On the first day of my women’s self-defense class, the teacher asked how many of us had ever been harassed or assaulted. Without missing a beat, every single one of us raised our hands.
Memories closed in on my psyche, crowding my vision: the man on the soccer field when I was eight. The man in the dressing room when I was twelve. The man at the grocery store when I was sixteen. The man at the bus stop when I was nineteen. Men on the street, men in clubs. Men grabbing from cars, men slapping my ass. Men I didn’t say no to because I didn’t know that I could. All of the times I waited for a man to finish.
Once, as a first-year high school teacher, a student grabbed my ass on his way out of class. I turned around to see who it was, but he had already disappeared into the crowd. I didn’t pursue the matter because I didn’t want to cause any trouble.
Then there was the first time I saw pictures of a man — one who I greatly admired — touching a woman’s vagina in the name of teaching yoga.
The Me Too movement hurts: it’s in my bones. It cries like an infected wound, pulsing and throbbing with history and neglect, with outrage and despair. It’s the twisting energy that moves through our bodies when we don’t want to be penetrated. It is a writhing tightness in our hearts. I squeeze my eyes shut and look at the stars that appear behind my blackened lids.
Untended and wary, I gather my womanhood into my arms.
I’ve tried to stay out of the fray: I am a woman in ‘modern’ times. I don’t make a fuss.
Even now, as the movement gains momentum, I still blame myself — it’s my fault for not knowing what men want, for feeling like I could never say no. It’s my fault for not speaking up. It’s my fault for not just getting it through my head, or for not instinctively taking initiative to learn about the big-picture-of-what-has-happened-to-women-in-the-world from a young age. For interacting with all men beneath the mutual and implicit knowledge that my real value lies only in what my body can provide for them.
The weight of these faults — like a ton of jagged rocks cutting into our shoulders, getting heavier with each moment of degradation — is another part of being a woman: eat it all in silence. Don’t be heard. Take what you’re given, even when you don’t want it.
You are a vessel for receiving, but you never intended it to be construed this way. Keep it all shoved into your body. Stay quiet and docile under any circumstances. Don’t make waves.
But: waves are made of water. Water flows through our bodies. We were born of water.
I can’t be silent anymore. Because the truth is that my body is a vessel for love and nurturing. And my deep, wise, and knowing intuition lives in this body, and it knows that there is no fault in this situation.
My arms are pillars of strength. My belly is soft, made for giving; it rises and falls with each breath. The movement of air into and out of my lungs is a perpetual offering. My fingers are nimble and pulsing with creative energy, spinning stories and gifts.
I love myself and I that is why I have to take a stand. It is time to rise up, not only for myself, but for all women. To join the billions of others — living and dead — who are finally summoning the courage to speak. To continue to lovingly claim our bodies, voices, and sisterhood, uniting across this tiny little planet in the middle of outer space.
Waiting for men to apologize will simply not suffice. But their allyship is key, and we must recognize their gifts and offerings, too.
Outrage is expected. Underneath the deep fissures of frustration is the pain of being unloved, unseen, unheard, and unsafe.
The path to reconciliation and evolution lies in healing our individual and collective wounds, for “if we hold to the power of our visions, our heartbeats, our imagination, we can fight on our own turf, which is the landscape of consciousness.
“There, the enemy cannot help but transform.” — Starhawk
Practice loving yourself every single day. Trust your intuition, even in the smallest of matters. Listen within with care and courage. Change is coming.
Together, we can make this world one that celebrates, honors, and reveres all peoples with respect, dignity, and love.