Why Me Three?
I was thinking a lot about #MeToo, but I hadn’t contributed to the conversation.
Then, I had a dream where a woman was holding an adorable female baby. The baby was less than a year old, and she’d had a big blowout in a cloth diaper. Myself and a couple of others made haste to clean up the mess because the mother wasn’t available. Most of it was fresh and wet and very poopy, but some of it was dried onto the baby’s skin. I found some paper towel and made it wet and started gently wiping her bottom. A man came along and tried to hold the baby’s legs out like a wheelbarrow. His intentions were good, but his actions weren’t helpful because he didn’t really know what to do. The baby was holding on to the edge of a counter with her fingertips, and I was afraid she would fall, so I asked the man to stop. He put the legs down. I continued wiping, but now I noticed I was gently wiping poop from around the baby’s testicles.
I found a lot of meaning in this dream, and I finally felt motivated to respond to #MeToo.
Yeah, I’m one of those people who held off sharing because I wanted to sit with my feelings and learn from others before forming my response. That dream told me to start writing. I chose Me Three as the title because I’m late to respond, it feels like more than a black-and-white (2-sided) issue, and because I’ve been sitting for so long now that I have to break my thoughts into three posts!
The Power of Sharing Our Stories
First, I wondered about sharing my own stories. Were they traumatic enough? Did my stories count? I’ve learned that I tend to downplay trauma with thoughts of it wasn’t that bad or I turned out okay. And I’ve learned that things that seem insignificant for some can be very traumatic for others, causing them incredible pain and suffering. I have suffered trauma that I didn’t even realize was trauma—it was just my normal. (ACEs Too High shows how adverse childhood experiences affect our long-term health and well-being.)
Still, I’d never been raped. And I am extremely grateful that I somehow escaped it. The potential of rape was such an obvious factor when I was young that I used to plan for it. How would I react to being raped? Would I fight? Would I lay still? Would I pretend I liked it? What if my perpetrator held a gun to my head or a knife to my throat? Would that change my reaction? How would I get out alive? What if I got pregnant? Would I keep the baby, get an abortion or give it up for adoption? I even fantasized that a predator might be secretly looking for love. I’d be just the ticket, and we’d fall into a consensual relationship like a Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
Sharing our stories shows our vulnerability. It helps us all feel less alone and more understood. And it kicks shame out the door. Most importantly, sharing can spotlight issues that are ready for change—pull them from the dark closet and out into the light where we can look at them together and figure out what to do with them. The #MeToo sharing has super healing power, and I appreciate the bravery shown by those who were ready and able to share their stories.
I expect that my 2018 memoir will be a powerful sharing of stories. It will likely include aspects of my sexual history, most of which are activities I fortunately had choice about engaging in. In the meantime, I could say #MeToo, but I’ll tell you about that in the third post of this series.
What I want to talk about first is that, during the initial burst of #MeToo sharing, one element of my Facebook feed made me very uncomfortable. It highlighted women and men fighting. Women told their story, men apologized or offered support, and women told them to shut up. Like in my dream, I sensed there were men who wanted to show they cared or understood, or they wanted to help but didn’t know how. Instead of their voices being heard, they were being attacked and forced into silence, just like the oppressed women. It felt like a classic two wrongs don’t make it right scenario.
It’s Not A Gender Problem
I am sure I know many #MeToo women—those who spoke up and those who didn’t. I also know men who, as children, were sexually touched or abused by men. But I don’t believe for a minute that men are the only culprits, or that all men are evil or to blame for the mess in our society.
I know of women who have done terrible things to men. Most often, women resort to nasty words or withholding intimacy as their weapons to oppress men. Although a man once told me that he felt used by a woman who only called on him when she wanted sex—he felt like he was called to “service” her, and he hated it. And I doubt that my husband is the only man who has had his butt smacked or crotch grabbed by a woman on a drunken dance floor.
Women can be unpleasant to women too. I’ve been physically assaulted (bitten hard—with teethmarks in my arm and a bruise that lasted for a week) by a woman because I wasn’t interested in her sexual advances.
I don’t think sexual harassment or assault is a male/female gender problem. I believe it is the result of a confused culture with pop media that promotes sexuality and promiscuity, censorship and religions that hide and deny and shun sexual activity, and parents who model unhealthy relationships or don’t talk to their children about how to create safe and loving relationships. All sexes need to learn how to avoid harmful or dangerous situations, how and why and when to say no (or yes), and how to treat others with respect and kindness. It’s a social problem and a cultural problem, not a gender problem.
So how do we get past focusing on gender inequality as the bane of our existence?
The Power of Books
Here’s one good bookish idea.
For many, reading literary fiction is a joy, an escape, entertainment, or a study guide to great writing. But one of the best things about reading a tremendous fiction novel is the impact it can have on a person’s life.
I was looking for impact. I had biases that I was ready to move past, but I didn’t know how. For instance, I noticed I was bothered by the sight of a teenaged boy wearing bright red lipstick. I felt concerned by stories of young men surgically transforming to the opposite gender. And while I was happy that schools and other public spaces are now offering unisex bathrooms, I was confused about parents asking that their newborn babies be referred to as “it”.
Friends suggested the Pullitzer-prize-winning book Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides as a good starting place for widening my view. I read it and my perceptions were changed. Almost imperceptibly. I now have new knowledge that gives me a more complete view of the world. I don’t look any different, but I feel different. I have been re-shaped. That’s the power of a good story.
If you’re ready to set aside some outdated biases and fears—if you’re ready to move beyond blaming our societal problems on a gender—read Middlesex. It’s a captivating and beautiful book that challenges our obsession with gender definition. It gave me a new appreciation for the spectrum of gender issues in our culture and left me feeling like we are all just human—and that being human is enough.
Back to my metaphorical dream. There’s a whole lot of poop out there. Some of it is fresh and runny. Some of it is old and dried on. Everyone contributed to it, everyone is affected by it, and everyone needs to pitch in to help clean it up. Let’s teach each other how to clean up, take responsibility for our parts, and make this world a better place.
Watch for another Me Three post coming soon.
Subscribe to Sheila’s blog here. Comments are enjoyed!
Purchase Sheila’s book here. Reviews are appreciated!