#MeToo: Changing the culture of violence towards women’s safety and respect

“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating. Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us.” - Andrea Dworkin, women’s rights activist

CYNTHIA Hogan went to do a study on the National Football League (NFL), commissioned by then-Senator Joe Biden. Her study “ripped the mask off the epidemic of rape.” She found out that 67 percent of women suffered sexual assault and survivor networks were organized in the United States.

“First it starts with a bonfire, a pep rally, then, the teams get together. In one case, he walked with her to her dorm, where she went to get her coat, as she was getting cold. He jumped her into the shower,” Biden shared at the White House Summit on Women on June 12, 2016. What made it worse was the resident advisor told the student she was not raped at all.

It led the former vice president to change the law from knowing the assailant, the only way then to file a rape charge, to one of second-degree rape. He felt that for women to feel they are no longer abused, is to know they are believed, but also the best way to seek justice is for women to identify their attacker.

Seven women, according to Biden, pulled him aside, after the law was passed, to tell him they had been raped. He emphasized, “Every woman has the right to her life, free of violence. We have to take off the social blinders that make it easy to overlook violence. Get men involved. It’s on us!”

When television cameras kept their focus on the crowds at the Republican National Convention, on July 19, 2016, crowds chanted, “Lock her [Hillary Clinton] up,” as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn spoke, I was so horrified. I remembered what Biden said, “We have to take off the social blinders that make it easy to overlook violence.”

Yet, Flynn went along, and he said, “Yes, lock her up,” as the Los Angeles Times reported on July 22, 2016, including “having Hillary shot for treason.” Even the media relished reporting it, without any condemnation of these crude and “bastos” (offensive) actions.

If these chants from ill-advised delegates were tolerated at the Republicans’ political convention, should we now be surprised that the legislators are being asked to resign, both Democrats and Republicans, from Congress and California’s state Legislature in 2017?

Or that Hollywood has censured Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, among many others?

On Thursday, Dec. 13, 2017, Dan Johnson, an American evangelical pastor and Republican member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, committed suicide, after being accused by Maranda Richmond (now 21 years old), of kissing her and fondling her underneath her clothes when she was just 17 years old. He also made a racist post comparing former Pres. Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to monkeys. Privileged and racist behaviors are at times, twins of sexist behaviors.

“Privilege is invisible only until looked for, but silence in the face of privilege sustains its invisibility. Silence is the lack of sound and voice. Silence may result from a desire for quiet; it may signify intense mental concentration; it may also arise from oppression or fear. Whatever the reason, when there is silence, no criticism is expressed. What we do not say, what we do not talk about, allows the status quo to continue,” writes Stephanie Wildman and Adrienne D. Davis.

Time Magazine’s ‘silence breakers’

Time‘s Persons of the Year are five women with these descriptors: Isabel Pascual (a strawberry picker who spoke out against harassment), Adama Iwu (a California lobbyist who led a charge to call out harassment in state politics), Ashley Judd (an actor who publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of harassment), Susan Fowler (a software engineer whose blog exposed Uber’s toxic culture), Taylor Swift (singer-songwriter who countersued her groper for $1 and won) and Anonymous (the hospital worker who reported her office harasser but still fears consequences).

Note that the 45th resident in the White House tweeted on Nov. 24, 2017, “Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named ‘Man (Person) of the Year’ like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot.”

How presumptuous is that tweet to assume a national magazine would have you on their year’s cover?

Time Magazine created a timeline for 2017, when the first whistleblower for sexual harassment came from Summer Zervos on Jan. 17, followed by Susan Fowler, a former software engineer for Uber who revealed a toxic culture that saw the removal of the CEO and 20 more.

Each month, a courageous woman breaks her silence, including hotel housekeepers who would clean rooms, only to see the male guest masturbating in front of them that would make them leave the room in a hurry. One said: What makes them think that with their hotel fees include sexual services?

By October, it had included Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie exposing Harvey Weinstein, a rainmaker of Hollywood, and Hollywood responded swiftly, removing him from the Academy membership and fired from his firm.

