I’ve been doing my best to stay informed without sinking into despair. Am thinking of all the possible teachable moments coming from the depressing news about a certain Presidential candidate (who, taking a leaf from Michelle Obama’s spectacular playbook, I’m no longer going to name) and a footballer from these shores.
Obama describes the pain she feels hearing Hillary’s opponent’s misogyny: ‘If all this is painful for us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children?’
You can see her full speech by scrolling down here.
Good men – including professional athletes who know locker room talk – are speaking up, too. And women and girls are coming forward after being silent and afraid for decades and saying, ‘Enough.’
You can read Peggy Orenstein’s* New York Times piece on How to Be a Man in the Age of Trump by clicking here. It made me think of Dr Christiane Northrup’s praise for righteous anger.
Dr Northrup talks about feel good nitric oxide being produced by our bodies, boosting immunity and overall wellbeing, when we experience positive emotions including righteous anger.
Just as the men and boys in Orenstein’s article who go along with alleged ‘locker room talk’ and worse without stepping in and stopping abuse feel awful themselves, we know from WWII that it’s up to all of us to protect the more vulnerable.
When we let powerful groups or men (or women) exploit and abuse others, whether it’s because they’re a vulnerable young girl or an immigrant or person from a minority religion, we ALL suffer.
As Pastor Martin Niemöller described the rise of the Nazi’s:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
When we’re frightened and afraid ourselves, someone stronger (in that moment) can lend us the strength we need. When we see someone else in need, we can step in and let perpetrators know any kind of abuse is unacceptable.
Today, a Facebook story about an A&E nurse called into her daughter’s school sounded like a glorious way for women and girls (and boys and men) to stop internalising the shame of everyday abuse.
Although it looks like it’s possibly not a true case, it will hopefully inspire girls, women, boys and men to stand up for themselves and support others in doing the same.
In a nutshell, an A&E nurse was called into her daughter’s Catholic school because her 15 year old daughter had hit a boy. He had repeatedly pinged her bra strap after she’d not only asked him to stop but been told by the teacher she reported it to to ‘just ignore it’.
The mother (fictional or real – my new hero) said, ‘Ahh, so you want to know if I’m going to press charges against the boy for sexual assault and the school for not stopping it?’ The school had been more concerned with the damage to the boy.
The mother’s reaction takes the shame and places it firmly back where it belongs by pointing out the girl’s punch was self-defense (against a much larger boy).
We can all do this in our own ways. Instead of worrying so much about hurting the feelings of powerful people abusing their power, we can use our power. We don’t need to apologise for setting healthy boundaries.
The girl in the story (or real life case?) saw that no one was going to protect her (in her classroom!) so punched the boy who was messing with her underwear.
And the mother backed her up.
As a white looking woman, I can’t know (although I can imagine) how it feels to be targetted for my religion but this piece (click here) offers some insight by showing a couple of researchers who literally walked several miles in the shoes of more visible Muslims to experience Islamaphobia.
There are so many ways in which we can be different and potentially targetted – age, gender, sexuality, physical differences, nationality, language, religion, class… – but by standing together, bullies can’t get away with it.
Surely compassion and kindness make ANY nation ‘great’?
What has helped you speak up for yourself and for others?
How can you support yourself in noticing and helping people (including yourself) in this very strange time we’re living in?
Feel free to comment below.
*author of the glorious Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture