I'm Every Woman (#metoo)
I'm every woman.
It's all in me.
A gentle warning: The following message is both a longer-format piece and touches on topics of sexual harassment and misconduct. If you feel triggered by such in any way, I welcome you to check out my other WORDS.
This week I've been playing the Chaka Khan hit (and Whitney Houston remake) around the clock, but I'm hearing those familiar lyrics in an entirely new way.
The anthem for female camaraderie has struck a deep chord since The New York Times opened the flood gates of exposé reporting on acclaimed movie producer Harvey Weinstein (just Google "New York Times Harvey Weinstein" and you'll be served a cornucopia of deliciously astute coverage on a disgusting man.) After years of hiding their truths in the Hollywood shadows, his female victims finally felt compelled/empowered/fed up enough to share their accounts of harassment, abuse, and lingering trauma. The volume of their stories -once held at silent zero- has been turned all the way up to 11.
No more secrets. No more shame.
I can't look at his photograph. Writing his name makes me feel ill. Why such a strong reaction you ask? Because, to go back to the wisdom bestowed by Chaka, "I got it, got it, got it, got it...I'M EVERY WOMAN." When it comes to what those actresses recount (how they felt intimidated, confused, disarmed, objectified, and literally cornered in fancy hotel rooms), I got it. If you're a woman reading this now, you probably get it, too.
As I read and listened to the women's interviews, I felt deep pangs in my gut. Pangs of sorrowful knowing.
Ever approach a construction site around noon? Ever walk three blocks out of your way to avoid the single stretch of disrobing hungry eyes? I have. Ever felt the stare of a man 2X or 3X your age slowly tracing your outline, like their eyes are scissors cutting you out of the air to stash in their pocket for later? I have, too. Seduced by a married man? A professor? A higher-up exploiting his position? Ever been touched or groped by unwanted or unknown hands? Babe, you're not alone.
Many have -and continue to argue- "it's male biology." Maybe certain behaviors are biologically wired, but we are homo sapiens in a modern world. Today's man gets to have his cake and eat it, too: he enjoys the conveniences of a Starbucks latte while awaiting an Uber ride, both summoned on his Apple Watch, while also sustaining his neanderthal, "Me want Jane...Me have Jane" urges.
Women seem to have gotten the short end of the evolutionary stick...
Take periods for instance: For one week every month, our ancestors (from Native American to African to Chinese, hell, even Christian traditions) would gather together in sacred union with their tribal sisters, away from men, children, elders, and obligations, to flow freely under the "Red Tent" (or Moon Lodge, Menstrual Hut, etc.). We would -and the community would- allow us our "Moon Time," wherein fellow women would honor and aid us in what we needed, be it food or drink or massage or simply shared experience. Instead of that intuitive sweetness, the modern age has truly f*cked things up by instilling in us from the first bleed that a period is something to hide, to be annoyed by, to blame for our "bitchiness," and to literally stuff up and throw away.
And then! As if the equation of modern womanhood + sex + internal struggle + societal expectation isn't convoluted enough, we get to harbor the lioness's share of responsibility when it comes to breeding/preventing new life. From the teenaged start, we feel the peer-driven push to awkwardly sneak into the teen clinic for birth control...and never ever ever be educated about the repercussions.¹ All because our boyfriends feel "constrained" by condoms...or they freaking forget them. But they're high school boys, so it's their job to forget, right?
As we develop and mature, we are encouraged to embrace our curves and own what our mommas gave us, but not too much now! Remember to wear the power suit and the higher neckline to the office. Hook into the bra with super technologically advanced smoothing, no-show padding because your nippy biology would obviously be too distracting, too inappropriate, too tempting in a place where work needs to get done.
Be a woman...but actually, don't.
To get back to the movie producer who shall here forth go unnamed, and to slap down for good the condom-constraint-claim: You know what is actually constraining? Not being able to get ahead in your career (and hence rock your mission and nobly provide for your family) because your being told by the man-in-charge that you have to sleep (or massage or masturbate or strip) your way to the top.
This week has indeed felt like a turning point. We are in a tangible groundswell, where women are bulldozing the manicured lawns of suppression.
On Friday night, I discovered the brilliant work that model (now activist) Cameron Russel is doing via Instagram. She's turned her account into a platform for women in the fashion industry to share stories of abuse, anonymously.
As of this writing, @cameronrussell has shared 79 screen-captures of Direct Messages sent to her by models, makeup artists, photographers' assistants...essentially TOO MANY YOUNG WOMEN being taken advantage of by scumbags/douchebags/perverts/pedophiles/philanderers or straight-up psychopaths with a camera, a c*ck, and a tragically troubled ego.
I've read all 79 messages (I encourage you to do the same), and raised my symbolic prayer hands to Ms. Russell for issuing calls to action to The Press, The Industry, and The Victims. Most notably, she pleads to The Industry to not simply "Like" or "Heart" or "Comment" supportively on this social media movement, but to ACT. To actually make meaningful changes in how their businesses are run:
"We all know who the perpetrators are and we continue to work with them. STOP. Advertisers and magazines, stop hiring these people. Agencies, stop sending them talent. Stop today. Do not wait until lawyers get involved. Do the right thing because the wrong thing is horrific. #myjobshouldnotinvolveabuse"
And now for a call to action from me to you: Let's sing fiercely, from the front stage of our minds, "I'm Every Woman." Of course, we are each a unique snowflake, but our real magic lies in collective feminine divinity: our ability to bond so completely that we feel as one.
I am you; You are the waitress being stalked by her manager and slapped on the ass by "regulars"; She is the 14 year-old model whose photographer asks if she's a virgin then whispers in close, "You make me want to go to jail," all while her mom waits in the next room; That model is the actress being given the ultimatum, 'Watch me shower or you'll never make it in this town.'
I hope this message helps my sisters out there, especially those braving broken shards of the glass ceiling they're trying to bust through.
We are not alone.
We are in this together.
Things WILL change for the better.
¹ Please reference this article by Dr. Sara Gottfried MD sharing the top reasons to avoid the pill if you can. She's a truly phenomenal resource on all things hormone-related, and delivers this vital information with unmatched clarity and intellect.
Please read and support responsible and dogged journalism (The New York Times and The Washington Post are two great places to start).
Please use these references:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) - RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline