094: The VERY important conversation about #meToo

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Welcome back to Tuff Love with Rob Kandell. This show is in response to the #metoo meme that has had people all over the world talking about the pervasive issue of sexual assault and harassment. Rob believes the truth is the most important impact we can have in this world, and if we’re not willing to speak up then that impact can remain hidden. You never know who you can help just by telling your truth. The #metoo meme has seen hundreds of thousands of people tell the truth about their experiences. It would be naïve to say it happens only to women, though predominantly it happens exceptionally more to women than men.

An interesting statistic Rob found on the Telegraph was that there were 1 million tweets in 3 days with the hashtag #metoo. Those 1 million tweets were interacted (clicked on or re-tweeted) 3.6 billion times. The estimate is that over 5 billion people saw the tweets.

Of the people tweeting 31.1% were men, and 69.9% were female. Now a lot of men were tweeting their support for the #metoo campaign, so it’s not saying that 31.1% of men were harassed. It’s unknown what the exact statistic is. However, the topic of men being harassed is for a different show.

This show is about the effect of sexual harassment that is entwined in our society. Women being harassed on a daily basis is part of the social DNA in our society. It’s so entwined that it’s not even perceived as unusual today. It’s happening right now. Rob’s goal is to bring the conversation out more and more.

However, Rob doesn’t want to rehash what’s already been said. He’s here to engage in many voices out there, rather than report on the news. There are 7 women and 1 man who put up their hand to come on the show and participate in this discussion today. It takes a lot of bravery on all accounts.

Rob did some research before today’s show and here’s what he found:

  • The #metoo movement was actually started in 2006 by a women’s activist named Tarana Burke. The recent meme was started by movie and TV star Alyssa Milano.
  • Tarana, the starter of #metoo, was worried about her work being undone by all the sharing that’s going on in social media. It wasn’t about victims necessarily talking about it, it was about educating men about the effects so they would do something about it.
  • So #metoo is really a wakeup call to men to say, ‘You’re doing this. You might not even be aware that you’re doing this, but this is happening. Wake up.’
  • Men in positions of power often have the position of abuse. This is what happens when you get a point of power. It can be a power over. We are not conscious with our power.
  • This affects Rob so much because he was in that position of power for 10 years. While his specific abuse patterns were not to invade women’s boundaries, he did let a lot of other people in positions of power abuse others.
  • Being in that position of power and not doing anything has deeply affected Rob, years and years later. The lesson he’s learning is the importance of speaking up.
  • The crime of silence is how evil pervades. A lot of the articles Rob has been reading are really from men calling on men to call out other men to notice this happening. That is the most powerful way to stop this.
  • Rob doesn’t think this conversation will stop sexual harassment and abuse from happening because it’s so ingrained in the fabric of our society. But he does hope this conversation could help other men to say, ‘Bro, don’t do that.’ That’s the message that needs to happen.
  • Rob wants to let women know that the greatest way he learned to be a man was by women educating him. His enlightenment happened when women told him the truth. He would still be numb and dumb if it weren’t for that.
  • Rob did a post that women are the best educators of men, and several women responded saying they’re so tired, or they don’t want to do it, and it’s not their responsibility. Rob agrees, it’s not your responsibility, but it is an opportunity. As a man, Rob does his best to educate other men, but even then, women’s feedback the fine nuances of how men’s attention affects women, is the most powerful thing.
  • As much as Rob does, he still thinks a woman’s voice in the moment has infinitely more power than post, blogs, podcasts etc.
  • Rob will do his part to speak up. And for women, Rob sees it as an opportunity every single day to make a man smarter, because they’re not well informed about what feels good and what’s educated.

One alternative viewpoint to the #metoo came from a woman named Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki. It’s been shared over 28,000 times.

“I won’t say “Me, too.”

Partially because most of you know that already.

But mostly because we shouldn’t have to “out” ourselves as survivors.

Because men have *always* seen the gendered violence happening around them (and/or being perpetrated by them)—they just haven’t done anything about it.

