It is International Day of the Girl Child at the time of me writing this, and I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what this means to me personally. These days, I feel like there is this tendency to create a day and bring awareness to issues-yet there doesn’t seem to be much change happening in recognition of these days or follow up on these initiatives. This year, it’ll be 25 years from the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — the global agenda for advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls, everywhere. Earlier this year, Generation Equality was also launched as a multi-year, multi-partner campaign and movement for bold action on gender equality. While these resolutions and big drivers for change are great ideas, I’m extremely doubtful that any real adjustment will actually be made.
I’m not sure that people really understand how powerful the patriarchy as a system is or how much men will fight to hold on to their power by any means necessary. Men, white men in particular, have no plan or desire to “give up” or share their power or wealth with women. Period. If these men really wanted to do it, they would have and women wouldn’t have to be fighting for equality in 2020. But similar towards people of colour, the white patriarchy in particular looks down on anyone it views as lesser than. While people of colour are not looked upon as human, women are looked upon as lesser humans; those not capable of making up their own minds about what they want for their bodies or money, so men need to control them and make decisions for them. The patriarchy is not just a Black or white person issue. It permeates every level of families within different ethnic groups. While there are a handful of men of colour who grew up as feminists and anti-racists, the majority did not. These patriarchal structures are found within Black and Brown homes and are very deeply rooted. There are even some women who have bought so much into these ideas, that they in turn enforce them upon their families. I personally know women who truly believe it is a man’s job to take care of his family (primarily financially) and if he doesn’t do so, he’s not considered a man in their eyes. There are women who have been trained by virtue of their environments to have certain unhealthy ideals of what manhood and fatherhood is, and will tear down a man emotionally and verbally if he isn’t meeting her specific standards of what he should be doing. I have watched these twisted, psychologically damaging and unhealthy relationships for years within my community. While I have witnessed some healthy relationships, they are few and far in between. There is also this lie within the Black community that religion somehow corrects all of these woes because the thought is that religion provides the structure for proper family values. Yet in many of these households, some of the worst physical, verbal and sexual abuse is taking place under the cover of religion.
According to the United Nations, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 years old worldwide is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. By 2021 around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19. 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and particularly domestic violence, has intensified. At least 60% of countries still discriminate against daughters’ rights to inherit land and non-land assets in either law or practice. Which means that money, land/assets and sex are still considered powerful to men. These three things seem to be what men worldwide hold to be the most valuable things they can own or wield over a woman. They also seem to be the three things that when women have them, they are considered the most powerful themselves. Many men will attack women that are seen as too independent or too sexually liberated as being “man-haters,” “chauvinists,” and “sluts/whores.” I know men that cannot work for women because they see it as an affront on their manhood to have a female in charge telling them what to do. I know men that cannot tolerate a women making more money than them. Unfortunately, I’ve known men who have hurt women, both physically and sexually because of their subconscious dislike and disrespect for women and issues relating to their mothers or primary female caregivers. I know men who have been severely abused and mistreated by the women in their lives and because of their traumas they use them to excuse misogyny, philandering, abusive and sexist behaviour.
I have been molested 3 times in my life. Twice when I was a teenager and once as an adult. I remember the first time it happened, I went to the guy I was seeing at the time and tried to tell him what had occurred. I remember feeling raw and violated and all I wanted was for someone to hold and comfort me. Instead, he yelled at me, hurled insults, shamed and blamed me in front of his male friends, openly telling them that I “let” someone violate me. I remember feeling numb and alone. I was convinced that anyone else I shared my story with would have the same reaction, so I never told anyone about it after that. Why bother sharing my private pain and one of the most humiliating moments of my life when everyone was going to think I deserved what happened to me? This started a cycle of shame and resignation that my body would be accosted by men at their will and it was just something I’d have to deal with. Being a Black women, I’ve been sexualized all my life in a myriad of ways. Men have felt that my breasts, bottom and lips were created simply for them to fetishize me, sexualize me and keep me in the place they believe I am restricted to. Women of colour, particularly those of us that are more full figured and have curves have been turned into sexual objects that have been mimicked and mocked by white men and women for centuries. The very things on Black women and women of colour that they find distasteful and disgusting, they will cop and rock on themselves and all of a sudden, it’s fashionable and trendy. These reductions of women of colour continue to contribute to white supremacy, white privilege and the patriarchy. White women participate in the patriarchy in ways they seem to be completely or maybe intentionally unaware of.
Take the hijacking of the #MeToo movement by white women. The movement, which was created by Tarana Burke and while open to including all women, was originally supposed to be focused on women of colour because more often than not, women of colour and Black women specifically are not believed whenever we report sexual abuse or assault. I can definitely attest to this from my own personal experience of me trying to tell someone about my abuse. But then Alyssa Milano comes out about a sexual assault experience she had, using the #MeToo, and all of a sudden the movement has been co-opted by white women, almost overnight. Newspapers and media everywhere started reporting about this massive revolution…all while never knowing or acknowledging that a Black woman had started it. When it was originally reported on, the credit for the movement was given to Alyssa Milano and other white female celebrities. It wasn’t until the outpouring of righteous indignation and outrage from the Black female community that they made changes and gave credit to Tarana. It is crazy to me that the Black woman who created this movement barely has 300k followers on Instagram, yet every woman who alleges that she has been the victim of sexual assault or abuse uses her hashtag and follows the white celebrities who made it famous. Even more crazy? There are only a few notable famous white celebrities that follow her, including Brene Brown and Anna Paquin. These two women are some of my favourite humans so I’m not surprised that they continue to do the real work and not just run their mouths about it and display performative allyship.
