Graceful Revolution

“I believe in a new brand of advocacy where we humble ourselves to our shortcomings and engage in acts of graceful revolution that bring light to the true reality of people’s lives. I believe that if we engage people in their own spaces, teach them to look at injustices as moments that touch all of us, if we give people the knowledge of the power structure, if we give them the tools to infiltrate its membrane, then change will take place in America. This is the Graceful Revolution.”
~Dr. Melissa Bird, The Graceful Revolution

I recently came across this quote, and it resonated with me on multiple levels.  I posted it on social media, and the first response was one that I myself might have stated not long ago.  The response surmised that while the concept was beautiful, it was unrealistic because some people care and some are self-centered.  I must have been mulling this over in my dreams, because I woke up at 2:40-something A.M. and wrote the following.

We view the world through the lens of our own experience; Our baser selves approach the world through the lens of our woundedness, while our mindful selves approach the world through our understanding that we are all wounded in some way, and that grace allows us to see this and act from compassion.  As we grow, we move from a lack of awareness of our own motives, and even behaviors, to awareness of these, then to mindfulness where our awareness and thoughts and behavior begin to align.   This is a dynamic process, neither linear nor static.  Our wounds often allow us to see certain things, such as unfairness or injustice while blinding us to how we perpetuate these in other areas of our own lives and/or the world around us.  Sometimes our wounds allow us to be extremely mindful of our thought process but unaware of our actions or behaviors until we see them in retrospect.  Sometimes our wounds allow us to be mindful of our intentions but twist them into justifications for our actions based on the injustices we perceive or experience in our own lives.  Often, both of these occur in the same person, at the same time.

My response to my friend is that how we show up and present ourselves based on our intentions is what matters. People whom we judge to not give a shit others are just as, if not more, wounded than we may have been. Does that mean we bend over and allow them to behave selfishly or abusively? Or that we abuse them? Absolutely not. We match their lack of boundaries with the strength of our own convictions. We do what we need to do to make our voices heard. We let them know that we both see their pain and that their behavior is unacceptable. The difference is in how we view and consequently approach the world; whether we approach it from a binary perspective or we approach it from a multi-dimensional perspective, our intent is connected to whichever perspective we are operating from, and when they are aligned through our own self-inquiry, then we can approach that person or group from a different space where the power dynamics shift from an external structure to an internal source. That’s how people like Gandhi or Dr. King or Utah Phillips or Maya Angelou or Brene Brown have approached people and instigated change.

Like any healing process, change is gradual and requires that we continually exercise our awareness of our own thoughts, perceptions, motives, behaviors, and ideals to bring the rough edges together into alignment.   When we first recognize injustice in some area of our lives, we often feel angry, which stems from a place of fear, frustration and hurt.  Our powerlessness builds its own momentum and is expressed in various ways as we attempt to change things around and within ourselves.  When we encounter people who seem to only be concerned with themselves, we hyperfocus on the destructiveness of their actions and project a variety of negative human qualities onto their character to justify our righteousness.  Often, we see these qualities through the lens of our wounds and attribute the behaviors of our past perpetrators on to our present perpetrators.  We view them from a binary perspective in which we are right and they are wrong, period.  As we grow in our own personal awareness, we begin to see that our own faults are not so different from those whom we judge.  We often judge ourselves as harshly as we feel we have been judged by others, or as harshly as we judge those who have hurt us.

As we continue to uncover our own wounds while examining our own thoughts and behaviors, we begin to find compassion for those who have traveled similar roads as us.  However, we still find it nearly impossible to find compassion for those who have grievously harmed and traumatized us.  When we get to a place where we feel comfortable with ourselves in our lives, we feel resolved and often begin to develop a complacency.  Wherever we are in our own growth is reflected in how we view the world.  We begin to see the world through a combination of our wounds (through a binary lens), and our healing experience (through a multi-dimensional lens).  We exist in this space until we experience deeper levels of woundedness that need to be healed or conflict between our ability to view the world through a balanced lens of binary and multi-dimensional perception.  Then we start the process all over again.

