Tuesday, April 28, 2020

#MeToo: Essays... Part 2

#MeToo: Essays About How and Why This Happened, 
What it Means and How to Make Sure It Never Happens Again 
by Lisa Perkins
I established a 30-day free trial account on scribd to mainly listen to the audiobook of poetry, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, to satisfy the 2020 Read Harder Challenge prompt #8.
I rarely listen to audiobooks and didn't wish to pay for something I wouldn't listen to again. 
If you happen to listen to this, be sure to listen to his interview at the end. 
It is definitely noteworthy! I did find Reynolds' narration to be wonderful 
and would highly recommend this audiobook.
However, I will also own the actual book and read it as well. 
Just because I overall prefer a book in my hands. But on to #MeToo.

This review will cover the last half of this book. You can find Part 1 of this review here
Thus far I have been very impressed, 
as well as sometimes shocked at these revelations of 
males' aggressive, abusive, and misogynistic behaviors toward females.
But I also realize that I am now at a much different place in my life. 
As an older female, I don't give a damn! If you are a male and you're even halfway considering mistreating or abusing me, you'd better carry a big stick with you! 
'Cause I'm comin' after you with whatever I have on hand...and I know some moves!
So beware! And, honestly, I have always been much more combative in this regard than most of the other females I've known throughout my life, no matter at what age.
My husband researched interpersonal violence between males and females for his PhD. 
Before we were even dating, in those first 9 months as very best friends, I once asked 
him if I demonstrated enough self-confidence to hopefully avoid being attacked. 
His response? "If a male selected you as a potential victim, he needs to do something else.
You are definitely not a woman any man with sense would dare mess with." 
(I am paraphrasing from memory.) I just remember feeling proud of that. 
Now, back to the book!

Katherine Ramsland describes the concept of narcissistic immunity in "Tit for Tat." These repeat offenders who often take big risks
have a talent for rebounding from setbacks because they're certain of their invulnerability. This comes not just from their repeated success, 
but also from the knowledge that those who know what they're doing 
won't stop them. (p 81)
Ramsland goes on to describe a situation where a male was implicitly stating he would give her what she wanted if she gave him what he wanted. And then everyone would be happy and satisfied. Was this ever expressed in explicit terms? No, of course not. As Ramsland states,
Situations of subtle compromise are probably the most frequent abuse of power, 
and the most difficult to identify as sexual misconduct, 
because the aggressor can easily say he was misunderstood. 
He slips away, leaving his target violated in a non-specific way. 
Even if she complains, it's difficult to make anything stick. 
She will also be labeled in some negative way, not to mention ostracized. (p 78)
And this is how the cycle perpetuates itself with no male ever being held accountable.

Predators plan. They use "deflection, social miscues, and misinformation" to exude charm and success which work to "falsely engender trust" in a very relaxed and confident manner. So change must occur on both a cultural and personal level. We need to learn about sexual predators as well as our own vulnerabilities to help this collective movement make a better world for everyone, but particularly those historically deemed to be most vulnerable and socially subjugated by males--females!

Catherine Gigante-Brown describes how and why she believes 
"I was only..." are three of the most dangerous words in the English language.
"I was only joking."
"I was only trying to help."
"I was only..."
No. You weren't. (p 89)
Not the best friend's uncle who put his hand on her crotch at age 12. Not the nice blind man who ran the newsstand and forced his tongue down her throat for a "friendly" good-bye kiss at age 17. And especially not the man in the park who said of her at age 19, "We're following her. I like the way her ass jiggles when she walks." These are weak excuses offered by men--only because they're caught! To her credit she confronted the last man in the crowded public park and ended up shaming him into an apology. 
Yes means yes. No means no. (p 89)
And no man has a right to assault a woman. Period. Until you ask and the answer is "yes," just don't. As the author notes, it feels good to stand up for herself, but 40 years later she must still do so. It will not stop until we view each other with respect, kindness, and acceptance...
It starts here. It starts now. It starts with us. (p 90)
We will raise our young girls to be self-confident self-assured individuals who will defend themselves any time and anywhere by confronting and calling out these abusers.

Kate Mara addresses an issue I'd never experienced or considered before in "Me Too: Protecting Men from Themselves." Once she informed her mother that her own uncle (her mother's own brother) had attempted to rape her but she'd been lucky enough to get away, her mother's reply was to never tell her father because he would kill the man. At age 12, Kate agreed. But wait! Now this child must somehow keep herself out of harm's way when visiting her own grandmother (with whom her uncle lived) AND protect her father from the truth that would make him lose control and murder someone, his own brother-in-law. It is this cycle of "silence and violence" that also helps perpetuate the misogynistic culture of our time and the past. Men can't be trusted to respect women and yet those who would be their most intense defenders also cannot be trusted to control their violent behaviors...? My immediate thought? Men are messed up!

Jude M. Lucien points out in "Men, Women and #MeToo" males are also sexually assaulted and seem to have no recourse for reporting such abuse. None. It is just unacceptable for a male to claim that he was assaulted. It seems like such an aberration. A near impossibility. Likewise to a great degree for any female sexually assaulted by another female. However, Lucien is very clear about the vast difference between a female victim of male sexual assault and the other two scenarios--it boils own to the "fear" culture created by the continued and unchecked misogynistic behaviors of men toward women. Women must always operate by a different set of social/cultural rules than those of men: (1) never ride in an elevator alone with a male, (2) never walk alone at night in a parking garage, (3) never walk alone anywhere after dark, etc. As Lucien states,
Women have physically violated my sexual boundaries many more times 
than have men because my sexual relationships have always been with women. 
But all those years that men catcalled, bra-snapped, commented and 
attempted to rape me structured my life in a way that those women simply can't. 
(p 99)

"Every Book I Have Ever Written is a #MeToo Novel" (The grammar nerd in me realizes it should read an #MeToo...) by Trinity Blacio describes how using her own helplessness against sexual assault in her youthful past is reflected in her very strong and self-sufficient female protagonists. In her worlds women support each other and have each other's backs. Where an 8-year-old can feel comfortable confiding to her mother of her stepfather's inappropriate behaviors toward her. Where a 15-year-old can confide to her father that the employee who took her on a date at her father's behest took her to an abandoned cabin and date-raped her and feel vindicated that a process was followed to hold the 20-year-old accountable beyond just losing his job... 
And if for some reason she doesn't have those options, 
perhaps she'll read a novel where she'll see her reflection 
and know that she will survive, and, maybe, save the world. (p 104)

In "#NotMe's Instead of #MeToo's" by Nikki Prince details the trauma in the aftermath of molestation by a family member and family friend, before she even reached age 10. She believed herself to be "voiceless" and said nothing about it until she was in her 20's. She still has dreams about these incidents. As the mother of both a son and a daughter she believes we must start by educating our children at home, with reinforcement occurring at school. Teaching them agency for their own bodies and that when something doesn't feel good or right, they have a voice. (The one thing she didn't mention is to be sure to back them up fully if/when they do come to you as a parent.)
This is for me, this is for my children, and this is for the world to hear. 
We are here, we are the #MeToo's, and we will not remain silent ever again.
Let's make a world where there are #NotMe's instead of #MeToo's. (p 107)

"Not Them Too" by Louisa Bacio. Imagine that it is your first job in publishing and you're in the elevator with the Vice President for Advertising and he says
"Are those $1000-a-night fuck-me pumps?" (p 109)
What do you say? Alone with a man in an elevator...at work! And this happens! Of course, this was not the incident to occur to Louisa. The editorial director informed her she would not be allowed to travel as part of her job because she was "female and attractive." The staff was 98% male. Good old misogynistic patriarchy at work! Don't change male behavior, instead, restrict the life of females to prevent 'incidents'. Ugh! At another magazine on her first day of work one of the senior editors (the only female one) called her into her office and explained that she would never be able to advance because there was 
only "room" for one female editor and it was going to be her. 
That troubled magazine went bankrupt, and when the doors closed 
there was only one female editor: It was [Louisa]. (p 109)
This story made me smile! Louisa goes on to describe the scariest occurrence that happened in her own home. Her roommate befriended two strange men and had them follow her home in their car.  Fortunately, Louisa awakened as they were walking down the hall toward her room, saying 
"Can we look at your roommate? Is she pretty?" A man's voice woke me in the middle of the night. I was 23, in grad school. "She's asleep," my roommate said.
"It's all right. We won't do anything. Just look at her."
I lay in bed, listening to footsteps come down the hallway, and stop outside my closed bedroom door. The doorknob rattled, and turned.
At that moment, I jumped out of bed, yanked on the handle, and screamed:
"What the fuck do you think you're doing? Get out of my house!" (p 111)
Louisa chased them out, locked the door, and promptly evicted her roommate the very next day. She now has two daughters and is
...teaching [them] how to stand up for themselves. Hell no, not them too! (p 112)