Because it shouldn’t matter how many women, femmes and gender neutral & non-conforming folks speak their truths.

Because it isn’t about men seeing how many of us have been hurt; they’ve been seeing it for a long time.

Because it shouldn’t be on our shoulders to speak up. It should be the men doing the emotional labor combat gendered violence.

Because I know, deep down, it won’t do anything. Men who need a certain threshold of survivors coming forward to “get it” will never get it.

Because the focus of victim and survivors—instead of their assailants and enablers—is something we need to change.

We’ve done enough. Now it’s *your* turn.”

***

Rob brings other voices on the line to discuss the topic and share their experiences and views:

Guest One:

  • Marie Elizabeth shared her own #metoo story on Facebook, and was riveted watching the posts unfurl on Sunday evening. By Monday morning she was a mess of empathy and emotion.
  • She sees this as a deep, festering wound in the way we relate to each other that has been there for centuries. This is a moment of the bandaid being ripped off and the puss pouring out in the form of all this pain. It’s really important not to confuse the puss with healing.
  • While puss is coming out, in order for a wound to heal, you have to clean it. This is a deep cleaning of this collective wound. But eventually, in order for actual change to happen, we’re going to have to start to work towards what we want to create. It’s not the time for that right now, now is the puss clearing and it’s a necessary moment.
  • This meme is an example of something in the way that we’re relating that is toxic, regardless of gender, even though the dynamic of power, of men being stronger, physically than women, is real.

Guest Two

  • Glitter Girl has an alternative viewpoint to what has been going on. She doesn’t think cat calling is harassment and problem number 1 is that different people see it differently.
  • In the US, a cat call is protected by the first amendment. She personally objects to the idea that when somebody’s walking down the street, somebody else saying something to them is considered harassment, when they haven’t asserted a ‘no’ boundary.
  • The #metoo meme has everything from cat calls being called out to gang rape. That’s pathological. You can’t put them in the same categories of abuse. They’re vastly different.
  • She has watched people in her feed lauding and congratulating each other collectively on how awesome this was and how this is a good thing, and then watched the infighting unfold. People starting talking to other people about how their trauma wasn’t the right kind of trauma, it shouldn’t have been used with the meme and people almost competing for who had it worst. That’s horrible, and not healing at all.
  • There is nothing wrong with the suggestion of men calling out other men that if it’s done in a healthy way. The problem with call out culture is that there’s a real danger in it become a witch hunt or lynch mob scenario of people using social media to defame people. That creates a difficult situation. What is actually being contributed at that point? Is it actually creating healing?
  • There are multiple women reporting that they needed to out-right avoid social media because they were traumatised by seeing all these #metoo posts making them relive their own trauma that hadn’t been healed.
  • No matter what your intention is, social media can turn it into something else. Glitter girl has seen so many things that are anywhere from uncomfortable to just gross.
  • In some cases, men get shamed for even trying to use the hashtag to speak about their own instances. That’s not raising any awareness if we’re shutting them out of the conversation. In some ways there’s even more shame for a man who has been victimized to speak up than a woman, because it’s so common for women to be victims.

Guest Three

  • Chelsey feels that this is a time of airing shadow and shame and an opportunity for listening. Brene Brown talks about how shame exists in the container of being hidden. #metoo is a gift in the sense that we can drop it and be together there.
  • One of the things that happened for her, watching this rise across social media, is a solidarity and a light being shown here. Regardless of how people show up with it, it’s cracking something open that is really intense for a lot of people.
  • One thing being raised here is the topic of consent. Chelsey believes anything that’s not consented to is harassment. Consent can happen at a lot of different levels depending on the rapport that you have and how much power and privilege, agency and education you have. Fundamentally, what we’re doing here is starting to learn about consent as a culture, which was never even part of the conversation when she was growing up.
  • Rob agrees that consent is a relatively new conversation. Most guys are confused about what consent truly is. We know the textbook definition is, it gets confused by mixed messages of ‘I just want you to take me’ or ‘don’t ask’.
  • For Chelsey, language is the very first touchstone of consent. Verbal consent is where you begin to build the rapport. Later in her relationship she doesn’t ask whether she can kiss her partner, but he also gives very clear body language cues as to when he’s not open to it. They have enough safety in their communication to trust the other person to be able to say no.
  • Rob talks about the power of the communication bridge, like asking a question about whether it’s okay to give a compliment. It’s the ultimate powerful way to ask permission and get a yes or a no. It’s the most beautiful thing we can do for each other and most powerful way to ensure the communication will actually land.