If we can see this process in ourselves, and intentionally apply it to those sources of injustice in our lives or the lives in our clients, then we can operate from a space of grace in advocacy.  When we come across those who will not hear us for any reason, we stay grounded in this space to hold to our boundaries and work to change the power structure so that new opportunities arise.  Because we are human, our impatience often frustrates us when we don’t see results or change right away.  We then have to look at how long our own personal growth process has been, and use that understanding to help us practice patience in the process.

Today, we are on a political precipice, where the decisions of voters will reflect either the continued downfall of our political system and social progress or prove the social experiment that we call democracy and swing us from impending doom back to a place of perceived homeostasis.  Whatever happens, the opportunity for social change will remain the same as it ever was…  only the depths to which we collectively see the starting point for that change will shift.  Regardless of the outcome, hard work lies ahead.  Our participation in holding our new representatives accountable will determine the strength of the boundaries that we are setting today and the depth of the new starting point from which we will work.

Whether we are advocating for personal or social change, that change begins with a shift in our perception and our decision to act from grace or to act from ignorance.

Holding on to faith while letting go of fear

We often get the reminder that we have to start where we are.  Whether we are frustrated with the person who cut us off on the road or the slow clerk who is not understanding our request at the store, or we face a crisis that has the potential to change our trajectory in unexpected or unwanted ways, we have to start where we are. Whether we are full of anxiety, confusion, fear, hope or resolve (and often, a mix of these), we can only start to move from the place where we are.  It begins with sitting with ourselves, in that space, and allowing the experience to tell us what we need to know about our desires, goals, feelings, and frustrations.  When we feel stagnant, it can be more difficult to get in touch with these as we slog through our daily routines and seek out excitement to replace the joy we feel we are lacking.  Six years ago, I was in this space, and I reached out for help at a time when I felt like I was hanging on to the threads of a spiral, trying to just climb back on so I could move in any direction.  A friend responded with a heartwarming post that showed in my feed recently, reminding me that we are right where we need to be at any given time and are probably doing better than we perceive ourselves to be.  She wrote:

Our hearts are of pure intention. Only good. Only Love. 
Our thoughts, our actions, are swayed by the chaotic world around us. Integrating the two is one of the hardest practices we are called for. 
Our growth – for those of us aligned with our pure intention, which You are – spirals gradually upward. But spiral it does, revolutions that consistently bring us back around to our base, our starting point.
Look at your growth in this past year. Look at the step(s) upward that you’ve made. From one point in the spiral to the other – we can see that you are that much closer to taking charge. This step. This bit. Ionic in our minuscule perceptions as average humans, is, in reality, as huge and as significant as the universe itself.

I want you to get a sense of that. I want you to feel that in your Being.

Today, I reflect on this and am grateful for all of the help I’ve had along the way.  Though today’s struggles hold a different intensity and a different application to my life, the lesson is the same… integration between thoughts and actions.  It truly is a practice to integrate the two, one that I feel that I fail more than master.  But this message carries a reminder that mastery comes from repeating the lesson until we get it, then repeating it more so we don’t lose it.  And from time to time, we get the same lesson at deeper levels of meaning and application to our current circumstances.

Today’s circumstances call for a balance of letting go and allowing ourselves to flow with the moment.  To release our resistance and allow momentum to follow itself through so we can come to a resting place.  This is by no means easy for many of us, especially for me.  My instinct is to hold on harder when I feel something slipping.  This is perfectly normal and natural.  However, it becomes counterproductive when we do not allow ourselves the freedom to open ourselves to the idea that other possibilities exist, and may hold something even greater than what we can see for ourselves in our current vision tunnel.

