“Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.”
I often wonder what compels my compulsion. The compulsion to watch shows and scenes placing my mind back at the scene of the crime. It’s a compulsion to be certain and in some ways, a very sick and twisted one. Many times, I force myself to relive my own sexual assaults – yes that’s plural as it has happened to me more than once during my lifetime – watching and discussing things I know will take me back to those moments.
Some of these discussions are frustrating. Others are debilitating. While still more are enlightening, not only for me many times but for those with which I have those discussions. Apparently, I’ve had those discussions a lot lately and I have come to some interesting conclusions in regard to assault as well as the #metoo movement as a whole.
All too often, especially in discussions with the male persuasion, I find myself asking them these same questions because, somehow I am still morbidly curious and need to understand why someone would think assaulting someone else is okay. The most recent discussion happened the other night with my husband. He had some questions and statements for me as well.
The most important thing he asked me when I was done with my latest diatribe was this: Where is the line between harassment and assault? Because I had spent time explaining any unwanted contact constituted an attack which was the definition of assault.
So – here are the three things I concluded after many a long discussion.
#1 – ANY UNWANTED CONTACT CONSTITUTES AN ATTACK.
Whether it’s accidentally brushing up against someone in a store to dropping a weight on someone’s toe at the gym to forcing yourself on top of someone else, it is an attack. It is unwanted and unwarranted attention. This also includes verbal attacks as well because it is also unwanted and unwarranted attention.
I find in an effort to “smooth things over,” the people in charge will find softer, more benign ways to to say things to keep from disrupting the status quo. The terms harassment or unwanted contact or bullying have been used to keep us from realizing one simple thing – all these terms are softer, kinder ways to say ‘attack.’
Let’s see if you feel a difference in the way this is relayed to you.
“My kid is being bullied in school.” It sounds like the normal socializing behaviors we expect from school.
“My kid is being teased in school.” Everyone, including ourselves, look at this statement and we feel bad but it’s been so normalized. we feel like there is nothing we can do about it.
Now – hear this:
“My kid is being attacked at school by other students.” Did the hair on the back of your neck just stand up? Do you feel that anger rise in you a little? You envision something like the scene out of Karate Kid where the kid is being attacked and beaten by a group of kids.
“My kid is being verbally attacked during school.” Oh my! Why isn’t the teacher doing something to stop that? There’s a no tolerance policy. I can’t believe any parent would allow their kid to attack another kid.
WORDS HAVE POWER!
When you encounter this behavior, call it what it is – an attack. This one puts people on edge but it also brings attention to the severity of the issue. These issues are severe and rampant in all corners of our society as a whole. We need to be honest about what is happening.
INTENT, WHILE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION, DETERMINES THE LEVEL OF THE ATTACK
“Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
What the does this mean? Good question. It is best explained through a list of examples of situations.
Situation #1: You’re looking through the eggs in the grocery store and after finding your perfect dozen, you turn around and run right into someone’s chest. Your eggs are now splattered all over their shirt and the floor and their shoes. You get the picture. Was there intent to do harm? No. But is this technically an attack? Yes. This is like a grade one. There’s no harmful intent and no one really got hurt, except for maybe a top and some shoes and well, someone had to mop up the floor and you probably paid for the eggs. Easy – simple.
Situation #2 – Say you’re standing in line with your nephew. Now, he is a young cheeky sucker between four and six years old. He slaps the behind of the woman standing in front of you in line. Before she can turn around and sock you in the face, he blurts out an introduction, saving you from a bloody nose. Now, this is between a grade one and a grade two. The contact was intentional but the person who executed the contact was not malicious and they were uneducated about the idea of consent and proper conduct.
Situation #3 – Your approached and someone you don’t know pulls you in and gives you a hug. The current Richard Paul Evans controversy comes to mind. A hug in this context of no consent is an attack Is is wrong? Yes. So what stage is this – You would think on a scale of one to five, it would be a three or higher – but it’s not. The intent was to give someone a hug out of kindness, not to make them feel less then or exert power over them. So, this is clearly a grade two. Because the person forcing the contact is uneducated and the person being attacked is not comfortable with the contact.
In the real life example occurring now, the attacker has learned and educated themselves and modified their behavior accordingly. This shows the intent was not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. They just hadn’t caught up with the idea of consent which is unfortunate but we know many of those people in our lives.
Situation #4 – After expressing something sexual that makes you uncomfortable, you ask your co-worker to stop saying those things around you. After lunch, some co-workers are hanging around your desk and talking about the topic you asked them not to. This is a grade three attack. It’s intentional. You have made your feelings clear.
This situation could also have some physical contact involved but it doesn’t have to in order for it to be a grade three attack. It could also be just physical contact that makes you uncomfortable. Does this make sense? The intention has changed and thus the level of attack.
Grade four entails anything considered legal assault or harassment. The intention is to enact control or to take away someone’s power and control. This is the simplest to understand because it is the grade most commonly recognized by the general public.
Depending on the grade and the actions taken afterward by the perpetrator, the level of valid punishment should be evident. Now, this should not be confused with vengeance and here’s the most important part of this entire argument.
#2 – WE CANNOT ASK FOR VENGEANCE. SHAMING IS NEVER OKAY.
“Human beings lose their logic in their vindictiveness.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
If we want the shaming to stop, we must stop calling for shaming to happen. If we sink to the level of the people we are fighting, if we become worse than our adversaries, our change is no longer for the good of everyone. It shifts to a corrupted enterprise built on vengeance. When we focus on vengeance, then we become no better than those violating our rights.
Yes, I have been slut shamed. I was asked if I was “asking for it.” In a “boy’s club” where it was common for people to be intertwined in relationships, it seemed the most plausible answer that I “asked for it.” This was twenty years ago and I was naive. The institutionalized response was no surprise as this was the norm.
From a community having been shamed for centuries for everything, from being a cute girl to a perfect mother and wife, being shamed sucks and the tactic should only be used in regards to a grade three or four if the person is not being held responsible or is not taking responsibility for their actions.
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
We cannot afford to become the shamers when they didn’t see they were doing anything wrong. A mistake made in innocence must be seen as such because change can be slow and progress takes a long time. Change cannot and will not be instant, especially societal change. To expect it to be is to set a movement up for failure. We should not call for blood when we’ve shed enough already.
If a perpetrator of actions up to a grade two shows genuine concern and change, a public shaming is unnecessary. They have been through enough. They acknowledge they were wrong. They acknowledge what they did was bad. They start changing how they behave to include consent, especially because they understand it better now. This should be the goal as many perpetrators don’t realize what they are doing.
A DIFFICULT POSITION TO BE IN
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
This comes with a very difficult caveat. It is a fine line to walk. Often, we want people publicly reprimanded when it isn’t necessary. We haven’t examined their new behavior and we scream justice includes public shaming. NO – we must strive to educate and incite change through that education for everyone.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The thing we must be the most careful is not to lose ourselves and become as low or worse than the perpetrators. We can’t claim they’re awful if we are no better. Asking for public shaming without knowing all the facts of the situation is out of line. Forcing someone to be damaged by something like this when they have taken full responsibility for their actions is out of line. Being cavalier about a movement that is striving to find ways to protect an underrepresented group is just as egregious.
Now, this doesn’t mean we cannot present facts in evidence to the media if it becomes necessary to hold people responsible for their actions. Some people have so much money or are so powerful, this is the only option available to those of us who have become their prey. Scandal is a definitive way to ensure people with power cannot escape justice.
Instead of shaming, we must strive to educate the public with the facts. This is not in an attempt to shame them, but to make sure others know what they are doing and how they are wrong. Strive to educate if they won’t listen in private. Only through acceptance and education can we even begin to foster change.
#3 – WAR IS HELL
The #metoo movement is a form of war. When we sent Japanese to internment camps during World War II, we sank to the levels of Hitler and the Nazis. When we eradicated entire populations in China to prove a point to Russia, we sank to the level of the Japanese, Russians and Germans with the release of one bomb. We let our hatred and fear get the best of us.
I know we’re scared and we’ve been scared for a long time. We want our power back, the power not to feel afraid and intimidated at every turn in our lives. The power to not have to educate our daughters about how to protect themselves. The power to have a community who recognizes everyone in it is a human that deserves respect, dignity and decency.
That’s why this movement exists and why it is so positive, but we must not give into our fear and become fear mongers ourselves. That ranks us in with white supremacists and the like if we’re not careful. Women supremacists – proclaiming our right to walk above all. This is the line we must not cross in order to instigate systemic, consistent change.
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”