In "Why We #MeToo" Jennifer Wedmore describes how she 
became two people, the one who suffered during the night/early morning, and the one who got up and went to school and functioned normally. (p 114)
This occurred for 10 years of her life as a young girl. She also describes other much more minor incidents where men "accidentally" brushed up against her, etc., throughout her life. 
The everyday fear women have of walking to our car by ourselves or walking by a group of men must stop! We should feel safe in our environments! (p 114)
Then she mentions being "afraid" to ask her teenage daughter if she has experienced any such incidents... That seems hypocritical to me. If you don't ask, you won't know, and then you can' help her talk it out and decide how best to handle it in the future. We need to enable girls/women to expose these incidents so they can know it is not their fault and how best to counteract such behaviors. 

As Gen Ryan states in "Until When #MeToo":
The problem isn't with women not coming forward, because as we have seen 
recently in the media that women are flocking and coming together more than ever. 
It's how, as a society, we view the female. (p 117)
Females' every detail of their life experience, background, and history are examined to find fault. Ryan claims that 
...as a society, we [must] stop villainizing the victims and start holding the [offending] individuals  accountable for their actions. (p 119)
I am anxious for exactly that! Perhaps convicting and imprisonment of Harvey Weinstein is a positive sign for lasting change. I have my fingers crossed!

Carmela Caruso describes how a "friend" became an attacker in "Doing What We've Always Done: Gender Roles and Sexual Assault." This person was someone who lived in the same small town and Carmela saw around town off and on. They would exchange simple greetings: "Hello," etc. One night he invited her to join himself and some of his friends at a restaurant. He ended up walking her home even though she had told him point blank she did not want him to go with her and she was not going to have sex with him. (She was feeling uncomfortable about him at that point in time. Once in her house he tried to have sex with her several times and she kept refusing to cooperate, saying "No!" A couple of months later he approaches her asking why she never contacted him. She stated she felt he had sexually assaulted her and he was genuinely surprised...and apologized. He explained that
he'd been in a similar situation many times before and found women 
thought they should act distant and unavailable to 
avoid being labeled a "whore" or "slut" for wanting sex. 
Men, he said, were expected to show force to which the woman, 
throwing down her feigned resistance, would respond. 
It's what women wanted, he said. (p 124)
I would love to think this was simply a bullshit answer, but I believe there are males who have never been taught nor learned otherwise. Strictly caveman stuff! You can't make this shit up! Now she better understands the statistic that 85% of women who are sexually assaulted know their attacker. How sad... She also cites generic statistics regarding the likelihood any accusations will never make it to court and the victim/woman will be vilified and made out to be the reason for the assault. 

"For Men the 'MeToo' Movement Should Be More Than a Hashtag" by Ivan Natividad
Tarana Burke, a Broolyn-based youth activist, first used the words "Me Too" to found a movement meant 
as a rallying cry to support young women 
who had survived sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. (p 127)
To let them know they were not alone. Because, unfortunately, they are only one of many...
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 98 seconds someone in our country is sexually assaulted, and one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or competed rape in her lifetime.
Moreover, 90% of adult rape victims are female, 
and females ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely 
than the general population to be victims of 
rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. (p 128)
No wonder that within 24 hours of the launch of the #MeToo movement, there were more than 12 million Facebook posts, comments and reactions made. TWELVE MILLION. Let that number sink in. Within 24 hours. Unbelievable. And so scary! Ivan describes being able to shrug off uninvited sexual touching as a young man simply because, unlike a woman, he had no danger to fear. 
Never did I worry about being followed down a dark alley afterward.
Never did I worry about a woman stalking me at my house or 
place of work because I did not reciprocate their advances. (p 129)
Best estimates are that only 6 of every 1,000 rapists end up in prison. Natividad believes men can help make permanent changes for the better by not "supporting or condoning a culture that hyper-sexualizes women." 
We can redefine our masculinity to detach it from abusive stereotypical behavior. 
Our character is based on what we do, not what we think we believe. (p 130)
So do more than just like certain #MeToo comments/posts on social media, actually begin to set a good example for sons, brothers, cousins, or just other males who are complete strangers. Call others out on their inappropriate behaviors/attitudes/actions and be sure you are acting respectfully...to everyone, including females! Will it make you everyone's 'best friend'? Perhaps not. But those who choose to spend time with you will be comfortable with you...

