*Author’s note: This article was written on 4/4/2018. It is in honor of all women and all female identified humans.
I just listened to a Podcast on “This American Life” from their March 2nd, 2018 release called “Five Women.”
Since the beginning of this movement, I have been awed by what is coming to light. Having had sexism and eschewed sexuality play such a huge role in my life personally, I am hopeful that this will truly be the beginning of great change.
Since the inception of #MeToo, I have seen many of my own friends offer their deeply intimate personal stories of pain or abuse on Facebook. In a collective effort to take a stand, this is an amazing gift. I have wondered whether I want to share my most intimate, vulnerable, and painful stories for all the random world to read, and I am not convinced that I will feel held in such a way that it is safe. But I will start by saying this.
I do have a story—many stories. And I will also say that there isn’t one woman I know who doesn’t have a story…or many.
Is it not enough to acknowledge that an entire gender and gender-identified population is sentenced to self-esteem that is almost entirely based on our looks? More specifically, on our sexual appeal? To acknowledge that every single woman I have ever known, and don’t even know personally, that the collective American female psyche is riddled with chronic insidious disapproval, deep criticism, self-doubt, and pervasive diminishing of value, all based on our physical appearance? Our thighs are too large; our calves are too small; our breasts too low; our eyebrows too high. Am I too fat to get the job? Too old to lead the company? Too black, too white, too thin to be attractive enough to be hired?
At a fundamental and subconscious level, our value or lack thereof is in our looks and whether we come across as sexually attractive or not. We have painfully internalized the pervasive environment of sexism. As a culture, we think we have come such a long way, and in many ways, we have. But the sexism is so deep, so inextricably intertwined in male and female relationships and dynamics that we, women, often can’t even see the water in which we swim.
As I listen to women’s stories, this is one of the things that I am struck by the most. How much confusion we have been operating in. The confusion as to what we feel—whether what we feel is valid, or real, or whether something is off.
“Was that behavior inappropriate? Did I just experience something I didn’t like or ask for?” I believe this to be due to the internalization of the negativity of our worth. It’s one thing when the perpetrator is external, but what happens when it’s on the inside, when it’s how we feel about ourselves, how we accept our place in the scheme of things, how we accept “it’s sh*tty, but it’s just the way it is,” and “at least they let us work at all now…”
In this way, we just accepted the murky, blurry boundaries that we were offered, unknowingly compromising a part of our wholeness in the process.
This makes me reflect on my own deep confusion that I have played out over the many years. So confused with the incongruity I would experience in what was being reflected to me by the people I was involved with compared to what I felt on the inside. So many situations that I didn’t have the reference point to understand were wrong. Not wrong because my culture didn’t approve, but wrong because it tore at the fabric of my sense of self and caused deep distrust in my own “would-be” highly functioning and effective internal guidance system. Wrong because my feelings, thoughts, and experiences were minimized, or passed off as insignificant, or overreacting, and doesn’t “Father Know Best”?
Maybe I don’t want to tell my story publicly because the first male friend I told him said, “Oh, but not real rape…you were dating the guy, right?”
I’d like to think that I live in a community climate that could hold me in the telling of my stories, should I decide it would help all of us women wake up out of the stupor of complicity that we don’t even know we have been in. I’d like to believe that I could create a safe container in which to be honest and vulnerable. To be brave and strong. To help this great movement. But the truth is, whether I tell the details or not, at some point, they are irrelevant. It’s enough to know that all women have a story of abuse to tell, from small to large. And that this is the turning point. This is the moment we collectively say, “No! Enough!”
I may not tell the details of my abuse here, but I now publicly declare that I am finished with the role I have played in the perpetuation of pervasive misconduct. I publicly declare enough. I will no longer be silent. I will no longer be the victim of my own fear. I will embrace the work I need to do to understand my intrinsic value outside of my sexual orientation, and I will learn to love myself at the deepest level so when a situation occurs that I am not comfortable with, there will be no confusion as to how I feel.
I will not shy away from my own discomfort. I will be brave and turn toward my discomfort, and I will speak out about it. I will speak up. And when I do and a man tries to diminish my experience or trivialize my pain or tells me to just, “Be cool, don’t make too much out of this,” I will stand my ground, not because they are so wrong (which they very well may be), but because no matter what, my feelings matter.
In support of and with the support of all the brave women who are coming forth, paving the way for all of us to find higher ground, I make this commitment. The road is paved by every single action we take; small and large. It is not an overnight event, but all the little choices along the way. I am committed to those daily choices coming from the truth of who I am. And the deepest truth is always love.
It would be sad to see this great turning of the wheel drive women into a period of prudishness and covering up. I would never wish to take away from a woman the deep pleasure and creativity that comes in delighting in the beautiful feminine vehicle of our bodies that we have been given. Creatively expressing ourselves in clothing and makeup is one of our daily art forms—one that we love. In fact, creative bodily adornment seems to be a universal human trait.
It’s not the form itself that is the problem, but our relationship to it. At what point do the delight and creativity turn into a prison of which there are many holding the keys, our culture, our family, our partners, ourselves? The point at which our joyful expression becomes a diminishment is the moment that our value is determined because of it.
I love men, and I love sharing my erotic joy with men. In its purest form, sex is a celebration of life and aliveness, a healing of love, and a refuge for body and soul. It’s only when we let ourselves be defined by the unprocessed, disconnected version of the male perspective of what makes a woman sexy that we become complicit with its eventual abuses.
At our core, we are wild souls, delighting in the expression of form. I feel that the more we speak up and come out about the devastating effects of objectification, the sooner we can return to the true enjoyment of our feminine sexuality and spirit. And I look so forward to this. Because in a world where women’s sexuality is largely defined, expressed, experienced, and understood through a man’s enjoyment of her, perhaps we don’t really even know ourselves and our deepest pleasures—the gifts of living in our daily sensuality outside of these definitions, our deepest truest expression of our erotic souls.
It is exciting to me to meet her wild, unfettered, sensual, female embodied spirit. I am standing for her, inside of myself and inside of every woman.