Jim Ellis Editor, Legacy Magazine
“Show some balls and ask me out.” That’s what she said. Even though we were at our job at a local healthcare organization, this coworker blurted it out on the phone. So what did I do? Sure, I asked her out. That was in 1999.
Flash forward to 2007. I was talking with a peer in a non-profit organization, asking her if she wanted to be part of a marathon team I was creating in honor of my mother’s health issues. I commented that she seemed athletic with a strong physical body and legs. Not the smartest thing for a man to say to a woman. But harassment? Sure! That’s what she said. Not to me of course, but to our mutual client at the time.
As demonstrated by these two scenarios, what is one to think in terms of sexual harassment – how is it defined? Can it happen to men as well as women, or does a double standard exist, rightly so?
Such questions arise whenever I start to see those now trending hashtags #metoo, the social media phenomena started after the sexual harassment accusations surfaced involving movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Women (and some men) started using #metoo to signify they too were victims of sexual abuse, rape or sexual harassment.
First off, it must be said that any sort of abuse is dreadful. And actual sexual abuse and rape is most definitely horrific. I should know, I’ve been on the victim side of sexual abuse as a child.
However, when reading of the #metoo comments on social media, the question arises for me … me too what?
I am all for people standing up and telling the truth about their own pain and abuse. That leads the way to awareness as well as healing. However, the movement for me is too vague and general. Are people saying “me too” about being raped, sexually abused or sexually harassed? Is it just a movement for women being abused by men in general? How are we defining “harassment?” That makes a difference.
I can point to a handful of times women “harassed” me, pushed beyond a clear boundary, using certain language as I mentioned in the earlier story. Am I allowed into the circle? If I were allowed in, I would imagine that there might be more people who have been harassed than who have not. Then where are we?
On a related note, there are even a number of occasions of false accusations when women have pretended that a husband had abused her or the children to get her way in family court. This truly opens up the can of worms … which may be the overriding point. Many people have been hurt and may still be carrying that hurt in silence. But with this trending hashtag, perhaps the pain doesn’t have to be silenced any longer.
Given the full spectrum of this trending topic, I have a vision of what I would love to see:
- A movement where people – men and women – stand up and proclaim, “I will not use any sort of leverage over another person for my own benefit.”
- Situations handled on a case-by-case basis where transgressions are openly disclosed in a safe setting, doing away with the subtle “us vs them” divisiveness that can arise with general blanket statements.
- Real statistics clearly representing the number of actual cases of abuse, perpetrated by both men and women.
- Due process for anyone accused of wrongdoing, holding to the “innocent until proven guilty” principle that has defined American freedom for so long.
- Sacred spaces of healing where both genders can be given a chance to address the pain from the past, and then take their power back towards a positive future.
- The recognition and acknowledgment of the men who have fought the good fight for respectful relations.
For the countless honorable men who own their masculinity in a way that respects women, cherishes women and fights for “a world where Honor, Selflessness, Commitment, Integrity, Training, and Learning give men the wisdom and courage to serve all men, women and children for the betterment of humanity” … I believe we’re going to need a new hashtag.
MDI, the international men’s organization that owns such a vision statement, has been supporting a higher purpose and has taken a stand for every community member for two decades. And it isn’t done having its positive impact.
Talk about having some balls.