“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” ~ Henry David Thoreau
There is a lack of empathy in today’s world.
It’s evident in every headline and any time you turn on the news. It’s on Facebook and in Twitter comments. It has invaded family dinners and Sunday afternoons.
People are so focused on their own beliefs that they cannot, or will not, see anything through a different lens.
Empathy matters because it helps us to connect, to belong, and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But, to experience empathy, you must care about other people more than yourself and you must be able to see and feel someone else’s experience.
Regardless of who you believe in the current political cluster, this is the bottom line: is it ever okay for anyone to force someone to engage in physical or sexual acts? No. Is it okay to make a victim feel like they are to blame for someone else’s inappropriate actions? No. Should leaders use their privilege and connections to get away with things that are just plain wrong? No.
Should there be a standard for taking responsibility, owning one’s actions, and respecting the value of other humans? Yes.
Empathy means you can put yourself in someone else’s position, that you can feel what someone else is feeling.
Can you put yourself in the position of being used as a sexual object, of being completely disrespected, of knowing that you don’t get the final say over who uses your body for their own pleasure?
Most women can put themselves in that position. I know I can. And it’s not okay.
The more women come forward and say, “yes, this happened to me,” the more light we can shine on the horrible mindset that exists: a mindset that excuses a lack of respect with “boys will be boys” and scoffs at sexual abuse because “they didn’t know any better.”
The fact is, we do know better. We know better than to allow sexual harassment. We know better than to allow sexual abuse. We know better than to allow racism. We know better than to allow homophobia. We know better than to allow the people we love to continue to feel “less than” so that someone else can feel “better than.”
If you are uncomfortable reading this, or an article about white privilege, or about how it feels to be on the receiving end of gender bias, then it’s time to learn about empathy. The world is full of differences. And that is a very good thing.
Try to look at life through the lens of a young woman who is expected to use her sexuality to get the customer or make the sale or finalize the contract, but then is called a “slut” because of how she dresses or because she rebuffed someone’s advances. Try to look through the lens of a young woman who chooses to dress gender neutral and she is told by a coworker that she must be a man because she doesn’t make his dick hard. Try to look through the lens of a young woman who is told “you know you want it” when a colleague puts his hand on her ass.
That young woman is your sister, your daughter, your niece, your mother.
No one should be made to feel that they are an object, that they are unworthy of being loved, honored, respected, and valued. It is a woman’s right to share her sexuality with men and women who deserve it—because they showed us true care, they earned our trust, and they respected us and our own authority over our bodies. When that authority is taken away from us by force, manipulation, or guilt, the message is clear: men hold the power.
If everyone worked as hard at having empathy as they do at defending certain actions or condemning others, our world would be a very different place. But, don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of these kids: