ME TOO

The “Me too” posts on social media have me feeling ill at ease. I recognize the courage of those speaking up. In the not so distant past, we were ashamed to admit aloud that we had been violated. As victims, we bore the blame and thus were silenced. This new openness is potentially promising. I want to believe that the phrase might become the refrain of a liberation anthem. But I remain skeptical.

Forgive me for this, my sisters, but “Me too” feels too pat. It seems like another in a series of earnest empty slogans. I fear we are too easily lulled into the hope that our words will ignite sudden revelation among those people – both male and female – who have long perpetuated the abusively misogynist old boys’ club that runs most of the institutions in this country. But I have a strong sense that once the system has slapped a few wrists, has made a great show of punishing a few Weinsteins, has vented astonishment, everything will simply revert to the way it was before. No consciousness will be permanently raised. No significant change will be affected.

Of course, I, too, have been assaulted, molested, discriminated against. So have my daughters and my sisters and my cousins and most of the women I love. Most of the women I know. Like them, I’ve passed up opportunities that were offered in the trade of self. I’ve been disrespected and denigrated, and I have been relegated to the status of chattel. Most recently, as an older woman, I have witnessed the same humiliation wearing a new mantle. Suddenly, my many talents and considerable intellect are deemed as unworthy as my body. Since I am no longer able to procreate, my ability to write, to think, to speak, to teach is no longer desirable. I see the hatred for my womanhood all around me. In the sneering faces of men who shove me aside on the subway or the angry stares shot at me when I raise my voice to dissent. I am blanketed in wrath and menace.

But I am a lucky one. I have never been beaten to within an inch of my life. Nor have I been raped in a way that left me consigned to a lifetime of PTSD. There are those who have. And my saying “Me too” implies that the ways in which I was trespassed against are equal to the more lethal ravishments suffered by my cohorts. In my mind, that homogenization of the brutality dilutes the urgency, belittles their misery. And belies the desperateness of the situation. Change needs to happen. Now. There is no excuse for the perpetuation of this hideous status quo.

Chanting “Me too,” we are a choir of outliers. We seek safety in the company of our peers, but who else is listening? Do the others – the guys in charge, the ones with the power to alter the circumstances – really hear? Our “Me too” seems to lack gravitas with them.In my mind is a pervasive image: We girls are gathered on one side of a great hall, the boys on the other. They are snickering.  They are pointing, saying, “There they go again, those girls. They think they’re making sense, but we know they only make whatever sense we say they make. Let’s wink at them, laugh, wave, nod, tell them they’re terrific. They’ll see we think they’re cute, and they’ll go back to doing their nails or whatever it is they were doing before this silly idea popped into their heads.”

I want more than a slogan, more than a chant, more than a refrain.  I want to see a true movement of women. One wherein women stop trying to undercut one another, stop vying for men’s attention, stop trying to trip their sisters as the sisters climb up the various ladders of achievement. I want a movement of women that offers true support to those who need the assistance of the sisterhood. A movement that empowers women and disempowers the male-dominated offices that disable us daily. A movement that stands up to the assaulters and the abusers and the disrespecters and makes it clear that we are not going to take it anymore. A women’s movement that is all-inclusive, that does not bar participation by ANY human being who identifies as a woman. Politics have no business in this movement. We need to form a circle and link arms and fend off the forces that would relegate us to a weaker sex, imprison us in our imposed inferiority.

Women need to see that there will continue to be “me too” generations till the end of time until and unless we women put a stop to it. By standing together, we could take over the system. We could do more than right the wrongs aimed at us. Our power could enact safer gun controls, create affordable universal health care,  reduce our collective carbon footprints, viably reform public education, etc. We could make life less terrifying for all.

With something like true unity, we could conceivably change the world.

That’s when I’ll pipe up with a “Me too.”

 

 

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Why I Hated Bridesmaids

I know this is not a popular point of view, but I hated Bridesmaids.  Everyone I know who saw the movie, including people I respect and admire and listen to assiduously, said it was laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, great fun.  I found it tiresome, pedestrian, contemptible.

I think the thing I hated most was the way it depicted the women’s relationships, which rang absolutely true and was entirely unamusing.  I am not entertained anymore by the way we women find it so difficult to support one another, by the way in which we seek to undercut our sisters’ best efforts.  The schadenfreude women have for other women is stultifying, and, in this day of diminishing women’s’ rights, or what Sarah Silverman adroitly (if with somewhat ill-advised timing) calls the Real War on Women, we should be doing all we can to give one another a boost whenever we can.

Or perhaps it hearkens back to an attitude I developed in my youth when I was the oldest of a large family of misbehavers.  We were all wont to fight among ourselves, and we were often hyper critical of one another.  But if anyone on the outside was looking in, we banned together and sang one another’s praises.

Women don’t do that.  They allow politicians to call their co-genderists unthinkable names (Remember how Hillary was treated during the pre-nomination campaign?  Notice how anyone who decries the erosion of our rights is assailed?  Are you hearing the kinds of names Sarah Silverman, Anne Roiphe,  et al., have been labeled with by so-called feminists lately?), and they put up with discrimination at every level of our society.

Back in 1969, a month before Stonewall, my roommate and best friend attempted suicide.  It was a gruesome experience, and I won’t detail it here.  Suffice it to say that when he came out of his stupor and took a look at the world around him, what caught his attention and ultimately made him fight his way back to sanity was the Stonewall Uprising.  I have a vivid mental picture of his telling me, as he lay in his bed in the psychiatric ward at St. Vincent’s, “If the gay community is willing to stand with me, why should I lay down and die?”

Had my friend been female, I believe he would have died.  We women never had a Stonewall.  And more often than not, I feel like my sisters would prefer I lay down and die rather than stand next to them and make them feel diminished by me.  Or threatened or embarrassed by me.

And all the while, the glass ceiling turns acrylic and indestructible and our dominions over our bodies is diminished and our sense of empowerment is undermined.  And we let ourselves be led by people who don’t have our best interests at heart, who want to see us walk down the aisle to self-destruction and live unhappily-ever-after.

It’s not funny.