Not very long ago at all, it wasn’t considered a crime or even an embarrassment when a man in a position of power abused a woman. Tonight, in light of Kathryn Borel’s incredibly courageous and direct statement, I thought about just how many women were sacrificed for the men who are celebrated for the development of our culture. I considered those generations upon generations of women who never had a chance to contribute their gifts. It’s easy to imagine that things are so different now. But we’ve had the vote for less than 100 years. ONLY.
I’ve been very lucky, but even so, I’ve been verbally objectified, humiliated, touched inappropriately and sexualized by male teachers, male co-workers, reprimanded for dressing too sexy in a government-run workplace (i.e. being a girl in her early twenties wearing regular clothes), essentially blamed by my boss for a co-worker’s bad behaviour. Every woman I know has had experiences like this, or worse. It is common.
In school, we were taught that sexism had ended (as had racism). I remember feeling a sense of deep pride that I was a girl, and that I was finally free to show the world how great and smart and capable girls were. If I were to identify one clear trajectory over the course of my life, it would be the ever growing realization that though we have made progress, we are far from where we need to be. Still so far from being unencumbered by thoughts about our safety, the male gaze, the subtle competition we feel with other women, which happens between oppressed people.
I often wonder what we would be capable of if we didn’t need to spend so much of our brain power on these things.
Countless influential men, who pepper the media and history books with their knowledge and accomplishments, are also known abusers. As we continue to move forward, as I certainly hope we do, I wonder what our accepted collective history will look like in 50, 100, 200 years. Will we still be celebrating people who achieved success while abusing others? Or will we be telling a different story?