All people struggle to varying degrees with this.  Those of us who are trauma survivors, face these lessons on much more intense levels.  The process of letting go takes longer, takes more practice, and more patience on our parts.  It takes the support and patience of people we trust to help walk us through the confusion and panic that sets in when we release the fear that is holding our minds and bodies hostage.  It takes a dedicated practice to perceive things in new ways, in the hopes that someday, we can experience a shift in our perception during those crucial moments.  It takes a dedication to release our ego, which holds on to pride, shame, and embarrassment that follows a public panic attack or loss of control.  And it takes a regular practice of learning to relax and be in the moment when things are quiet, calm and pleasant, learning to fully appreciate what we have.

My own journey has brought me within frightening degrees of this over the past few days, and I am deeply grateful for the moments of lucidity and respite that come with my practice of letting go, reflection, allowing myself to be vulnerable, and to focus on gratitude for what I have.  I have been facing new health problems, and the pharmaceutical regimen and bureaucratic challenges to getting the resolution I need have been inducing frequent episodes in which I have the opportunity to practice these tools.  Each time I make the choice to let go, I feel more connected to the purpose and momentum that has carried me this far, and less fear of the changes to come.  Each time I hold on to the fear, confusion, and grief that overwhelm me in these moments, it saps the strength that I need to reconnect to my own motivation and the energy needed to take the next steps.  In these moments, reminders such as the one quoted above which my friend wrote help me re-center and rest until I have the strength necessary to move forward.  I have been learning that it’s ok to slow down more than I think is necessary and that all that I want that is meaningful to my purpose will unfold when I am prepared for it.

It is important to remember that regardless of our past, we are all here to learn the same lessons.  Every spiritual and ethical path leads us back to compassion, connection, faith, perseverance, inquiry, and our own power to create a better experience of the world.  Our experiences are opportunities to practice these on different levels, and the choices that we make in our struggles are the steps we take toward those opportunities.  Even when we are unable to master the lessons that are presented, we are still engaging in a learning process that will present itself again in time, with new opportunities and tools.   I am ever grateful for those on similar journeys with whom to share the joys, the struggles, and the tools that lead us back into our own purpose.

Re-Framing Our Circumstances

Feeling this today as I face another re-evaluation of my priorities. I’m on the path I am meant to be on, and I am experiencing another shift in my own awareness and perception of my experience. It helps to re-trace our journey as we evaluate our current trajectory, and I am grateful for yet another chance to see deeper truths and realize the peace that lies at the heart of these truths.

Soul-cialist Tendencies

Some days we just have to let a few tears out, take care of our most basic needs with healthy food, positive music or literature, and rest. Meditative music and a decision to focus on love and gratitude for those blessings in disguise from earlier times in our lives can be extremely helpful.  Tools like this can, in a short period of time, give us the ability to turn our feelings from helplessness and fear into peacefulness and even resolution.  The answers are in front of us from the very beginning, but we have to do a bit of work to unearth them and realize that, we needed had already been available, waiting only for us to use it and pass it on; and that this is true for whatever we face today.

According to the Buddha, pain is inevitable.  But we are taught that we do not need to suffer because of it and that…

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Speaking Truth about Suicide

I have been seeing more social media posts and questions regarding the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain than ever on the subject of suicide, and it stirs up a lot of deep emotional stuff for me. Most of what I read is well-intentioned and perfectly valid but still, possess an ignorant and even harmful bias and privilege that I cannot ignore. As much as I loath listicles, I am posting a few points to consider about mental illness, addiction and suicide (ok, really a bit of a long list), from someone (me) with lived experience with mental illness, suicide attempts, recovery, and family with addiction and mental illness:

1. Mental illness and addiction are not a choice or a moral failure. They are the result of a combination of biological and social origin and usually triggered by trauma or other environmental factors.

2. Most people who suffer from mental illness and addiction lack healthy coping skills (and often the opportunity to learn them) which are taught to us by our parents, our schools, and our peers. This is how they are socially created and perpetuated. We need to look at ourselves and how we are perpetuating the problem and trying to solve the problem as a society instead of demonizing an individual.

3. Many people who attempt suicide have reached out for help, and have been in therapy or recovery. Sometimes therapy dredges things up that were buried so deep that working through those issues is too painful to face, and no layperson has the training to work through those kinds of issues, while professionals are limited by insurance regulations, heavy caseloads, and a secure and emotionally safe long-term environment in which a person can work through these things. For many people, such services are not available because of funding for services, lack of insurance, overcrowding of available services, and the stigma of obtaining such services.

