I can feel the energy of this moment. There are voices speaking out that never have before. There is a crumbling of the societal pact that violence against women is acceptable and should be “gotten over.”
I am not a victim of overt sexual violence. I can’t point to any one specific incidence in my life and call it “sexual assault.” As such, I’ve considered myself more of an outsider – an ally to women who are survivors of gender-based violence, but not a “survivor” myself. I call myself a feminist, but I have, in fact, lived most of my life only semi-conscious about what it means to identify as a woman.
Last week, that changed. As I read other women’s stories of abuse inspired by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s brave testimony, something inside of me broke open. I found myself crying at their stories, but my tears were about more than empathy. They were tears of personal pain. I was feeling the trauma of my own lived reality as a woman.
All of a sudden, I could see the thousands of little ways I’d internalized patriarchy and sexism – the avoidance of conflict, not taking up space, not sharing my truth, caring too much about how I look, dismissing the pain of inappropriate comments or sexist jokes, being overly caregiving and self-sacrificing – and how these ways of being shaped my life.
In seeing these examples of my own internalized oppression, I felt a deep sadness followed by outrage. But outrage toward whom? This system damages us all (women and men). It imprisons us with its ideas about who we’re supposed to be, what’s acceptable, who’s deserves what, etc. My passive participation enables it to continue.
Systemic trauma is real. I study it and talk about it in my workshops. I often bring up examples of racism, white supremacy, and intergenerational poverty. I talk about how these systems of violence traumatize individuals and groups, and that trauma shows up in their bodies and brains. But I never flipped the mirror around. I never fully acknowledged that the systemic trauma of sexism lives within me, too, in this woman’s body.
I am grateful to the many women who are boldly facing and sharing their own trauma right now. They’ve empowered me to see mine. And they empower us to see that #MeToo goes beyond specific incidences of gender-based violence. We are a collective of survivors challenging a common perpetrator – slowly dismantling this massive system of violence, one #MeToo at a time.
The Power to Be Blog explores the use of mindfulness in shifting both individual and collective awareness toward a more just and loving world.
Grace Helms Kotre, MSW, shares mindfulness as a tool for empowerment with youth and adults in schools, organizations, businesses, and private lessons. Grace sees mindfulness as a radical and powerful tool for promoting justice, healing trauma, and bringing greater peace into our daily lives.