"I don't care about blame. I care about solutions."
I've thought really long and hard about the #metoo posts. About my own experiences being a female, being a young professional woman, being a wife, being divorced, and being a friend. I've thought about my experiences in a world that digs into women at almost every turn. About trying desperately to explain to men that the harassment and abuse I have experienced aren't isolated. About the perceived minor infractions that made me feel unsafe or threatened simply because of the potential for danger. About how it feels to be interrupted, disregarded, or ignored in professional situations, or the rattling questioning and expectations about my dreams and aspirations simply because of my gender. About the drowning feeling that occurs when someone tells me I am overreacting when, in fact, I am simply responding to a society that devalues women's reality of living in a male-powered world.
I have thought about the hollow "I'm sorries," that easily flow from male mouths when they watch disrespect up through sexually overpowering language or actions. Sympathetic pity enables a subtle form of shame. Sympathy is not helpful. It is not an action. And it, most certainly, is not a solution. Those "Not every guy..." comments that silently whisper, "Don't you dare hold us accountable," that we hear trying to create separation between our experiences and your responsibility. These excuses fuel blame fires that we are never quite able to get far enough away from to shake the faint smell of burnt ash from our skins.
Allies do not create distance, they move to the center of the issue and hold hands with the victims and their pain.
I have thought about how rare it is for men to ask how these situations make us feel. What emotions we experience. To compassionately try to stare into the raw fear they create, the demoralization and damage they cause. To honor those emotions as real and living and space shifting for us. How rarely I am asked, "Tell me what impact this has had on how you view yourself and feel about the world around you." How common it is that I am defending my right to feel offended and outraged at the power men hold over women with their words and actions and assumptions.
For many of us, the words to describe our experiences do not do justice to the feelings these experiences have caused. The inability to breathe when a man asserts power in the form of a sexual comment or degrading remark. The pain that rises up from shame. The hidden nature of these experiences have no real good words because there is no word in our language to fully explain the fear that comes from them. But we feel it. Lasting and heavy. Through our bodies, in our chests, and out our throats. For many people, it is hard to honor experiences, truly internalize them, if they are not our own. But a lack of one's own experience will never make someone's experience less real.
Allies do not disregard the experiences of others. They hold hands with those impacted and then work to remind the disbelievers that these situations are a truth that others live with daily.
In a society with no word to describe the power struggle between genders, we have one choice: To stand together in our magnitude of a fear that has become normalized, and to remind others of the definition of too.
It is not just me. It is not just her. It is not just them. It is an undesirable, excessive, unduly, inordinate, unreasonable number of women. Alone, we are but one voice, but we are not just one experience.
We are the experiences that when shared amongst women in private, are almost always responded to with, "Me, too." The too is all of us. The too is our also, as well, in addition, and our likewise. Because these experiences are so common we have many examples to give. It is a too that we have learned to silence, to fake, to shake off. It is a too sometimes so damaging we cannot speak it or share it. It is the too that we have been taught to be ashamed of. But now, we are part of the too that must reflect a mirror image back on society in a way that allows no hiding place from the reflection.
Because it is too many. And we demand you pay attention.