to do with those who think that women shouldn’t be pastors or elders in a church. But that is a different issue entirely. What I do know is that I want to engage this issue with men who want to be better and do better so we don’t need a famous movie exec or President of the the United States to screw up and make us ask if we’ve got a problem here. We do. It is systemic and deep and so therefore, not entirely your fault that you see women as things to dominate instead of people to partner with—its woven into our fabric. But, it is ENTIRELY your fault if you refuse to listen and keep on behaving as such.
Friends, we have work to do. Men, there is listening to do and there are apologies to be made. Ladies, there are stories to tell. For starters, his name was Howie. I was 14. I never knew his last name, but I know he didn’t listen when I said “no.” So, for that and for many other things, I can say “me too.”