Me Too

Nanjye.

Me, too.

You know what I mean. You’ve seen it on your feed—one post after another, one person after another speaking up

I see them flooding my social media—some simple admissions, some angry accusations, some anguished stories, some voices for others who, for one reason or another, fear to post for themselves. 

(a screenshot of a friend’s post, shared with permission)

They fill me with sorrow and fury and understanding, because those things have been done to me, too.
I, too, have been whistled at, touched, called by endearments that made me uncomfortable. 

I have been told to smile by strangers in parking lots and grocery stores and subway stations, made to feel unsafe in my workplace, forced to listen to sexual stories I had no desire to hear. 

I have been watched in ways that made me feel unclean in my own skin.

I have been asked invasive questions about my underwear or my sexual preferences. 

I have had strangers force me to defend my choice not to engage in a conversation that made me uncomfortable, not to share my phone number, not to let a man come into my house. 

And yet, despite this, I am a lucky one. 

It makes me physically nauseous to admit that I am fortunate simply because my body has not been invaded.

But when I pretend to be on the phone walking in the dark at night, when I carry my keys between my fingers as a makeshift just-in-case weapon, when I keep my hand over my drink or eye strangers on the road or double-check my locks—I am taking preventative action based on the stories of millions of people for whom the threat is also a memory.

So I say, “Me, too.”

So I watch in unsurprised sorrow as nearly everyone I know adds their voice to the clamour on social media.

So I listen in rage to the stories around me—rage driven by frustration, fear, grief, and helplessness.

What if victims did not carry the burden of sharing their experiences? What if the hurting did not have to prove their numbers for us to make a change?

What if the responses I saw on social media were not ones of disbelief, dismissal, or denial?

I know there are many—too many—abusers, aggressors, and enablers who will never admit to their part in creating a culture that allows this many people to be victimised. And I know there are others who will not only admit but will boast of their perpetration of injustice—I’m looking at you, POTUS

But what about the well-meaning majority? What about the people who genuinely want a better world, who believe themselves to be good people, who passively allow these wrongs to continue?

What if we stood up and admitted the ways we have, knowingly or unknowingly, made possible a culture of inequality?

Here, again, I can say, “Me, too.”

I, too, have allowed oppressive systems to continue, giving permission by my silence. 

I am a victim, but I am also an enabler.

I, too, have laughed at sexist jokes and judged people by their conformity or nonconformity to gender roles. 

I have allowed harassment to go unchallenged and unreported, expected women to prove their abilities in male-dominated fields, and expressed admiration for characters whose masculinity is defined in part by their objectification of women (hey there, James Bond). 

I have disparaged things purely because they are coded as feminine. 

I have dismissed someone’s viewpoint because I have not experienced it myself, ignored truths because the speaker seemed too emotional, used words related to women as insults and words related to men as compliments.

I have questioned victims rather than believing them.

I, too, have propagated this culture.

There’s a quote attributed to Maya Angelou: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” 

We know better. We must do better.

Awareness is important. The voices of survivors are important. Revealing and acknowledging the magnitude of the problem is important: in the US, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and that’s not even mentioning those harassed but not assaulted. We need to recognise that this is absolutely unacceptable.

But we also need to take these passive phrases and turn them on their heads. We need to demand the active voice, to say not only, “This has been done to me,” but also, “I have done this.”

Until we recognise the ways that we contribute to the problem, we will never solve it.

What if all those who know better committed to doing better?

Again, I want to stand up and say, “Me, too.”

I, too, commit to change. 

I have kept silent or protested passively; now I commit to naming sexism, harassment, abuse, and aggression in all its forms, to speaking up and calling out the jokes, the slurs, the stereotypes, the microaggressions.

I commit to hearing to the voices of the oppressed, to challenging the status quo, to identifying and rejecting toxic masculinity.

I commit to supporting victims by listening to them, believing them, and speaking for them when needed. 