Guest Four:

  • Elvis realized about a year ago that there weren’t any women he knew that hadn’t had at least some level of abuse toward them from guys. Realizing that was shocking enough, but he also realized most of the guys that he knows would have stepped over boundaries and done things that they would be ashamed of if they’d done them when they were sober.
  • Elvis only needs to look at his own family and see the dynamic between the men and the women in parents, grandparents, and see how the women were made to be small, the guys overpowering and the emotional abuse that as a kid you get completely used to. That was the tip of the iceberg.
  • The programming of that as a guy has left him feeling like it’s a minefield to be around ideas like consent and relating to people. He’s read and learned so much but still sometimes feels lost about it. At the same time, it’s amazing and he appreciates that there is a platform now that people can talk about this now.
  • Rob says the family dynamic is the baseline of abuse for most people. It’s just normal in our world. That’s the hardest part. Once we get through the puss phase and get to the change, change only happens through practice. It’s about building a practice around consent.
  • Elvis really acknowledges a desperate energy in a lot of guys he knows. That desperate energy coupled with drinking and being around other people is a bomb waiting to go off all the time.

Guest Five:

  • Deanna wonders if in some circumstances, some guys come off in a way that is trying to approach a woman and woman feels uncomfortable, because they feel like they’re being hit on. Maybe sometimes there are places where guys are actually just trying to be friendly but we don’t have a lot of room for that in our society: actually just being connected people who are peers but not shagging.
  • She also sees too much ownership—women who have this idea that they own him so he’s not supposed to talk to anybody else, or be intrigued with anybody else’s mind, or physique. That’s a problem as well.
  • The Dutch are starting sex education that is age appropriate at kindergarten. These kids have an idea of consent, and the ownership of their own body in little-by-little, age appropriate delivery of information at 5 years old. Based on the stats, their teen pregnancy has gone down, their rape has gone down. It’s a huge improvement when we start giving kids autonomy.
  • The education system now, in America, is porn. Rob recommends the book ‘The Butterfly Effect’ on the effect of free porn. In America teen pregnancy is going down, but only because guys can’t get it up because they’re addicted to porn.
  • A UK doco interviewed young girls who were traumatised by their first sex exerpiences because guys were expecting them to be like porn stars, and if they didn’t behave that way, the guy would treat them like crap and be almost abusive to her. These girls were saying they never want to have sex again ever if that’s what it’s like.
  • Deanna didn’t find out what she liked until after she was 25 years old and in a lesbian relationship. She didn’t know it at the time but she had PTSD from long-term sexual abuse. Falling in love with a woman was the first time she didn’t have preconceived ideas or memories or flashbacks. That’s when she first got the chance to explore “what do I want and like?”

Guest Six:

  • Shivani exposed her own #metoo story but she feels it’s very important for those who haven’t experienced sexual harassment to really feel the embodiment of what that is so that there is a drive to create long lasting change.
  • Sex education is huge. So much of what’s happening these days would be resolved if we had appropriate sex education with our kids starting that young.
  • We’re sexual beings. The denial and suppression in our culture is the fabric of who we are. We need to educate our kids to say, ‘It’s appropriate, it’s okay that you feel the sexual urge and excitement in your body, this is normal.’
  • Shivani  was one of the ones that wrote not only about connection with men and how many men have also experienced sexual harassment and rape. She also has misused her sexual power a lot because that’s how she learned she could get what she wanted. How will we ever move forward with this lack of compassion for self and others?

Let’s evoke change. Let’s make an impact.