The Birth of A Movement
I remember waking up one October morning and seeing my social media feeds filled with a strange and singular message, #metoo. At first I didn’t know what it meant, but it soon became clear that yet another social media movement was developing. I’ll admit my first thought was that this would be just like every other social media crusade; it would dominate our attention for a week or two and then the next issue dujour would dim the light of #metoo.
It wasn’t long, however, before I began to realize the sheer magnitude of what was happening. Millions began to share stories of sexual harassment or assault. As the horrifying stories began to surface and the firings and resignations soon followed, one couldn’t help but feel hopeful that we might actually be making strides in the direction of addressing the suppression of the female. Had our day of reckoning finally arrived?
Having had a lifetime of personal experiences with oppression, intimidation or sexual coercion, there was a momentary feeling of relief that I wasn’t alone. There were others who probably felt the same shame and anger as I felt. The things we kept unspoken and private were now safe to share.
My feelings of hopefulness, however, were diluted by a generous dose of doubt. Social media has helped in retarding our collective attention span so I wondered how long people would stay engaged in this cause. It seems that people tend to be more interested in the behavior of celebrities involved in a cause than actually getting involved themselves. The recent buzz surrounding the Golden Globe award show is an example of this phenomenon. This year, the show became a vehicle for celebrities, many of whom had a hand in bringing this issue into the light, to come together in solidarity by choosing to dress in black. I suspect a large number of viewers were tuning in more out of fashion curiosity than of victim sympathy.
The uncertainty is due perhaps to the fact that this is nothing new. Women have been unjustly held back from achieving full equality for much of recent human history.
So how do we get a foothold on something and fuel its momentum?
From Crawling to Walking
As important as this #metoo campaign is, it doesn’t appear to be a call to action or the beginning of a movement that will involve protests or marches. It appears to be simply an attempt to get people to see the prevalence of sexual assault, coercion, and harassment in our society. Taking this awareness and transforming it into a movement is the next step. But a movement toward what? Yes, equality certainly. Globally women deserve the same rights, legally and politically, as men. We must put an end to the cultural and political standards of treating women as property or children. But just as important as this move toward equality and respect is, so too is the collective healing of the feminine psyche.
We have forgotten how magnificent we are, how powerful and strong we are. Our Mothers, Grandmothers, and great Grandmothers forgot, and so we have learned false truths about our worthiness. We’ve had generations of being told we are less than, that we are guilty or weak, that we are not important.
In fact, there is a period of history when women and men lived as equals, and neither sex dominated the other. Some research indicates that this may have been the norm for most of human evolutionary history. Women were revered for their natural traits and were vital elements in the social structure. For 99% of human history, the gathering of natural resources, and the hunting and fishing of animals sustained societies. For much of this period the only significant difference between a man’s or woman’s role was that women bore and breastfed children. Because of that, women tended to be the gatherers as hunting would have taken them too far from home. Both sexes had their collective, and equally important parts to play. In societies based mainly on gathering, women as the gatherers would have been the main food providers since the meat supplied by hunters was less in quantity and supply. As a result, women had a high status in these societies. But there remained a great variety of work done interchangeably by both women and men.
The masculine model of aggression and force has dominated our societies for far too long now. If we look back, we see that social, economic, and political factors contributed greatly to the emergence of women’s unequal status. Two possible factors might be at work here 1) warfare became important to protect the group or tribe, and women, having a child in womb or at breast, would have made participating in a war impossible. This in turn assigned men the role “protector”, and thus elevated the status of males. . And 2) the emergence of private property was likely the strongest force in the development of women’s status as inferior. In many societies, this meant the end of collective, or shared ownership, which affected familial ties, especially within the matrilineal clan.
If this unequal relationship between the sexes came about through essentially historical processes rather than being a result of biological differences, then that relationship can be changed. That change will come with a lot of hard work. The transformation to the political, economic and social platforms will take education, policy changes and dismantling long-standing structures.
First, The Healing
Healing the wounds of thousands of years of persecution and abuse will be a deeper and more important task. Before we can expect the rest of the world to honor us, we must first honor ourselves. We have decided that we have had enough and we have told the world as much. We must now begin the real work.
Despite the deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes worldwide, we are ultimately responsible for how we see ourselves. To move into a more enlightened worldview of masculine and feminine equality, we must not demand the world treat us with the reverence we deserve. We must radiate our natural glory. We must step into our truth. This work begins with forgiveness. We must forgive our ancestors for either implicitly or explicitly taking part in the subjugation of the feminine divine. We must forgive ourselves for not speaking when we wanted to, not fighting when we needed to, and for not breaking the chains.
We must heal ourselves and begin to trust our intuition again for it is one of our greatest powers. We must teach the next generation, female and male alike, the truth that we do not see or acknowledge: that partnership, truly equal partnership between men and women, makes everything stronger, workplaces, communities, and families included.
We have awakened to a new day. Stepping into a new way of being will require changing many long held beliefs, and it begins in our own minds and our own hearts.