A lot has changed in the three years since the rise of the #metoo movement. Millions of women spoke out, the magnitude of the problem was finally acknowledged, Harvey Weinstein was convicted, legislation was passed to protect workers, and numerous articles, essays and memoirs were published.
Hello darkness, my old friend
But expanded rights, increased protection from sexual assault, and heightened awareness of the problem is not enough to disturb the darkness of this silence. For this silence to be disturbed, we must stop judging other women.
Equality means being able to be and express ourselves fully, freely, and safely. Being equal means showing ourselves and be valued for who we are. Conforming to masculine, modest, or societal standards does not make us equal. It makes us subservient. I am not talking about wildly inappropriate or abusive behavior. I am talking about being and expressing ourselves authentically without judgment or fear.
To end the shame and darkness around sexual harassment or assault we need to be able to freely and unapologetically show ourselves as we are and encourage and support others in doing the same. Even when we are afraid.
“Fools” said I, “You do not know, Silence like a cancer grows.”
Having some – but not all of our rights keep women (or any marginalized population) – in a mild yet perpetual state of fear. Fear of losing those rights. Fear of messing it up for ourselves or others. Fear of others messing it up for us.
We clamp down, play by the rules, and appease those in power so they will allow us to keep the rights we do have. We judge ourselves harshly and do our best to conform to society’s ideals of how we should look, think, act, and work. Because if we don’t rock the boat, if we don’t piss anyone off, then we’ll stay safe.
Despite evidence to the contrary, we believe that if we do things right, we will be rewarded. When we aren’t rewarded, we falsely believe that we are the ones who have done something wrong and we set out to fix ourselves, fix others, and judge harder.
And the cancer grows.
People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never share
Which leads to judging, policing, and mean girl behavior towards women who engage in behaviors that we think might rock the boat and threaten our rights. Instead of standing in solidarity and supporting those who challenge the status quo or take on inaccurate stereotypes, we join forces with our oppressors, judging and attacking our sisters into submission.
All in the name of protecting our rights.
Judgment is an expression of fear that silences our voice and perpetuates the system that we wish to dismantle. With every act of judgment, we narrow the range of acceptable behavior for women.
We create that which we fear the most, and our judgment ensures that authentic voice is not heard.
And no one dared, disturb the sound of silence
I stay silent around your choice to grab my pussy, rape or harass me, even though your behavior is not caused by the length of my skirt or the size and visibility of my breasts.
I stay silent around the implementation of dress codes, limited control of my own body and well-being, and the blame that is placed on me for walking alone after dark or for having too much to drink.
Because I do not dare risk losing what I have.
And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains
My senior year of high school I went on a date with a boy who wanted a second date. Because I said no, he threatened to kill me and peppered my car with rock-filled-snowballs as I left the school parking lot.
Scared, I reported the incident. An urgent meeting ensued where my family and I were informed that a restraining order against this young man would result in a forfeiture of his scholarship to an ivy league school. If his scholarship didn’t come through, he would have no future. Which would keep him in town, where he would be angry and able to hurt me.
I didn’t want to ruin his life, did I? I didn’t want to watch my back for the next year, did I? And after all, I had acquiesced and gone out with him once, and I was flirty, so I was at least partially to blame for his infatuation.
The facts may be different, but every woman has experienced some version of that same story and has learned the same lesson:
My humanity doesn’t matter as much as a boy’s. I don’t matter enough to inconvenience others. Justice does not depend on the rightness or the wrongness of the situation, but upon my ability to conform to somebody else’s standards that would have kept me safe if I had only listened…
Hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you
The best way to honor the life and the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the third anniversary of the #metoo movement, is to speak out. Step out of fear, reclaim your voice, and call out injustice. Instead of shaming, judging, blaming, or criticizing, now is the time to support dissent and champion those who are brave enough to express themselves fully. Especially those who express themselves in ways that make you want to judge them.
Now is the time. Disrupt the silence.
Watch my #metoo routine (song by Disturbed – I do not own any rights to the song) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5karHlvFe48
As a former attorney turned burlesque dancer and women’s empowerment coach, Lora Cheadle believes that art has a way of communicating important ideas at a more impactful level than words alone. She encourages you to watch her #metoo routine and to notice what feelings come up. The routine is a commentary on how we are only comfortable with others exposing/expressing themselves in certain ways. While exposing the physical can be titillating, it is only superficial, and therefore meaningless. What matters is voice and the ability to communicate without fear. Uncovering the voice is often the last and most threatening aspect of self to be uncovered. Learn more at www.nakedselfworth.com.