“Pretty is as pretty does.”
“Act like a lady. Don't be ugly.”
“Put on a little lipstick and you will be fine.”
We as women are often expected to act and be a certain way. When we are treated like objects there is a cavern of dissonance and an ocean of emotions. To stand up and say, “NO” from the outside, looks so easy. “Why wouldn't you? Why can't you?” But no matter how many time you say “NO” ...it’s never easy.
I haven't been sexually assaulted. But I have been the object of sexual harassment in a workplace.
I wasn't going to tell. I was going to leave quietly like the polite lady I was brought up to be. What good would it do? I thought. They won’t believe me! I questioned. And the largest hurdle to reporting it was this:
Why didn't I say no?
I allowed him to say things to me that were degrading and inappropriate. I allowed the phallic themed text messages he sent. I jokingly said it was wrong, but didn't want to seem uncool. I didn't want to seem a prude.
Instead, I was going to leave the job and return to my life. With no pot stirring and no reporting.
But I had this little problem, I wrote a book about bravery. I interviewed hundreds of women and listened often with tears at the stories of abuse, crossed boundaries, tremendous loss and deep pain. I listened in awe and cheered their courage and bravery when they shared how they spoke up in situations like this.
And this quote resonated as it does with the #MeToo movement:
“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one (wo)man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” - C.S. Lewis
I asked every single one of the women in my book if they thought they were brave. Not a single one said yes. I couldn't believe it. How could they not see how brave they were?
Until I was faced with my own battle line.
Would I stand up, or would I walk away in silence?
I knew I couldn't promote a book about bravery if I wasn't also walking the talk.
So I told. I reported.
I have done a million terrifying things in my life, but this one thing, this standing up to power and this believing that I matter enough to report it, was the most challenging experience I have ever had. My hands shook for a week. My stomach turned in knots. I couldn’t sleep. I became fearful he would come after me and I felt like I did the wrong thing. Even after I did it. Everyone else said it was the right thing. But it didn't feel right. I felt like a tattletale. I felt like another number
Bravery is FRIGHTENING.
Can you imagine how difficult it was for gymnast Aly Raisman (or any person) to speak up about was done to them when they were a child!
“Why are we looking at why didn’t the girls speak up?” Ms. Raisman told “60 Minutes.” “Why not look at, what about the culture? What did USA Gymnastics do, and Larry Nassar do, to manipulate these girls so much that they are so afraid to speak up?” - New York Times
Amidst the wave of #MeToo and women everywhere standing up and saying, “NO. This was wrong. No, what you did to me was wrong”, this, makes ME feel brave. I hope it does for you too! This makes me feel and know I did the right thing. I am not an object. And you aren’t either.
It is a harrowing experience to stand up to power and control. But ladies, we were never meant to sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice. WE ALL DESERVE TO HAVE A VOICE.
This is where true friendship begins. When we can say, “Yes. You are not alone. Me too.” Not only in assault and abuse, but in everything in life. Take off the mask, throw away the judgements, cheer each other on, and help her tell the truth.
For all those people who may be scratching their heads saying "why all these allegations? why 'all of the sudden?' This stuff happened AGES ago" It takes just one. It takes just ONE brave woman to come forward to say THIS HAPPENED, and it takes just one more to say 'me too' It's like the opposite of a chilling effect.
And when you feel that sick feeling and want to run away and hide because you didn't apologize for being you and you held your ground even though your knees shook, know there are women watching in awe at your beautiful bravery. We need to see you be brave!
Your beautiful bravery empowers others to do the same.