But when I saw how this movement, that was meant to be a safe space for all women to come and share their horror stories and feel supported has now turned into a cesspit of unhealthy and emotionally traumatized white women projecting their very skewed perspectives of the world and men, I am completely turned off. We have witnessed men being accused of all kinds of assaults and abuses that in some cases, were completely debunked and in others were severely questioned as to their validity. As a survivor, I have been disheartened and discouraged by where I see this movement now. I no longer feel like it is a safe space for women of colour to express their experiences. Rather, it feels like it has now become a space where some unhealthy women feel they can get revenge and destroy men, whether they committed an offense or not, and for others it has become a way for them to receive unconditional and unquestioned attention and affection. I would never dare tell another woman how she should process her sexual abuse or assault trauma. Having said that, I will also state that I do not believe every woman who comes forward and claims she was assaulted. Unfortunately, being a Black woman I have heard and seen women who have lied about such things. This is very predominant in Black history, with white women engaging in sexual activities or relationships with Black men when it was illegal to do so. When caught, they would lie and claim the Black man raped them, to save their lives as they knew the harm that would befall them if white men knew they enjoyed sleeping with Black men. So as a woman of colour, I unfortunately do not have the luxury of blindly believing the victim. This is one of the biggest bones of contention that I have with the current #MeToo movement and its belief that one must believe all survivors, fullstop. Some women lie. That is a fact. Some white women lie. That is also a fact. That has not changed from the days of segregation till now. I believe in critical thinking and listening to the entire story. As a survivor, I will tell you that we have a sixth sense. I cannot explain it, but most of us as survivors, particularly those of us who have gone to therapy and have done and continue to do our healing work, we just know when someone is lying. There is an undeniable truth to a sexual assault or abuse story that most survivors can hear. And some of us can hear when someone is lying. The stories don’t line up, even if you gave leeway for the person not wanting to reveal every single detail. Survivors have an enhanced empathy for each other. So we know when someone is not telling the truth.
Sexual abuse and sexual assault is one of the most dehumanizing and traumatizing experiences a person can go through. It is all about power over another person; taking away their right to choice. Feeling that you have the right to “take” whatever you want, and not ask for consent first. I can’t begin to describe what it does to you psychologically and how for some, it can really mess them up sexually. I had to work through years of therapy to explore all the emotions I had bottled up for years because I didn’t think anyone would care or believe me when I told them. So when I see some women using the #MeToo movement to get revenge on a man or demolish a person’s life who genuinely didn’t deserve it, it feels like the ultimate disrespect to all true survivors. There are many of us that will never be believed about our stories and because of those women who falsely accuse men, it taints the reputation of other women coming forward. Let me be very clear: in no way am I implying or stating that ALL white women lie or are not telling the truth about their sexual abuse claims. I truly believe that the majority of women, no matter what the ethnicity, who share their stories are telling the truth. But I believe that two things can be true at the same time. There are some women who are using this moment to gain attention. There are some women who are using other women’s stories to justify their villany of men. Unhealthy traumatized women can create unjustifiable harm and danger for others through their projections. If we do not hold them accountable when they either lie or tell half truths to skew an opinion, then we are dishonouring the real victims whose voices in some cases may never be heard.
I long for a day when men can truly see women as their human equals and treat them accordingly. I long for the day when #MeToo will be a relic of the past; of a time when humans projected their hurts and unhealed pain on others in unhealthy ways but through therapy, spiritual work and discipline healed themselves and in turn healed others. I have never met an abuser who themselves was not abused. I’m not saying they don’t exist; I’m just saying I’ve never met one. Everything I’ve learned in both Psychology and Psychotherapy has taught me we are born having the ability to love unconditionally. However, our environments, our parents/primary caregivers and our genetics have a huge role to play in our successes or failures in life. In order for the patriarchy to be demolished, men in general need to want to give up their power. In order for white supremacy to end, white people (white men in particular) need to want to become anti-racists and be willing to do whatever it takes to change the way things are. In order for sexual abuse and assault to end, men and women need to want to heal from their own traumas and wounds so they don’t perpetuate them on others. You have to WANT it. It is not going to magically manifest simply because we will it to. Unhealthy people are doing this to other people. So it’s those people we need to hold accountable and address.
To every single sexual abuse and/or assault victim out there who knows you truly have a story…I am so sorry you had to go through what you had to go through. No matter your gender or ethnicity, no one deserves to be violated. Period. My greatest hope for all of us is that we find healing and turn to healthy ways of expressing our anger, rage, disillusionment and disappointment. I pray that we all find a connection to our Source and allow it to heal us. I pray that when we do decide to speak about our experiences, that we will always be truthful and factual and not embellish things to gain attention or validation. We are valid because we exist. Our stories do not need anyone else’s validation. No one gets to tell us how big or small our trauma is or compare it to theirs. All of our stories matter. All of our stories deserve to be heard, if we choose to tell them. And no one has the right to infringe on a space that was created for us to heal and share and support each other, with lies, half truths and bullshit. Period. It dishonours us all.