A Question about #MeToo and Blame

A friend recently sent me this question following her participation in Freedom to Be: An Embracing Life Experience offered through Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company.  Freedom to, a  weekend immersion experience, is about Head or Heart – being able to access both in any given moment in order to communicate and experience your life as more balanced, satisfying and fulfilled.  During the course, you gain the skills and tools to embrace all aspects of yourself so that you can accomplish this goal. Participants discover how to be more self-reliant and to release limiting beliefs that may be holding them back from expressing themselves in an effectively powerful way.  My friend’s question is a thought-provoking one – simple yet complex. 

“I have a question that has raised some confusing thoughts. We have learned in your courses that we should be responsible for our own feelings...that we have our own power over how we act or choose to act/react.  Recently I read an article with some tweets that were responding to an interview about all of the sexual harassment going on and the “me too” movement. The tweet said the following:  ‘We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal. We are outraged because we have been gaslighted.  We are outraged because we were silenced for so long.’  Isn’t this sort of statement “blaming”? I am interested in your thoughts about this.”

The #MeToo movement is full of courageous participants, people willing to be vulnerable and willing to begin a dialogue out of the deafening silence around sexual assault and harassment.  Although I have experienced gender inequality – not being paid the same as men in my field – I have not experienced harassment or assault.  I sometimes wonder if the cultural – and my own – normalization of that kind of behavior has clouded my memory of my #MeToo experience and that the veil will one day be lifted in a rush of shame.

In watching Beverly Nelson’s announcement accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault when she was a sixteen-year-old waitress, I was blown away by how raw and current her pain was almost forty years after the event.   The assault on her innocence – that she could trust someone else, that those in power had her well-being in mind, and that she was safe in the world – was one of the saddest things for me to watch.  That is something that I never want my daughter – who is four years older that Beverly was at that time – or anyone’s son or daughter to experience. 

Was the Tweet blaming?  It may appear to some people that way, and yet that is not the point.  I am confident that the writer felt outraged.  I wonder if it would have rung true for the writer of the Tweet to have said, “I feel outraged because I knew what he (she) did was so wrong and yet I acted as if it were normal – and I continued to act normal even though I never felt the same.  I was terrified and I had no one to tell.  I feel outraged because I kept silent for so long even though something fundamental inside me – including my faith in others and in myself – shifted in a highly painful way.  I feel outraged because I was afraid I would be judged, and yet I judged myself and felt such shame even though I knew in my head that I didn’t do anything wrong.  I feel outraged because there was no one to truly hear what I had to say.  I feel outraged that I felt powerless in the face of privilege.”

A friend of mine, Monica, is writing a book about a young girl, Grace, who has conversations with fairies.  One day Grace brought up her fairy friends in Sunday school and the nun was so outraged about Grace’s belief in fairies that she whacked her across the knuckles with a ruler and shamed her in front of the class.  Grace later talked about it with her mentor, J, saying that she had not been brave that day because she had not told the nun that she was wrong about fairies.  She had kept silent.  J asked what speaking up would have accomplished.  Would she have changed the Sister’s mind?  Would she have encouraged her classmates to speak up about their own beliefs?  Do the fairies think less of her because she didn’t speak up?  The answer to all three questions was “no.”  J then said, “Sometimes no action takes more courage than action.”  The time was not right for Grace to convince the nun and her classmates about fairies.  What J then encouraged her to do was to be seen. 

Now, #MeToo Warriors, be seen.  Be heard.  This is your time.  Forty years ago was not the time for Beverly Nelson to be heard.  Now is the time when people can hear you.  Now is the time your voice will make a difference.  You held the space for this moment to occur.  Your silence was courageous. 

Be together, hear one another, and affirm your own courage.  Your powerful voice – and feeling the unity of your head AND your heart – will mean no more silence, no more harassment, no more assault.  You elevate men and women through your actions.  If Freedom to Be: An Embracing Life Experience feels like a part of your journey, I would love to have you there.  I’ll be teaching in Fort Lauderdale the first weekend in March, and there are courses all over the country.