4. If you really want to help someone in crisis, ask them what they need and listen to them (within ethical reason). Don’t tell them what is best for them. If they don’t know what is best for them, and you don’t have the training to deal with a crisis situation, actively help them find resources, and keep your ears open to listen to and acknowledge their pain without judgment. This is the most compassionate thing you can do for someone who is suffering.

5. If a person reaches out on social media and says they are struggling… acknowledge their cry for help. Even if they have cried for help 100+ times, they need to know who they can count on for support. If you have healthy boundaries, you can let them know what you can and cannot do for them, then follow through to the extent that is safe and healthy for you. Don’t assume that a person is being manipulative or needy because they are in pain. Don’t tell them that their feelings are wrong. Just acknowledge their pain and what it is that you can or cannot do for them.

6. Telling someone to reach out for help is a form of victim-blaming. Yes, we need to let people know what resources are available, but we also need to learn to be more compassionate toward and aware of the people whom we profess to care about. Sometimes depression and anxiety present in other ways such as constant happiness, being overly helpful to others, or excessive creativity or productivity.

7. It’s ok to be angry or confused by the death of someone who has committed suicide or had an accidental overdose. Anger and confusion are part of the grieving process. However, it is NEVER ok to tell a person who is suicidal that suicide is a selfish act. They are already feeling that they are the worst person in the world. Introducing ideas that make them feel worse about themselves is selfish on your part because you are thinking about yourself as the survivor of the act, making you the victim of their suffering.

8. If you haven’t experienced true long-term depression, addiction, anxiety or complicated grief, don’t compare your experience to that of someone who has struggled with these. Acknowledge what you can’t understand and don’t project your experience of therapeutic activities (religion/prayer, medication, yoga, meditation, support groups, positive thinking, diet as medicine, etc) as the one and only answer to their problems. All of these are healthy parts of a whole person and of a productive recovery, but none alone can cure mental illness or addiction. Recovery is a life-long process, that sometimes ends with the person deciding that they have suffered enough in this life. It is ok to grieve a completed suicide, but remember that it is always better to support a person while they are still alive in being the best version of themselves they can be than to blame them for choosing to end their pain. Recovery is also highly individual… don’t tell a person that what they are doing is wrong just because it didn’t work for you.

9. While we’re on the subject of positive thinking, manifestation, and other spiritual ideas… a person who is in so much pain that they want to end their life is not able to process such advanced ideas. While these ideas are valid throughout all faiths, they have only been fully realized by the masters; and the master knows that a person must start where they are, that mastery is nothing more than the continual failure and re-commitment to a practice, and that a person cannot fast-forward from crisis to enlightenment. If you are telling a person that their emotional state is a result of not doing a particular practice correctly, you are participating in victim blaming (and deep denial of your own spiritual and/or emotional state).

10. Don’t only focus on celebrities… 22 veterans and 141 civilians committed suicide per day in 2016 in the US.

11. Support social services, mental health and addiction services, and vote for people who will fund these programs.

12. Practice some compassion in your everyday speech. Words like crazy, insane, borderline, and psycho are hurtful to people suffering from mental illness. These words are part of what perpetuates the negative self-images held by that person.

** P.S. This is by no means a thoroughly inclusive or correct list… just pieces of one person’s lived experience and education.

The Middle Ground between Faith and Fear

Things have been pretty crazy for a lot of folks lately, myself included. No details necessary about my own stuff, as it is all pending, and I’m doing the footwork to cover all available options, and I’m not willing to continue the negative spiral that comes from talking about problems more than solutions. What I will share is that I know that what is happening is preparing us for those things that we have been working toward… it is clearing the path of the baggage that is weighing our potential down, and that an abundance of opportunities exist to help us reach our goals.

