I am struggling with this moment in time.
It is difficult to listen without judgment. It is difficult to remain neutral and look at all the facts.
This is an emotional time. We have courageous revelations. We have scandalous accounts. We have poor excuses. We have both sincere and insincere apologies. We have individuals meaning no harm whatsoever trying to silence each other. We are taking sides. We are placing blame. We are questioning validity. We are looking at ourselves. We are failing to look at ourselves. We are seeing the point and missing the point.
This should be a time when it is safe to come forward and take the risk that not only will your voice be heard, but someone may actually believe you. Even further still, something may actually be done about it. Even further still, similar things may happen less often because of it.
That’s what should be happening. Unfortunately, it’s anything but that simple.
I have read countless articles, opinions, posts, rants, etc. Some of it is brilliant. Some of it is polarizing. Some of it is shockingly insensitive and thoughtless.
It’s all scratching at the surface. Which is mostly encouraging.
I wish I could say I’m convinced that things will change. I wish I could say I’m convinced that this is bigger than a current event that will soon be replaced by another.
I get bored, annoyed and tired of the stories, too. I can't be sure people aren't exploiting this moment for personal gain.
I spend a lot of time saying or thinking “you don't know what you are talking about.”
I can say with what is only my own certainty than this is not a witch hunt. And whether we are talking about malicious crime or negative experiences where no one was physically hurt or even touched, it is all related.
Somewhere someone somehow showed person A that it was acceptable for person B to be regarded without respect, consideration and/or open communication. Whether that resulted in a violent crime or an obnoxious comment, it is a fundamental social problem.
At the risk of seeming attention-seeking, I will point to two experiences of my own. They involve words, not actions. I am not placing either of these experiences at the same level as what others have experienced. And to be clear, these two are merely the most memorable out of a lifetime of experiences ranging from seemingly harmless to violating.
"I've been nice to you all day."
This was said to me when I refused to participate in activity that I knew I was not comfortable with. This individual was frustrated- believing he had earned access to more than companionship.
This made me feel like I am expected to comply regardless of my own wants or needs. It was not hard to decline this guy. But it has been difficult to decline others because of what he said to me. My auto-response to something I don’t want to do is to talk myself into doing it for the sake of making the other person happy.
“It was all fluff."
This was said to me as part of a philosophy of life and love- the point being that compliments are made for selfish reasons.
This made me feel small and low. It destroyed my self-confidence. And it destroyed my ability to believe that any positive remark is remotely sincere. I look for the motive behind everything because of what he said to me.
I point to these two experiences because both still affect me on a daily basis after 15 years. Every day for 15 years is not nothing.
My main objective in all of this is this:
Do not reduce the experiences of others to nothing because it is something. Listen more. Absorb more. Try to relate more. Try to understand more. You weren't there. You don't know what you are talking about. And for every one time you've said "it's not that bad" about someone's experience, I promise you've contributed to that person feeling like it's nothing. And it's not nothing.
As a footnote, I highly recommend Episode 3 of Season 6 from Girls ("American B****"). It is a standalone requiring no prior knowledge of the plot or characters of the show. Regardless of your feelings on Lena Dunham, this is a masterful piece of work that practically walks you through he said-she said.