I’m not sure how to feel. When someone shares their stories with you and it catches you off guard.
The stories of sexual harassment and abuse within their workplace. Their workplace, a place people go to heal and be made whole. An environment that usually leans to goodness, at least in our minds anyway. And then there are the very real stories from my sisters about what they face, weekly, sometimes even daily.
So, let me tell it to you straight. Old white men, from the age of 50 and upward grabbing their breasts, their bums, trying to kiss them, making sexual jokes and rude remarks. And there is nowhere to turn to, no one who bothers to help because the boss is an old white man, who does the same just undercover.
When did it become entitlement that men think they own the right to women’s bodies? And where do we as women go to, where do we turn to because our jobs become endangered when we speak the truth. Not our truth, but the truth.
And then another beautiful woman tells me about the ongoing cases of sexual abuse and assault in the film industry in South Africa. Little do we know that we have our own Harvey Weinstein case on the go in South Africa, right now as we speak. Are we hearing about it? No. Are we being exposed enough to what is happening? No.
I’m so aware of the changing world around us. We have #metoo and #timesup, we have a changing world right in front of us, we feel it, we hear about it and we know it. Yet, how do we apply it to our own lives and our own situations. I once applied the power of my voice when a man whistled at me while I was parked at a traffic light, I screamed at him and just literally lost my furious mind. He was shocked. But I never knew about the power of my voice when I was growing up. Instead, I too have felt the unmistakeable realities of male entitlement. The unwanted realities that characterise most, if not all of our stories as women. It has taken other stories, other women and sisters to help me realise that I have a voice and I can use it. I can get furious, and mad and loose it at the men who still feel entitled. Because they are not. Their displays of gross power reveal deep childish powerlessness. This afternoon I am mad, my madness often exposes itself with tears. So here I am tearful, because two of my close friends are survivors of rape and they face their rapist often at the same parties. Five of my friends (and counting) are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And I look in to their eyes and freaking just see beauty and goodness, and greatness and wonder and magnificence and yet they have these scars and we hate it, together. And its their story that matters. It’s the story of women working daily, right now in places where harassment is just normal. It’s the women whose stories are reality, these are not just sentences and verbs and retellings, this is reality. It is still happening, and just because we are rising up we cannot think we have arrived. We need to continue and the truth is we need real men to do something about this with us. And this same woman who just shared her stories with me this morning, told me that another man apologised to her after he heard the rude remarks she was getting from another old man.
He wasn’t the perpetrator of the harassment and assault, but he felt the shame of it. She also told me when she faced harassment at school, her boyfriend filed a complaint because she was too scared to. It’s not that women need men to save them, it’s that we all need to work together to stop exploitation. We also need women to speak up and tell their stories to the younger generation of women. We need to tell our girls something I was not told growing up, that you can shout, scream, get angry and go crazy if a man treats you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable. You do not have to agree to anything you don’t like. We all know it’s a lot more complex then that, but most importantly we need to be the safe space for someone else to share their story with us, or to come to and tell us that somethings not right before it begins. We have to use our voice, we have to take action. It has to continue, this rising up and we have to get angry so much so that it moves us to action. Now.