We may not see all of the answers right away, and the path may be painful at times. But the path is illuminated by the steps we take, and everything we need is provided exactly when we need it. It is a matter of faith which, when based in gratitude and direct action,  yields the fruit of our intentions.  I place my faith on my prior experience that even when I was at my worst, I had what I needed because I did what I needed to do… when I was homeless and pregnant, I had a car and couches to sleep on; When I was broke and my son had a birthday, a bag of groceries with a cake mix and teddy bear anonymously showed up on my doorstep; when my partner died and I was alone in a new town, I had his friends that helped me get through the crucial first year; When I was a wild teenager with a parent who could not be a parent, I was offered a job and a stable home.  I could cite a slew of other experiences, all of which share a common thread of progress and setbacks, followed by more progress. None of it was easy, and it all required a lot of footwork and perseverance.

The hardest part of fear is the unknown.  Sometimes the outcome is elusive or not what we expected, and in some instances, we can work our whole lives and not live to see the change our work helps to produce.  But that doesn’t mean that our efforts are in vain.  Nor does it mean that we need to be miserable during the process.  We must be realistic and allow ourselves to feel and process our disappointment, grief, fear, and despair when they arise.  We can take true comfort and in the empathy of shared experience, and even find humor and joy in the midst of our experience.  It is vital that we celebrate what we can when we can.  

I was taught that fear and faith cannot live in the same house; that if you had fear, you were not acting in faith.  My life experience speaks differently.  Both are projections toward the future grounded in our past experience.  Both are highly emotional experiences.  And both are strengthened and perpetuated by our actions.  I’ve spent my life living in fear and anxiety, but faith has allowed me the courage to step beyond the paralyzation of fear to a different experience, and the results I’ve experienced have been a direct result of my efforts.  My faith isn’t in a power greater than myself or in miracles.  My faith is an act of gratitude for the resources that were available to me when I was in crisis, and for the opportunity to do the work that I had to do to create the change I needed in my life.  It is not a modality with which to stuff or hide my fears or frustrations.  I allow my tears to release the fear that holds me back so I can move forward.  Those tears reveal the messages behind my fear, which I can then use to guide my next steps.  In this, I have found that faith and fear do live in the same house, and are mutually beneficial.

However, I cannot say all of this without recognizing that despite my own experiences and intersectional marginalization, I hold a degree of social privilege that many do not have.  Some of the resources that I’ve had are a result of privilege.  Some of those resources I’ve had to search out and fight to get or create.  As much struggle as I’ve experienced in life, there are millions of people who suffer, and through no fault of their own, do not have the opportunity or resources that I’ve had.  My faith is also based on gratitude for having benefitted from these resources, and the fact that I can use what I have gleaned from these to help others.  I learned how to seek out and create resources from those around me who were struggling.  The bonds we made helped us create the resources that we needed to move forward in life… this is the foundation of community.  And my faith for all of those who are struggling lies in the strength of that foundation.  It is when we are isolated from our community that we lose our strength and support, and it is to those that are isolated and struggle for the opportunities themselves that I reach out, and I believe that it is morally incumbent for those who have privilege to level the playing field and create those opportunities and pathways for those who do not have them.

When things don’t work out as planned, it’s ok. It may not be the right time, or something better is getting ready to sprout. Life constantly responds to our needs and our intentions whether or not we recognize these opportunities. Adversity, tragedy and things that seem senseless give us the opportunity to grow, to recognize what we have, to learn more about love, to regroup, and to take the time we need to come to the wisdom and understanding of how to apply it in our lives so we can move from potential to action.My experience speaks to this, and I am holding for myself and for each of you who are experiencing the same: that there is a middle ground between the extremes of faith and fear from which we can use both to find our resources and create the change we need in our lives.

Stay blessed.

The Game

The Game:

Modern life and the American dream;

catharsis at best, dangerous at worst.

The opportunity behind both is the potential to rise above, step out of our current chapter in our story, even step out of the story itself.

Letting go of our stories, not identifying…

then how do we identify, and with what, with whom, for how long, and when?

When does our identity shift again?

