The look on Kevin’s face said it all.
Kevin (not his real name) and his girlfriend Joann (not her real name either) had joined me for lunch, and the discussion found its way to the shooting in California, #NotAllMen, #YesAllWomen, and the subsequent conversations that have erupted this week.
Kevin, one of the most gentle and progressive men I know, was struggling to understand why the two of us, who had never experienced sexual violence, were so adamant that #YesAllWomen spoke a broader truth. How could it be that every woman could say they lived under fear and frustration due to systematic misogyny?
That’s when I asked Joann to pull out her keys as though she was going to her car alone – while I did the same. Together, we held our keys like weapons, each key sticking out between our fingers like a strange set of brass knuckles.
Kevin was surprised. A bit taken aback.
I then reminded him that while not all men act on impulses, women don’t know which ones will or won’t. And Kevin let out a quiet “oh” as he finally got it. Our conversation then veered toward recognition of privilege and how moments like this help us be more sensitive and better allies.
Unfortunately, not every conversation in the last week has been so positive. For every good post about how men can push back against systematic misogyny, there was an equal and opposite post by men, and even some women, pushing back hard against #YesAllWomen – arguments full of false equivalencies and accusations of emotionalism (can we say “gaslighting?”). (No, I’m not linking to them.) Yes, even some of the “helpful” posts on how men can be better allies for women were still somewhat difficult in places. And – not surprisingly, men who said positive things tended to get more attention than women. My friend Scott Bateman illustrated this:
The irony almost writes itself.
So what’s to do? Last week, I brought up my concern over women in ministry, and a call for our denomination to act. Others within our denomination did the same (see UUWorld’s Interconnected Web roundup for more links). I can report some steps are being taken:
First, the UU Women’s Federation is calling for us to examine our study action around reproductive justice to see where we need to push into issues of discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes.
Standing on the Side of Love posted an amazing story and call to action; I can report I will be meeting with some of the staff members of SSL at General Assembly to see what we can do next.
Mostly, I can tell you that I am not staying silent. I will keep talking about this; Rev. Sean Dennison suggested we should create space for ‘hearings’ – for people to tell their stories. (Sean also suggested we examine what we mean by ‘women’ and ‘misogyny’ as relates to people elsewhere on the gender identity/expression spectrum. I fully concur, knowing that I too need to learn more.) It’s vital that we tell our stories – they humanize us; they reveal, in their particularities, universal truths; they make it harder to discriminate and harm others. And for those who have suffered, it helps the healing to know we’re not alone.
I also know that something artistic will come out of this… I don’t know what it is yet, but women’s stories must be told. Maybe it’s the next step in my nameless project. Stay tuned.
But mostly, we just can’t keep quiet. My call this week is to keep on telling the stories. Keep on talking about this. I reached Kevin last week – imagine who I can reach this week, if I just keep talking?
Let’s keep talking.