Men are scared right now. With each public case highlighting a man’s previous mistakes against women, men are scared that it could be them next. And the honest truth of it is that yes, if we are moving forward in this accusatory culture, then every man, or damn near every man, could expect to be at risk for prosecution.
I suffered at the hands of men, and starting at a young age. Too young. And then, when a teenager, I had a group of boys from the soccer team show up at my house, my boyfriend among them, and the rest of the boys stand outside the door while the expectation was that I would give him oral sex. When I exerted just a bit of push back, my head was pushed downward. First I bit him. Then I did it.
I am a woman in America. Of course I have a story like this. I have countless stories of male dominance - sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It is because I have done much trauma work that I can state this directly, but I do want to say it. I get it. I know what it is like for the nervous system to live in self-protection and fear - I did it for the better part of 35 years. In fact, that’s a lie. I still, on dates with men, feel it in my body, the immediacy of the self-protective response of my body, even though countless healing sessions, trauma release, a meditation practice, and knowing all about this stuff. Still. My body knows because my body has grown a woman in America. It is that widespread. Do not think it isn’t. Every woman knows this story in her body.
But I don’t want to look up this man now and tell him he was wrong. I don’t care to, personally. I get that other women are having a host of various responses with their associated memories coming up from this public case, and I support each woman’s choice.
I don’t want to make sure he knows that he was wrong in that specific instance. What I want, is to call to men both near and far to be brave now, amidst the fear that every one of you might have a reason for some woman to come out with a story against you.
Relatively recently, I tried to have this sort of kind but honest conversation with two specific men in my life. They ran in fear, even though I was not talking about prosecution. They ran, they used their positional power, and the issues were never resolved. As a woman, I was left to deal with their choices. I lived an experience where because men still do have positional power-over, they could both choose to run due to their own fear. I was left, again, feeling the feeling that women know of unresolve, of cleaning ourselves up after a man has his way with us.
Because a culture of fear got us here, right now, we are only moving in the direction of more collective fear, as I see it. When what we really need is more bravery.
Yes, it is brave of a woman to tell her story. I am all for it. But men, my god, we need your bravery now too. We need you to come toward rather than back away.
I get that the reasons that many of you are currently unable to do this have to do with not knowing how. Men have grown up to assume that what they say goes. And now we have a culture of women saying that this is not okay anymore. It’s true. It is not okay anymore.
So here’s what you do, men. Come to the table. Come and sit down and say, “Help me to understand.” Say to the woman that you love in your own house, “Can you tell me how you feel as a woman when you hear this story in the news? What do you think that I, as a man, can do?”
A friend told me this week that when she told her male partner about her dreaded high school experience locked in a room with a man, he wanted to go hunt down that man and “make him pay.” And so she had stopped communicating to her partner, meanwhile she was reliving a visceral trauma response. Men, that is not exactly what I mean by bravery. Use her feelings of safety as a measure of bravery. If she feels safe as a result of your actions, and it creates more trust, you’re on the right path.
Men, you’ve been taught to think that you need to perform, know exactly what to do, fix it, or save us. We’re not asking for that now. We want you to ask questions, listen, check your self-protection, say an out-loud apology even if that woman isn’t in the room - say it to any woman. Admit that you don’t know what to do right now, and that you didn’t know what to do then. Ask a woman you trust for help. Not all women want to take you down. Some of us will hold you accountable meanwhile allowing you to rise into a more embodied, emboldened version of man. That’s what I want to do. That is what I am demanding by being the woman that I am in the world today. I will love the hell out of men, and, I will naturally demand the best of you. I will simultaneously no longer allow power-over to exist when I see it, and also, I will help to explain what I see with kindness and compassion. It’s up to you to step in, to not run in fear.
We are creating a new way. We need to do so together, even though our traumas are real, even though we don’t yet know what to say, even though we feel fear. We all want to feel bravery and love, in our bodies, in our men, in our women.
Rumi says, “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
I’ll meet you there.