What about reality, authentically being in the moment?

Being mad, being hurt, being happy, being confused, being scared, being joyful, being connected, being disconnected, being obsessed…

being human.

Marketers and Gurus are one and the same…

don’t let them drive your idea of what you are supposed to be;

don’t let them tell you what that is supposed to look like.

We’re caught up in this illusion of individualism,

yet we crave connection above anything else

And spend our time and our lives trying to buy it, earn it, sell it, create it, rate it, sing it, write it, play it, act it, trade it, legislate it, kill it.

We perform;

even in our own space.

This tug of war between what we want and what we think we need

and the only way I’ve ever found

to get out of that space

is to love,

to give,

to receive,

to speak kindness,

to touch,

to give my time and attention.

For love is the only freedom that allows us to be fully human with one another.

While the world continues its demand that we stifle everything which defines our humanity…

conscripting our best qualities for its own purposes,

and discarding the rest, so that we always have a void to fill

from which someone else can profit.

Where is the freedom in that?

© 2018 HAWilcox

#me too… We’re all in this together.

A few weeks ago, millions of women on social media have been trending the phrase “Me Too”, to bring awareness to rape culture in light of the scandals behind Harvey Weinstein and the infamous “casting couch”.  Since then, at least 23 other men (as of 11/14/17) who are public figures have been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault, most by several women, and some by men.  These accusations and the self-disclosure of people on social media exposes a quiet epidemic of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in our society, and I am grateful that public discourse is taking place.  I am also grateful for the many men who are not only speaking up in support of women, but also to let us know that this affects men who do not meet the definition of “masculine” in our society.  Just as women are socialized to compete with each other for the attention of men through jealousy, and are taunted by media and marketing that continually promote low self-esteem, men are socialized to be more masculine through bullying that calls them a sissy or a girl, and through violence, and even through sexual assault.  It is no less traumatic, and every man experiences some level of this in their childhood as a form of gender-policing.

It’s important to emphasize here that men (regardless of sexual orientation) and transgender (across the gender spectrum) people suffer from rape culture as well.  Sexism drives how we shape our cultural notions of masculinity, which is based on belittling men and boys by comparing them to women and girls in an effort to get them to conform to masculine ideals.  Men have a higher rate of rape by both men and women than most people realize (around 9% reported, actual numbers are more difficult to estimate because of the stigma attached to reporting rape).  Transgender people have an the highest rate of sexual assault across the gender spectrum at a whopping 50%.  It’s also important to recognize that women can be equally abusive toward both men and women with behaviors that are included in the definition of, and stem from, rape culture.  However, this article is relatively hetero-normative because rape culture stems from the concept that gender is a binary construct and that heterosexuality is the prevailing norm in our culture.  Future articles will be posted that address these issues as they specifically and respectively affect men and transgender individuals, and the LGBTQ community.

Rape culture is not solely about sexual assault; it is about a myriad of concepts, behaviors, traditions, and idioms in our culture that promote misogyny and the subjugation and objectification of women.  Its very definition is the pervasive normalization of the above-listed behaviors that minimize and excuse sexual harassment and assault.  The phenomena isn’t new to sociologists.  Multiple studies have exposed several layers to rape culture.  The first, and most universal piece is the account, or the social script… which is a story that a person will give to re-frame their behavior to remove guilt by using either an excuse (reason why), or a justification (circumstance) to avoid stigma, shame, and culpability for their behavior.  Both recognize the behavior as wrong, but deflect responsibility for the behavior.  The second, and equally universal piece, is the Neutralization technique.  These are a type of justification that a person gives for their behavior to assuage their guilt.  Criminologists Gresham Sykes and David Matza found 5 neutralization techniques to be common across various criminal and ethically questionable acts, and they are pervasive in rape culture.

