An unpleasant side effect of #metoo [part one]

[This is part one in a series of blogs which were written to help me make sense of the whirlwind of emotions I’m feeling with this #metoo movement.  If you’re going to read one, please read them all because this is a complicated and nuanced life we’re living and it deserves more than 870 words. Will update posts to link to each other as they go live!]

It’s an unpleasant side effect of this shit show we’re living in. It’s happening every time another woman speaks up, another name is in the media, another person I love shares a story that they’ve never told me before.  Every time I feel this unpleasant side effect that has me longing to look away: nausea.

I feel sick.

Nothing has changed.  Sexual assault isn’t happening more today than it was this time last year.  We are just no longer ignoring it. And I understand why so many people avoid counseling and clutch the positive promises and use them to ignore the darkness of the world.

Facing reality feels awful.  Changing it feels worse.

I have nothing but admiration for the women who woke up first, who realized that what we call normal is different than what we call right.  Because I am realizing a tragic reality: #metoo.  I too have called things acceptable that weren’t and – just like so many of the men we are disgusted by – I did that because I genuinely didn’t see that these things we thought of as normal were not normal to our great God.

We were all products and perpetrators of this culture we have built and we are reaping what we have sown.  We have all – male and female – behaved as if women are worth less than men.  And it has played out in my life in men assaulting me, and it has played out in women going around me to my male superiors because my words, my theology wasn’t as trustworthy.  You and I have to have little more respect for the power culture has to dictate our brainwaves and we are going to have to cultivate a healthy skepticism of the cultural narratives of our families and our churches and our schools and our countries, and if we are going to get out of this, we must find a deeper and stronger and firmer truth.

Time is indeed up.  On me feeling at home in a culture that behaves as if I am lesser.

It will be a painful but necessary shift for us all.

Men are going to have to be brave now.  They are going to have to find the courage to ask the question and listen to the answer: what are the things I do that contribute to a world where women are treated as lesser?  They are going to have to  have the courage to consider that the world as they experience it is not the only world there is.

They are going to have to resist the instinct to explain that they didn’t mean to, and instead, ask and listen.   And even as they ask and listen, they are going to have to take into account the very real consequences of the existing structural power dynamic that means the courage for women to advocate and argue is disproportionate to the courage it takes for them to do the same.   Because the power scales are tipped by culture in their favor, men will have to shift their own weight if they want women to have the freedom to communicate, speak up, advocate in the way they are inviting them to.

Men are going to have to be brave now.  To not retreat behind closed doors so they can protect and preserve a world where they can joke as they see fit with ‘offending’.  Brave enough to reject any culture that isn’t healing and safe for anyone who experiences it.

Women like me will have to be brave as well. We will have to be brave to speak and acknowledge the ugly truth – that some of us don’t believe women have as much as worth as men.  We don’t believe we are worthy.  We are going to have to be brave enough to listen as our friends and sisters tell stories that we feel like should we have known, and not turn away.  Brave enough to watch heroes fall and know that people are all messy and broken, and we are done pretending otherwise. Brave enough to challenge men whose hearts may have genuinely tried to love well, but have misused their power.  Brave enough to fight our own competitiveness with women as we learn we have nothing to prove, nothing to fight for.

Brave enough to know that nothing can change unless we also stop treating men as if their decisions are the ones that count.  We will have to find in our #metoos a cry – not to save or be protected like the weak and wounded – not to ask men to take responsibility for us all – but a cry for mutual respect.

And, women like me will have to look at our white skin and practice what we ask of men. We will have to find the courage to ask the question and listen to the answer: what are the things I do that contribute to a world where others are treated as lesser?  We will have to resist the instinct to explain that we didn’t mean to, and instead, ask and listen.  We will have to brave enough to face the terrible feelings that come when we realize we have been the contributors to oppression ourselves, simply by receiving our privilege without question or concern for what it costs someone else.

We will need to be the ones to get off the scales, to take a step back, to give others the space to tell the stories and we will get to practice everything we are asking of men.

All of this will have unpleasant side effects.  It will be nauseating and sad.  Because we will face the dirt and the darkness.  But we will have to remember that the dirt and the darkness has always been there and we must rejoice that the terrible tension we feel reveals it will no longer be tolerated.

And maybe all this nausea is just a side effect of a shift that is an answer to the billions of times we have tossed heavenward that prayer for His kingdom to come and His will be done. 

May it be so.

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