I commit to admitting, apologising, and adjusting when—not if—I perpetuate harmful ideologies, to accepting criticism without defence, and to changing my behaviour without complaint.

But I—we—cannot stand alone.

This week I taught my students the concepts of power balance, vulnerable people, and allyship. We discussed that some people have less voice and that those with power can help those without it. 

In a gendered situation, I am the one without power. I am the one whose voice is drowned out, whose complaints are trivialised. 

I am told I am oversensitive, that my experiences are invalid, that I am ignorant of how far our culture has come. 

I am told “not all men,” and, “it’s just the way it is,” and, “can’t you take a compliment?”

So I am calling you out, you who identify as male, you who have power, you whose voices are not ignored. I am calling you to step up in the active voice and say, “I have done this—but no more.”

I commit to learning better, and I commit to doing better.

Will you?

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Not A Stumbling Block

I fumed in my pew while women around me cheered for rape culture and victim-blaming.

To be fair, I don’t think the pastor realised he was promoting rape culture. That’s the definition of culture: our foundational attitudes, customs, and beliefs—ways of thinking ingrained so deeply that we only notice them when they’re challenged. Attitudes like, “Cover up. Nobody wants to see that.” Customs like asking what a victim was wearing. Beliefs like, “If women are modest, men won’t lust.”

woman6

The pastor expounded on liberty in Christ. The snag came when he mentioned I Corinthians 8:13: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

To his credit, tight trousers and low-cut blouses weren’t his first example of ways we make each other stumble—they were his second.

Here’s the thing: that verse comes at the end of a passage about whether or not it’s okay to eat meat that was used in a pagan religious ceremony. Paul reminds his readers that since idols have no power, it’s okay to eat the meat. But if your buddy still feels guilty about it, you shouldn’t eat meat in front of him. What Paul does not say is, “If your buddy has a problem with meat, you should hide all the meat in the world so he can’t possibly have to deal with it.”

And I am not a piece of meat.

woman5

Let me turn this into a modern day example for you, because I haven’t had to deal with idol meat ever in my life, and I doubt you have either. I’ll even use the lust example:

Say you have a buddy who has a problem with lust, and you don’t want him to stumble. You’re walking through the mall and you see Victoria Secret coming up; you know you’ll have no problem walking past the display, but your buddy will. So although you’re free to walk by the store, you suggest an alternate route. That is helping your brother not stumble. That’s intentional and considerate, and it does not make you responsible for preventing his problem. And if you walk away from Victoria Secret and happen to pass a girl in a low-cut shirt, it’s still your buddy’s job to look away. It’s not your fault for picking that direction, and it’s not her fault for wearing the shirt.

Because she is a human, not a stumbling block.

woman4

I’ve heard this idea over and over again: dress modestly to “protect our brothers.” It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s wrong. Unless our brothers live ascetic lifestyles on desert islands, a handful of youth group girls in long skirts will not “protect” them from what’s bombarding them anyway. They know what’s under that floor-length skirt. Men are intelligent humans with free will, not drooling animals who can’t control their impulses. Forcing responsibility onto a woman not only undermines attempts at justice after an assault but also creates a situation in which assault is nearly inevitable.

Women are not objects to be covered or uncovered at mens’ whims.

woman

Let me throw a few new ideas out there at you. “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” That means that no matter what she’s wearing, you don’t have an excuse to rape her. There’s also, “Each will have to bear his own load,” or “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” To me, that sounds like, “The perpetrator is guilty.” I don’t see, “…unless the victim wore a miniskirt” in there anywhere.

And this isn’t just a theological debate. This is happening every day. Most rapes are underreported, and fear of victim-blaming is one cause. (If you need victim-blaming explained, check out this video.)

If this were merely a matter of denominational differences or personal opinions, I might have caved to peer pressure and clapped with the rest of the congregation. But this is not about what we say in church or how we interpret obscure ancient Greek. This is about people—people with faces, people with names, people with scars they will carry forever. And it is not their fault. 

