MeToo by Louise Somerville
MeToo by Louise Somerville
Like many others I have been on a journey with #MeToo. The revelation that every single woman has experienced sexual abuse, and suffered from male physical power and strength has been an astounding collective experience.
Yet, from the beginning, I felt deep concern that men may feel they were being labelled as predators and perpetrators.
As the intensity of female solidarity grew, I remained concerned about the impact the campaign may be having on men. Especially those who were sharing their own stories of abuse.
I really like the men in my life, I have a huge amount of respect and gratitude for their presence. I hold no blame. I didn’t want the men I trust to feel bad about themselves. And it didn’t even occur to me at that time that there were males who needed to feel utterly shit.
The lightbulb moments were ongoing. As more and more of my female friends began to courageously share their abuse traumas I sensed how crucial it was for women to have their time and space.
To be free to express their experiences, share their vulnerability and in some cases express their outrage and distress against the outmoded and offensive patriarchal power systems that has allowed sexual abuse to continue.
One evening, three of my female friends wrote, #MeToo, today.
That was a lightbulb moment for me. A realisation that women needed this time and space. To feel the collective pain, to empathise with other women and be together.
I didn’t see Any men blaming posts.
What I did see was men wanting to share their abuse stories.
And it wasn’t until this morning that I realised how some of them may have come to realise this was their time too.
In singularity of masculine thought they may have read the hashtag, and thought, yes, ME TOO. I understood they wanted to share that women were not the only ones suffering.
Yet time and again, I read male voices explaining to other male voices that this campaign was not about them. That they could have their time and space for expression, they could create their own hashtag at a future point.
Mostly these isolated male voices didn’t get it. No matter who or how it was explained. Voices would begin supportively and end in exasperation.
They couldn’t understand that this wasn’t about human solidarity.
In true linear fashion they interpreted Me Too, as Me. Which I get.
And I had also moved. I initially felt the power of inclusivity, of all voices, which changed as more and more women took the bold step of detailing their lives of oppression and abuse.
And whilst there are some men who have experienced lifetime abuse, they are a tiny minority compared to All women who do, and have experienced frequent abuse.
I wanted to remain open to men’s stories, and swiftly found that I couldn’t. This wasn’t about a lack of compassion or care. It was about seeing the bigger picture.
I also read women’s voices shouting out, let’s hear the men too. Let’s not make this separate. Let’s all care and gender doesn’t make a difference.
However, for me, three or four days in, gender Was the key difference. Not to begin with, and at times I wavered as I witnessed dissent, wounding and sadness for men. I felt for them.
The shock realisation that All women have been traumatised and impacted by sexual abuse was at times too big to go deep into the individual stories. My own trauma was surfacing and keeping me awake at night.
I had decided early on I wasn’t going to share my own experiences. Told myself it was because my adult son’s and their friends were on Facebook.
Then I told myself it had only happened to me when I was a younger woman.
More and more instances began to emerge, keeping me awake at night. Especially that time I was robbed in Paris in 2014, how dependent I was on a toxic hand wandering thief. How I couldn’t escape.
I didn’t want these memories. So then my journey became, NO!! I don’t want this for me.
Yes, I want women to be seen and heard and felt. I don’t want my stories surfacing though. That was and is the hardest bit for me. I need to keep going back to the collective female experience.
I was still getting uneasy with how solidarity was spiked with division.
How people couldn’t hear – this is not about men, not about men blaming, not about men sharing.
Men’s voices do need to be heard, whatever their stories are. I want to listen. I want them to have their space. I just don’t want them taking away from this first in my lifetime opportunity for women to come together and say, yep. All my life this has been happening.
Women struggling against patriarchal systems is a daily occurance.
The frequency of sexual attacks and abuse has lessened as I age and my younger female friends are still suffering, daily, weekly, monthly.
It seems the advent of online pornography, has impacted hugely on female wellbeing and safety. I have listened with heartbreak to how deeply impacted women have been by offensive and degrading pornography.
Let’s be kind, listen to everyone’s voices. We are all on a journey. Mine is ongoing. I may feel differently tomorrow.
For now though. Solidarity with my female allies.
How powerful it is to know how we have all suffered at the hands of toxic males.
How blessed most of us are to now know kind, caring, supportive males.
This is not Them and Us, it is All of us. Please can we take it in turns? Women want to be heard. We want to claim a piece of space that is ours.
A massive shout out of gratitude – To all the women who faced their fears and shared their experiences of sexual violence. I was brought to tears reading some of them. May healing blessings be upon you all.