Activism, Culture

A Better #MeToo

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At a very young age I learned that men are sexual predators, not to be trusted. Before I should’ve known what sex was, before I could develop my voice to say “no” to defend myself- before I should have to learn to defend myself. That’s why as an adult I’ve had very few romantic relationships and always tread with great caution.

Still, despite all my trepidation, I faced many abuses and betrayal. That speaks to how prevalent and pervasive this epidemic of abuse against women is, that despite all the caution and precaution I’ve taken, I am still attacked. So when men use excuses like she was asking for it and point to the way she dresses, they are deeply ignorant to their own ignorance. There is no immunity for women.

The nature of these experiences is it leaves remnants of pain in women affected. And too often we are silenced with intimidation or shame, further adding to our pain. This was exhibited in the way Harvey Weinstein operated decades of sexual abuse, where he paid to silence women like Rose McGowan. When we could no longer stay silent and the floodgates opened, more men were exposed. And in the midst of it, women over social media used the hashtag #metoo to describe their personal experiences with gender-based violence.

To give voice to our stories I think is healing because it means we are not afraid to speak truths that are so vehemently repressed by abusers. We are in effect saying after all we have been through, we can still bare the consequences of speaking the truth. And when we give it away, other women see themselves in these situations and see they were not imagining or insane, and they are validated. It’s just that simple, to share a story to heal ourselves. And I think that’s why #metoo was so popular.

I’m a little late to the social trending but that’s because I don’t follow social trends, I follow divine timing- which means I’m right on time.

A few months ago I posted an article that could qualify as a #metoo about a documentary called “A Better Man” but I did it before the trend happened. So I’d like to elaborate on it and offer up another tale, in time for another screening of the documentary, held at the same place I heard about it the first time. To complete the full circle, I will attend tonight. So in preparation for this screening, which will follow a discussion on #metoo, I’m sharing this now.

The documentary is about former lovers who meet over twenty years down the road to unpack the horrific abuse director Attiya Khan’s partner inflicted upon her, which I initially attended the screening of intentionally on the birthday of my most significantly abusive ex. And I did that because years ago I was led by a divine force to forgive this person by sending him a happy birthday message and a friend request on Facebook. As it appealed to his ego, he naturally accepted.

Only for me to discover he had in the previous year taken another girl out on my birthday, defiantly posting the picture on his Facebook. I can’t say I agree with the poor life choices he continually makes, or his perspective on reality. But that’s his karma, not mine so I will leave it at that and not start to make it my karma too. Because he’s all about outer appearances and I’m all about inner work, things could never¬† work out between us. We weren’t on the same page.

Not only was I upset that this would be my memory of my first love, but The Universe conspired to put me through even more immense pain after I hoped to walk away from it all. Subsequently he and his friends would arrogantly celebrate his birthday for years to come without acknowledging the cruelty that he had committed. With no qualms about causing the death of my innocence to protect his ego- and then laughing about it. I wonder how he’d feel if I’d done what he had.

Birthdays are very significant to me because when I was a child I had a traumatic experience I associate with my birthday, where someone who was meant to protect me threatened to kill themselves if I didn’t show enough that I cared for their life. Someone who was responsible for my life forcing me as a child to be responsible for theirs. Knowing this about myself, I still had enough light within to put aside my own pain and send well wishes to someone who only brought me darkness.

Through the contrast in which we treated each other’s birthdays, I understood all I needed to of his character- and mine- that I could forever let this go and know there would never be a “what if” for me. There was never going to be any regret in my heart; I was either going to be alone or find someone else- anything was better than that holy hell. After that ordeal, years down the road, I was led to this documentary- yet again on his birthday.

As I watched, I saw myself in Attiya’s story- namely the way she celebrated the day she left by throwing a party, as a way to reclaim all he hoped to take away from her through his abuse. And I finally realized why I had to wish him a happy birthday and years later go to this documentary on the same day. Not just because it was the only day I was available in my busy work schedule- divine timing disguised as professional conflicts- but because I was reclaiming me.

