Yesterday morning, my Facebook feed began to fill with women declaring “me, too,” referencing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
Pretty soon, these shares dominated my feed, and I joined the swelling chorus with my own post. By the evening, I was teary with solidarity and love for courageous women choosing to share their stories, courageous women choosing not to, courageous cis men choosing to share their responses, and courageous people of all genders and non-genders coming forward with stories of their own.
We are in a time of radical change.
Old attitudes that need to die dominate news cycles with their death rattle. The way forward is being paved, step by step, by people choosing to live lives of radical self-responsibility, and that awaken relating between the healthy masculine and feminine.
To heal an infected wound, which is how I see our past and current ways of relating and centuries of patriarchal domination, first you have to rip the bandage off and clean it out.
This wave of expressed pain is the cleaning out of that wound that, if navigated well, can begin the process of healing and transformation on a huge scale. But do not confuse the pus pouring out with healing. Sharing your stories is not enough.
In order to heal and become the people we are born to be, we must, in time, turn our eyes toward the world we want to create. Fibrin and platelets knit to create a scab, which falls off to reveal tender, pink skin. We will have to shift out of interacting from positions of perpetrator and victim, step off that paradigm altogether, and learn to relate to one another as self-responsible, whole people.
But we’re not there yet, and it’s not a process that can be rushed.
Here is my response to the various expressions I’ve seen (and not seen) in the last 24 hours. May it serve our collective healing.
1) To the wave of women filling my feed with “me, too”: I see you and feel you. My eyes are filled with tears, my heart is filled with sisterhood and love, and I bow to your courage.
2) To the women who don’t want to share or “perform victimhood”: I see and feel you, too. Your stories are yours to do with what you will, and I respect your silence. I’m also tired of this never-ending slog of revelation and agree that sometimes it feels like nothing changes, no matter what we say or do.
3) To the men and gender non-conforming folks who have been abused or assaulted: my heart is with you, and I want you to have a safe space to share your stories because they matter too.
4) To those who conflate storytelling with “playing victim” or “women trying to one-up each other on who’s the bigger victim”: check yourself and open your heart to feel where the speaker is coming from. Sharing our stories doesn’t mean we think we are victims. There are many locations from which to share our stories, victim being only one of them. Your resistance to hearing these stories may be what you need to look at.
As an aside: If you’re trying to prove you’re a bigger victim than another person or comparing people’s trauma in any way, cut it out. That crap gets us nowhere.
5) I chose to deal with my story by getting trained to co-lead rape prevention workshops in college and learning simple self-defense. While my skills are rusty, I believe I’m still less likely to freeze and more likely to fight because of that. Hearing the young women’s stories back then was heartbreaking and coming together to share them was necessary. What’s happening in my Facebook feed right now feels like an expanded version of those workshops, and I’m grateful for the widened circle and the witnesses around us.
6) To the men who are shocked and saddened: thank you. Please talk to your brothers and check them when they do or say misogynist sh*t. Get together in groups and talk about ways you may have harassed or coerced women, and hold each other accountable to shift that way of relating. And please raise your sons to be and do differently.
7) To the men who are now afraid to express your hunger and desire, afraid to get smacked or accused of harassment: make sure you play with women who have developed a voice, who own their desire, and who can tell you when you cross a line. Please don’t squash who you are and cut off your connection to your masculine side. We need your polarity in the world. Be judicious with it, and play with partners who can receive you.
8) To the deliberate and accidental perpetrators: I don’t have much to say to you right now. It feels like a future conversation, an essential one to have once you develop the desire to listen and dismantle this pattern in yourself. Perhaps you could start by taking inventory of when you have been a perpetrator and when a victim, and we’ll go from there in the next phase of wound-cleaning.
We all have work to do, and I’m here for the conversation. I’ve been doing my work, alone and with others, for 30 years. I’m holding a vision for a world where the toxic expression of masculinity no longer exists and we all treat each other with the love and respect that is everyone’s birthright.
Let’s do this, together.
Author: Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis