Teri Orr: The time is now
So my very enlightened, male friend looked at me with sincere curiosity and asked, “Why now?”
We had been talking about the latest sexual abuse accusations against a high profile public figure.
“I mean, I understand the wanting justice part and the need for closure part — but some of these allegations are decades old. … Why now are women speaking out?”
And even though every fiber of my body understood, I have to admit I was a bit stumped on how to explain it all. The “why” is easy to answer, the “why now” is more difficult.
A few weeks ago women were posting “Me Too” as a response to all the women releasing stories about Harvey Weinstein molesting them. The stories were all over the internet about the time some man took advantage of a girl, a woman — grabbed her, raped her, or shamed her or made her “watch.” Every woman can recall the painful first time … some boy figured out we were wearing a bra and snapped the back, or tugged at an exposed strap. Or thought our breast or butt was created to be cupped by their hand in the hallway or so many places out of sight of adults. There was no point in asking the teacher to make them stop. The response was — “that’s just a way to tease you” … “he’s sweet on you” … “boys will be boys.
I remember all that — the comments we were taught to not only accept, but honestly, to celebrate. It was a definition of womanhood — uncomfortable as it was.
One of my empathetic TED friends back east wrote we shouldn’t all be posting the “Me Too,” comments and tags. It was making us clickbait, he said, for people who track such things and we could expect to find ourselves targeted now. The backlash from his female friends was so extreme he took down the page. We explained that while well-intended — from a media guru like him — this was another example of a man trying to interfere with a moment of newfound solidarity. I posted something like this…
“I am a woman of a certain age who came of age when The Pill allowed us sexual freedom — that had always been second nature to men. We marched for Equal Rights and against the war in Vietnam and we burned our bras. We really did. Abortions were no longer relegated to back alleys with coat hangers but they were legal — from doctors. We had sex with different partners and swung from the fences because we could. Please don’t tell us what to do or not do now. We have come too far for such well—intended Man “splaining.”
So recently when my local male friend asked “why now,” I thought about that post. Is this something as mothers we fed our daughters? Did we whisper as they slept — be strong — be brave — be anything you want … I know I did. And we watched a generation of young women make decisions so much smarter than our own. We listened to their stories too with heavy hearts when some male violated their shield of self.
Why now? I think the Facebook group started to support Hillary Clinton, called Pantsuit Nation, had something to do with it. Just over a year ago — weeks before the election — a page popped up that invited women they knew to join and be in a safe space to talk about why they were voting for Hillary. In less than a month almost 3 million people — mostly women — were sharing heartbreaking stories of discrimination in the workplace and life. When Hillary lost, many of those newly connected women discovered each other in their communities. Held coffees and cocktail hours and starting sharing stories. All kinds of stories. And out of that came the Women’s March or more accurately — all the women’s marches — with women speaking and singing and slamming words and carrying signs of protest. More than 675 marches took place on all seven continents and there were zero arrests. Zero. Women’s Rights are Human Rights and the signs that day were both hysterical and poignant. And emboldening.
There was safety in numbers to express opinions and stories long smothered, stifled, at most whispered. We discovered … Me Too … was empowering in a way that found voice and place and time.
So when years — lifetimes really — of pent-up, stuffed away stories started to flow, they just kept coming. We listened to each other and we hugged and cried and laughed a lot and we said, Me Too.
After decades of brutish — piggish — loutish — men demanding we play by their rules — or else! — we chose to stand down and stand up and start to speak about years of abuses. Whispered stories about men in entertainment and politics and boardrooms couldn’t be kept contained. They spilled out and over and were in the press and online and on television and in bars and living rooms and on film sets. There is no stopping this end of the dinosaurs now. The gasping will go on for a bit with heavy-bodied, big-footed thudding while they find their way out of the limelight.
Kind men — we tried very hard to raise, to share the work and the parenting and the climaxes — will emerge and will be as delicious and rare as truffles at first. But when they understand how much easier it is to love and be loved — we’ re gonna be okay.
Why now? Because it was time to bear witness to remarkable planetary galactic-style change. You might find the men in your family, community, religious circles a little more understanding, humbled, even tiptoeing around the holiday dinner table. Be gentle and grateful and extremely thankful if this happens. Because, as Lin-Manuel Miranda so eloquently shared … “Love is love is love is love.” You deserve it … Me Too … every Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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