For so many women in the United States the last year has been a doozy. Election Day 2016 was, for many of us, a brutal disappointment. We not only saw the first female candidate for the highest office in the land lose despite winning the popular vote; we saw the election of a man who shows no respect for women and is, in fact, a self-described assaulter of women.
Once we pulled ourselves out of the disappointment, depression and anger, something interesting began to happen. We women began, at long last, to share our stories, our dreams, our truths. We also began to listen to and support each other in ways that we hadn’t before.
For me this is the silver lining to the cloud: that women have, at long last, decided that we not only deserve to be equal participants in legislative offices around the country but that we will no longer be silent when wrong is done, to us or to others, especially other women.
The women (and men) who have come forth to accuse some of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry and politics of sexual assault are my heroines and heroes. To speak publicly about such a traumatic event takes courage that stops me in my tracks.
Speaking publicly means that your life will never be the same. Most of us go through life with some degree of privacy and anonymity that we value. Our mistakes aren’t public fodder, our failed romances aren’t news stories. But go forward with accusations against a powerful man and all bets are off. That is not a small thing.
But it isn’t just in the arena of sexual assault. When I think about the myriad ways that I, and every woman I know, adjust my behavior so as not to draw unwanted attention, I am staggered. When I think about how I avoid eye contact with men so they don’t think I’m flirting, or the way I position myself in a crowded elevator so that I don’t come into physical contact with a strange man, or the way that I rarely would tell a guy in a bar to just get lost because I didn’t want to risk angering him by rejecting his unsolicited attention. When I think about all those and the thousand other ways that every woman I know tries to protect herself, I could weep.
When I think of all the energy and anxiety spent on trying to stay safe that women could have spent in ways that would have helped themselves and the world, I could weep tears of frustration and rage.
But now something has shifted. Now women are saying, “Enough” - and not just saying enough but taking steps to make the changes that are needed so that these aren’t the stories that the girls of today will be telling in the future. Women are telling the stories now. Women are now running for office and winning seats that no one expected them to win. Women are taking the actions now to change the future.
Women are - and this is the part that matters most to me - supporting each other. We are believing the stories that we are hearing from our sisters around the country. #MeToo isn’t just about something trending on Twitter, it’s about women recognizing that we share so many common stories. That some of them are deeply painful doesn’t make it less important that they are heard. It makes it essential that those stories are heard.
We rise from the ashes of the pain that we have experienced and survived.
And when we share that rising with other women, when we join our voices, our wisdom, and our strength, we become powerful in ways that we may never have envisioned. We become a force for good and balance in a world that is desperate for both. We add our voices to the conversation and our opinions to the decision making process and we make the world better for ourselves, yes. But also for our sisters, our daughters, our husbands, brothers, and sons. We make the world better for everyone.
Tell your truth, honor others that tell theirs, then join hands with someone and make a difference.