Time Magazine analyzed #Me Too as: “Yet it doesn’t have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet. The hashtag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #Balance-TonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.”

Is 45th’s presumption a form of male privilege?

Or of the 45th president stealing a kiss on Rachel Crooks’ lips, as she casually converses with him a decade ago, as reported by Vanity Fair. “She’s told the story of what happened after that too many times to count, and now she retells it quickly, in shorthand: They shook hands, and then he gave her a double-cheek kiss, which is something she’d come to expect from important New York men and thought of as totally normal. Not so normal was the way that Trump kept kissing her on each cheek over and over, in between saying things like, ‘Where are you from? You should be a model. Do you know I have my own agency?,’ and then kissing her on the lips. Then he went up the elevator. (Trump has denied all allegations of sexual impropriety),” the report said.

The Huffington Post on Dec. 12, 2017 published a list of 21 women who came forward alleging Trump of sexual misconduct. The Atlantic listed 19 women, while The Independent reported 17 women. CNN cataloged 15 women.

When taken in the context of the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged to Billy Bush about how he groped women because of his celebrity status, the statements of these women appear credible: from unsolicited kissing on the lips, to reaching down under skirts to grab genitalia, grabbing their breasts, grabbing their buttocks, even his own former wife, Ivana Trump’s marital rape allegations in her own book, as well as walking unannounced on several teens who were naked in the Miss Vermont Teen USA in 1997 to a Miss USA pageant room in 2000.

Could these patterns of maldevelopment from someone unformed by normal interactions with one’s parents to recognize what is appropriate conduct, or not, to know what boundaries are, to know how not to take advantage of someone else’s body?

#MeToo in Filipino-American community

But isn’t that the mental attitude of men who grope women? Or the pastor of a Filipino evangelical church who raped a demure, shy Filipina parishioner one evening decades ago?

I was helping inventory the assets of a non-profit about to move to another facility. Constance — as we will call her in this piece — confided that she has been raped by her own church’s pastor. I listened to her story and encouraged her to expose the pastor to the congregation, to take the microphone one church meeting and to muster all her courage to read what she wrote, and to include how she felt. She exposed the unlawful sexual abuse committed by her pastor. She broke her silence.

Imagine the twin feelings of outrage knowing that a shepherd of God ended up molesting his own sheep? The pastor was relieved of his duties. But, Constance’s trauma took time to heal.

Constance fell in love. For years, she could not bring herself to marry the love of her life, her tender-hearted best friend, who supports her and showers her with public gestures of affections: holding her hand, supporting her arm as she alights a vehicle and walks with her, as if a valuable treasure, and affirms her.

It was not till Constance was in the brink of a major surgery that she mustered the courage to trust again and to marry her best friend.

She had been able to turn her life into an inspiring one, as she became a pastor herself, giving her time and resources now to helping out students.

For all the criticisms being made against men in power, there are beings of light, the likes of Biden and even Warren Buffett, who have championed women empowerment. Language has something to do with their methods of empowerment.

Biden calls for our own consciousness to be alive and conscious, “It is on US!” to make a woman feel safe on American campuses.

Warren Buffett — who mentors women on growing their business skills under the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 women, a global program of entrepreneurship — said, “Entrepreneurship is all about perseverance, about believing enough to withstand anything or everything that comes your way.”

A human being must feel secure that her dignity is not diminished by creeps who take liberties to grope women’s bodies and some men, as well.

I was witness to a Sony senior executive say to a man in a public gathering: “What gives you the right to address this woman in that tone and language?” It made the man stop bullying his partner in this executive’s presence.

It is all on us to keep us all safe and secure. It is recognizing #MeToo no longer means to be silent, as silence enables the bullies to walk around, entitled to harm the next human being! It is on us to make sure that they are not in public service or positions of leadership, inflicting harm on folks they have power over and even stranger to them!

As American abolitionist Maria Weston Chapman once said, “Let us rise in the moral power of womanhood; and give utterance to the voice of outraged mercy, and insulted justice, and eternal truth, and mighty love and holy freedom.”

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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