9"x12" mixed media on cardboard paper
Some are saying 2017 is "The Year of the Woman," a time when our grievances are finally being given a chance to correct past wrongs. To some extent, yes. But I still believe too many view these sexual harassment scandals as gossip fodder rather than the instruments of actual change they could become.
For one thing, it is sheer cognitive dissonance to say sexual harassment, assault, and abuse of women has never been an issue or that we've never said anything about it.
To my mind, many people today are playing starring roles in a theater production called "Let's Pretend We Didn't Know." No, you knew. But it simply wasn't important enough to speak up for your colleague, loved one or friend. Or else you knew the risks of breaking silence better than they did and urged them to hide in the darkness with their stories. Whatever the reasons, we have all been complacent at some point in the continuation of societal consciousnesses teaching women to fear men and failing to teach men to respect women.
Men change the world. Women shop in it. Isn't this much of what our social commentary is regarding the battle of the sexes?
Keep in mind that what's going on right now isn't about tearing down public figures. It's about shining lights in these dark corners of our collective existence so we can heal. Of all the women I know, none can say they've never been harassed or attacked in their lives. Not one. Molestation is also a common theme among the woman I've counseled. And the majority of them never named their abusers out of fear of retaliation or not being believed. And let's face it: most of the time we aren't believed.
All too often, we are patted on the head, dismissed and called "too sensitive." We apparently need a "thicker skin" to make it in a rat race of eroding ethics continually drilling into us that being successful means becoming the biggest jerk in the room. I've worked with many companies where the worst bully was also the one with the best promotions and incentives. In these circles, management demands rather than asks, demeans instead of praising, and requires allegiance in lieu of cooperation. From these types of professional settings, abuse is born in every sector. This abuse flows after hours into home life and vice versa, all supported by the overarching theme that women are secondary.
And no, it's not just Hollywood. It's New York and Dubai, Hong Kong and New Delhi, Zanzibar and St. Petersburg, Rio de Janerio and Sydney. Sexism is rampant all over the globe. It's not just found in one religion either. As a researcher of comparative religion, I can honestly say I've found it in some form within all theological and secular traditions I've studied.
We can no longer pretend that these scandals are somehow disconnected from the monstrous realities we ignore around the world. The attitude of male superiority plays out in ugly ways in regions where females are shot or raped for attempting to get an education. Wives still are beaten to death for failing to give birth to a male heir, despite our scientific knowledge that gender is determined by the male. Women are also the largest demographic sold into the sex trade.
The West pretends elevation above such atrocities, yet rape, harassment, and assault are so commonplace in our societies that our comedians make jokes about it in every country. There continues to be a debate regarding birth control while Viagra prescriptions face no such controversy, as if these pills have no impact whatsoever on increasing the birth rate. Worse still, those women who choose to raise their children despite the abundance of absentee fathers are further penalized by both stigma and a lack of adequate resources and education to help them.
Beyond this, men and boys who are victims of sexual assault and abuse find themselves on one side of an impenetrable wall of silence that also pretends such things do not occur. I have had many male therapy clients with horrific experiences they've never shared with anyone due to the attitude that abused men are gay, weak or a willing participant in their own abuse.
So let's be honest here: This ugliness been going on for millennia, long before anyone coined the phrase "locker room talk" or worked for a modern corporation.
But change doesn't begin "out there." It starts within ourselves. We must be willing to face the misogynists and abusers in our mindsets, families, and societies. As parents, we have to teach our boys self-regulation the same way we teach our girls self-defense. Our communities should be places of healing, not vitriol dens parroting shame and blame. And corporate mentality should not work overtime to hide the scandals of top earners. Our work environments need to expand for the greater good by hiring and supporting people who are inclusive to everyone.
If we establish open dialogues with each other, maybe there won't be a need for everyone to have a Twitter account to get the world to acknowledge what happened to them. We will simply do it on our own without the all-seeing eye of social media one day at a time.
Wherever you are on the journey towards equality in your own life,
I wish you well.