"For Guys Reading #MeToo Testimonies" by Courtney E. Martin. 
Feel the excruciating pain of complicity. (p 133)
Martin encourages men to read the stories of #MeToo and then just sit. Close their eyes and sit...and feel. Feel what it must be like to live in a world filled with "sexual harassment and assault"...as a man. Much as Martin tries to deal with the fact that she is "white" and yet not in the least bit associated with white supremacists and the hatred and violence they spew. But she must deal as part of that culture by the fact that her skin is also white. (I can relate to that...) So as much as a specific male may have never mistreated or abused a woman, he is still part of the culture by definition, just as she is part of white supremacy. She encourages men to feel what they feel and then talk with other men about their feelings...
A world this riddled with sexual harassment and abuse will never be healed 
by a hashtag, that's for sure. Yet this moment could be the first one 
in which you choose to do something different, to lay the first brick 
in a world that is built differently, a world safe for women's bodies 
and men's feelings, a world worthy of everyone's wholeness. (p 135)
Hallelujah! You preach it, sister! 

"The Wild Feminine Freed #MeToo" by Jamie Della. Jamie studies wicca and writes about this religion. Her emphasis is on the feminine goddess. 
If only we remembered that they key to freedom hides in our womb. 
We must claim our sovereignty by owning the power of the pussy.
Our liberation awaits when we draw out the lusty Baba Yaga: 
the Goddess who dares us to go boldly in the direction of our bliss, 
face our fears and liberate our shame. (p 137)
We should revel in our femininity and let no one shame us for that! 

"Our Bodies Are Not the Problem" by Liz DeBetta
She has a very poignant concise poem and claims that women must make others uncomfortable before things can change for the better. It is nor our bodies that are problematic, but others' refusal to respect women as people!

"Hush" by Sherri Donovan
A poem definitely worth reading! 

"Sexual Harassment on the Job from HR's Perspective" by Marina Jumiga
Marina describes her experience with pursuing an HR complaint on behalf of another employee in her facility who was "tapped on the butt" as acknowledgement, when a simple "Hello!" would have sufficed. the employee was eventually reprimanded and terminated and training was completed by all other employees. Sign-in sheets were used to prove training was completed so that no employee could claim ignorance of the sexual harassment policy. Very smart!! 

"Why the #MeToo Movement Is a Call to Arms for Men Everywhere" by Mark Radcliffe
As Mark saw all of the #MeToo Facebook postings from his female friends, he realized that as a man
it's not enough for us men to just not assault women. We have to do more.
Not just not be part of the problem, but actively be part of the solution. (p 155)
Agreed! It is time for men to act as role models for other men. Past time!
If their days are filled with dread/fear/anxiety/oppression, 
then their lives are forever worsened. 
And we share those lives with them--if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. 
As a result, women are understandably less open with us, less trusting of us, 
and less able to be fully alive and present in our lives as well. 
And this simply cannot be. (p 155)
Men need to mentor other men.
...as Edmund Burke once wrote, 
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (p 155)
That is so true. Silence is complicity... But how to do more?
...start by simply being the kind of friend/boyfriend/husband/colleague 
that a woman feels comfortable discussing her assault with. (p 155)
Be that person who believes her...
This is just the beginning. 
The real challenge is...working on our fellow men. Every. Single. Day. 
Being an agent of change in the daily conversations we're a part of. 
When an entire conversation with "the boys" at a restaurant is 
about the waitress' ass, what are we doing to change that? (p 156)
Saying nothing is complicity. 
Because if their moral compass won't compel them to act differently, 
then we must make the consequences of their actions force them to change--
both in their behavior and attitudes. 
And if we do that, then we will no longer be fully complicit in a world that results in umpteen million women having to post "#MeToo" in their Facebook feed today.
So gentlemen, let's pledge to have a lot more difficult conversations between ourselves, so that there are fewer difficult "#MeToo" posts 
from the women in our lives. (p 158)

"Politics is My #MeToo" by Alessandra Biaggi.
...we are just beginning. The road is long, and we will grow weary, 
but we must never give up or give in. I am honored to join the stories of my sisters; together our voices will reverberate--throughout the streets, rounding corners that echo through the halls of Congress and state legislatures; that rip through industries, which have historically protected predators and upheld systems of abuse. 
Enough. Our message--spoken + written = united. #MeToo (p 162)

I must admit I am so ignorant I was unaware there was such a thing as 
a "nondisclosure agreement" to cover up abuse. 
Let us hope this is the beginning of the ending of such nonsense.
And that men are held responsible for their behaviors.

Happy reading! 

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