*Warning: This take is controversial, I get that. This is one slice of a much broader conversation. It’s not either/or. It’s yes, and.
I’ve had a difficult time being out in the world in the last couple of weeks. Or even being on the internet. Women are hurt, traumatized, and angry, and the world is doing whatever the world is doing about it. (I don’t mean to be so matter of fact about it, but that’s pretty much how I feel about the world’s response.)
I’ve been avoiding small talk with folks lately because that can’t seem to happen without the name Kavanaugh being uttered. I’ve been avoiding eye contact with my mom because she’s using eye contact as permission to launch whatever tirade about him or Republicans that’s current. I heard random strangers talking about it while I walked around the lake this morning. *Cue headphone volume up.
It’s not that I think we shouldn’t be talking about it. I believe Christine Blasey Ford.
It’s not that I’m insensitive to the pain of SO.MANY.WOMEN.
But, here’s what isn’t easily understood: it’s not only the job of men to fix it.
There’s a lot of hurt, blame, and unprocessed trauma – and one of the main things I’m seeing at the moment is that we’re looking outside ourselves to feel better about it. That’s just not how it works in its entirety.
Does holding men accountable for their violations help us feel better? Sure, it can be validating.
Know what else it does? It reinforces the idea that men hold all the power, and we only get to punish them after the fact. We are the victims and they are the perpetrators.
And that leaves us feeling like we don’t hold any of the power at all, and that just isn’t true. I’ll explain more about this in a moment, but for now, it’s just important to say that holding men accountable doesn’t bring us the complete satisfaction we are looking for.
Why not? Because holding one man accountable for violating us only means that we have to keep an eye on every other man as if they could violate us at any moment. And that’s not power, woman.
Do men have a role here? Absolutely.
I’m not asking anyone to turn a blind eye to assholes who violate women. Men need to be held accountable for their actions. And we collectively need to have conversations about the implications of allowing those men roles in governing our societies. (I also realize that’s a really simplistic summary, but I think you get the point – I agree with every outrage that is occurring.)
And, we don’t need to any of that to change in order for us to figure out how to hold our own power in our interactions with men.
If we’re being honest, in hindsight, we can often see where we relinquished our power.
When we think back to our collective #metoo moments, I imagine we can all find the places where we didn’t fully stand up for ourselves. Something felt off. We went along with a plan even when we didn’t want to. We didn’t directly say no to an advance we didn’t want. We got too drunk and expected someone to look out for us without asking them first.
We let our fear of someone cause us to hunch our shoulders, walk a little faster, cross the street, instead of looking them in the eye and showing them that they don’t hold the keys to our safety: we do.
This is what power is.
True power is wielded, not demanded. And wielding power comes from actions and words that have very little to do with what anyone else is doing.
Knowing that you have everything you need to keep yourself safe. Believing yourself worthy of being safe. Clarity about who you are and what you want so that your messages – physical, verbal and energetic – are clean. Boundaries around what you let in and what you keep out – again, physical, verbal and energetic.
This is how the culture of men who violate women shifts. When women no longer tolerate it – not by calling it out after the fact, but by setting the standard that no man treats them in a way that is unacceptable to them before that’s even an option.
You can claim your power, and shitty things can still happen.
In claiming your real power, it requires you focus on yourself only and give up your control of others (which was never real, anyway.) It means looking inside to see what you’re projecting outside. It means clearing your own stuff that magnetizes these situations to you in the first place.
Does claiming your power mean you’ll be safe forever more, and nothing bad will happen to anyone ever again?
No, it doesn’t. Bad stuff still happens sometimes. There are no guarantees.
But for me, bad stuff happening sometimes isn’t a good enough reason to act like bad stuff will happen all the time. It’s exhausting. And for me, it had me treating people like everyone was my enemy. Yuck.
Leave a comment and tell me one thing that men do that makes you uncomfortable, and what you do to guard against it. Bonus points if you have an idea of what you could shift to make that experience feel different.
This is where the revolution begins (your own personal revolution in relationships – or, the more people that actually participate, an actual revolution).