  • The first is Denial of Responsibility, where the perpetrator claims to be a victim of either situations beyond their control or circumstance.
  • The second is Denial of Injury, where the perpetrator believes that their actions did not actually cause any harm to the victim.
  • The third is Denial of the Victim, where the perpetrator believes that their victim deserved what happened to them.
  • The fourth is Condemnation of the Condemners, where the perpetrator minimizes the response of those who condemn the act in an effort to shift the blame and focus from themselves to those who are condemning the act.
  • The last is Appeal to Higher Loyalties, where the perpetrator holds some belief (often religious or moral in nature) that their actions are justified as part of a scriptural or other “moral” prerogative.

Another study of Convicted Rapists Vocabulary of Motive by sociologists Diana Scully and Joseph Marolla found a common theme of 5 neutralization techniques to construct rape as acceptable in the rapist mind.  Not surprisingly, these techniques are perpetuated in everyday life: in the court-room from defense attorneys, in hushed conversations about what she was drinking or wearing, in trainings offered to girls and women to prevent themselves from being raped or assaulted (and the lack of training for boys and men on how to not harass or assault women), in the porn industry, and even in women’s fashion magazines.

These five techniques are:

  • Framing Women as “Seductresses”- Her fault, slut shaming, how she dresses or behaves. Essentially, this frames the rapist as being helpless to control his urges and a victim of the woman’s seductive powers.
  • “No Means Yes”- She didn’t really mean no… women are the gatekeepers of their virtue, they are supposed to say no to save face, but they don’t really mean it. This is rooted in the idea that a woman is supposed to be sexually coy and a man sexually aggressive.
  • “Most Women Relax and Enjoy It”- Sound familiar? Recently touted by top government officials in talks about laws regarding women’s health issues.  This idea continues to prevail despite the long-term physiological and psychological effects of rape, including injury, future sexual dysfunction, PTSD, depression, and stigma.
  • “Nice Girls Don’t get Raped”- Another form of slut shaming. Often used against sex workers, minority or otherwise disenfranchised or marginalized women such as single mothers, women who have been part of an extra-marital affair, women who have had several sex partners, women who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of rape, and women who are dressed provocatively.  Yet another way of deflecting responsibility for the actions of the perpetrator.
  • “Only a Minor Wrongdoing”- Rape isn’t as bad as it seems. It’s just sex.  It’s ok for men to be aggressive.

These were the justifications used by rapists when interviewed extensively, and these patterns are pervasive in our society.  We see and hear these daily, in terms that are summarized nicely on the Only With Consent website, which includes a list of beliefs and actions that we see and hear every day, and often dismiss as benign.  The current exposure of perpetrators in the public eye is just the tip of the iceberg, and a very important one.  It is helping victims of sexual harassment and assault speak their truth and find solidarity with others in their community, many of whom were not open about this shared experience.

Even more importantly, men are beginning to step up and ask us to define the elements of sexual harassment, consent, assault, abuse.  Some are asking about ways to communicate with their partners, families, and friends about their experiences.  Men are realizing their culpability and stepping up and admitting that they have been a part of this phenomenon.  Men are opening up about how they feel, often stating that they feel that they are walking on eggshells around women for fear of saying or doing something that could be construed as harassment or unwanted touch.  Men are also stepping up and admitting their own experiences with being sexually harassed or assaulted.  This is a good sign.  We need more of this.  A great blog addressing men’s relationship to how we perpetuate and can begin to change rape culture can be found here.

In short, men have many ways to stop participating in rape culture.  Stop engaging in jokes that demean women.  Think about the language we use regarding women… is it demeaning?  Dehumanizing?  Objectifying?  Learn about enthusiastic consent.  Don’t assume consent… communicate with your partner.  Pay attention to examples of how media, music, and marketing perpetuate rape culture.  Call out other men when you see or hear them engaging in these behaviors.  Check your beliefs about gender roles, sexuality, and violence.  Admit when you realize that you have engaged in these behaviors.  Call out sexism the way you would call out racism.  Go a step further and study power dynamics and privilege in society.

Rape Culture isn’t going away.  It is another shameful part of our culture and history that we need to address, and it takes all of us to find our voice, to learn and speak up about it.

#metoo = #we’reallinthistogether