Although we both eventually did the same thing, mark each others’ birthday by decidedly overriding the memory of the other with something (for him, someone) else, I wasn’t doing it to be vindictive, to hurt him. Incredibly after all the abuse I endured from him, I’ve never once sought to harm him. Not because I care or respect him- I don’t. But because I no longer wanted to be associated with him in any manner and that meant learning to let this go and heal myself.

I share this story because I think it goes to the heart of the social trend. Nobody in this situation would acknowledge my perspective or the facts of the situation as they so casually disrespected me in various manners, and so often. That’s why we tell these tales, because the people immediately involved don’t validate our experiences, so we have to take it upon ourselves to do so, and take control of that narrative and make it all about “me.”

And this particular #metoo is tied to intimate spousal abuse, what this documentary is about. I can share with you an endless assortment of stories of being groped, molested, assaulted, verbally abused, all of that, it’s happened. But none of that affected me as much as when it comes to my heart and my soul. For every woman I think their #metoo will be a little different, I think many tend to gravitate to their worst experience. For me, this is the nature of mine.

Why this is also an important story for me to share is because a lot of people in these situations tend to deny these women’s true accounts of events, and we are told we are lying and/or crazy. There is so much gaslighting and cognitive dissonance involved which is just some of the variations of emotional abuse, much harder to detect than physical abuse. So when we tell these stories, we show others that go through it, actually you are not wrong because this happened to us “too.”

Additionally, why this is so immediately tied to this documentary is that there are many times when I watched this I thought to myself “this happened to me, too!” And so this documentary validated a lot of my experiences when others sought to make me doubt my reality. That’s why I include it in my story, because it inspired so many #metoo moments for me, which is why I could even share my experiences without once again doubting myself.

Because that little girl I once was never had a protector, I had to grow up way too fast in order to protect her. But in that process, she died a violent death so that I could stand in her place, in tragic irony. I still grieve her death and innocence, I feel so sorry for that little girl who had to witness so much harshness of life so young, the kind that hurts me today to think any child should face. And that exposure would later set the tone for her adult relationships. I still wade in a sea of grief and anguish that rises up and swells deep within me at any given moment.

So I can understand that when these women share their stories, they spit hellfire and demon venom over their tormentors. In our broken world, it is very easy for men to intend serious harm on a woman and never bare the consequences, while we are left with huge, gaping wounds to bare. It is a lot of pain to inflict upon a person, so I can understand women’s anger and empathize.

But I also don’t agree in continually joining in on the disparaging because a very real, strong desire in me hopes one day to be rid of all these waves of pain and anger- even if it’s completely justified. To be in a continual state of grief and anguish does not feel good, it is like poisoning myself from within. So I don’t want any part of the darkness that lives in these men to also live within me. So far I’ve only mastered non-reaction, apathy, to these people and situations. So far so good.

But a few years ago I had this dream I was invited to a party he was hosting (why did I attend? I don’t know, it’s a dream). There, he said contritely and bitterly, with an undertone of self-loathing “I guess you hate me now,” unable to look me in the eyes, ashamed and head bowed. And I surprised him- and myself- by saying “No” with deep sincerity and compassion. At his most vulnerable, the perfect moment to take my revenge, instead I choose forgiveness. I learn to love thy enemy.

He stares at me in disbelief and then I realize it’s quite late at night and I can’t go home safely at this time. I ask to crash on the couch, because the bed is too intimate given our history, my sincere lack of interest, and my general sense of caution. He stares at me with awed admiration and respect for the incredible show of character I display and says with deep sincerity “It would be my honour.”

Today I am not that woman, this accomplished Zen Master that has given up all her grievances with the world. And I truly know it is not fair to think that I should be the one who evolves from this experience and none of these men. But I sincerely doubt any of these insecure, weak men have the capacity to play a part in the salvation of my soul. There’s only one person that is strong enough to do that, and that is me.

So I hope that one day I will find that light within me that shines so bright, it burns through all the darkness I’ve been led to.¬† I hope that one day I will meet her, this wonderful woman that shines bright like a diamond, whom I see so clearly in my dreams. I hope I become her so that others like him can see a better me too.