It’s time to stop dehumanising women.

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You, whoever you are—no matter what you wear, no matter what has happened, no matter what will happen—you are not a stumbling block.

What Belly Fat Has To Do With Blogging

I have a confession.

Sometimes…I cheat.

Sometimes when my Chrome plugin that keeps me from wasting time says, “You’ve wasted too much time on Facebook today; get off for 24 hours,” I get on Safari instead, and I keep wasting time.

One problem: on Chrome, I have an ad-blocker plugin. On Safari, I don’t. This means that on Safari, I get to see all the irritating-slash-creepy ads that say things like, “There’s a new law in your town!” or “There are single adults near you!” (Spoiler: I live at a university. Of course there are single adults near me.)

Last night, the creepy ad said, “Five foods women should never eat! Cut belly fat by avoiding these foods!”

And I got angry.

Because nobody’s going around telling men they should cut belly fat by skipping out on yummy food. Because nobody should be allowed to judge my belly fat, thank you very much. Because skipping out on perfectly good food is a horrible way to lose weight. Because why does the internet get to tell me what my body size should be anyway?

I was tempted, in retaliation, to quit exercising and start eating funnel cakes for every meal, to gain some belly fat and keep it.

ANOTHERThor
I quickly realised this would not accomplish much, so instead I did a scary thing. When Amy Green asked if I’d write responses for her blog’s feminism discussion this month, I said yes.

Here’s the thing: I get roaring furious about feminist issues. I’ve always had what you might call an overblown sense of justice. As a kid, I threw fits if my brother’s slice of pie was a fraction of a millimetre larger than mine. If everyone’s sharing a bag of chips and one person eats faster than the rest, it kills me that the fast person ultimately gets the most chips, even if everyone gets the same amount of enjoyment out of eating them.

Arguments also drive me crazy–especially arguments that matter–because there are always at least two sides to any issue, and I have a talent for seeing them. This makes me hesitant to make strong statements about big issues, because I’m probably wrong about something or underestimating something or misjudging something. And if I’m not, someone probably thinks I am, and that’s as bad, because I despise being judged as narrow-minded.

I also hate feeling helpless.

Guess what? Feminism is all those things. It’s injustice that infuriates me, and it’s huge, multifaceted injustice that I cannot personally solve. So I try to avoid it.

Angry

Let me make another confession: for a long time, I was that person who said, “Stop complaining. Sexism is not a thing. Quit making a big issue out of nothing.” In some ways, I think I was sheltered. Because my own family is egalitarian, because I myself can’t fathom discriminating based on something as petty as gender, because my gender has never held me back in my short life–I was certain the rest of the world must be as fair as my own small circle.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly aware that it is not.

So this week, I am speaking up. I am saying things people may not agree with, things people may not like, because I believe them to be relevant, essential, and true. I’m saying them because I am a woman and a writer, and I should stand up for rightness.

More than that–because I am a human, and I should stand up for humanity and decency and the chance that maybe saying something will open someone’s eyes, change someone’s world, shift someone’s paradigm just the tiniest bit.

Because a strange man in a parking lot told me to smile, because a hundred blogs demand my clothing coincide with a man’s desires and not my own comfort, and because the internet wants me not to eat because I might have belly fat.

I Say Some Feminist Things (and someone thinks they’re cool)

Be forewarned: this is not a post.
This is a quick note to let you know about a different post.
A different blog, in fact.

I have an awesome friend named Amy Green who for some reason (probably that we’re friends and stuff) thinks what I have to say about feminism is worth posting with a lot of other people’s comments on her blog this month. You should go check it out. Articulate, opinionated women (and I) are saying well-reasoned things that may include the following: women, feminism, Disney, God, modesty, men, ninjas. (Okay, not sure about the ninjas, but I’m holding out hope.)