We cannot “#metoo” and leave our weeping behind

Which comes first, the weeping or the story?

#metoo has me asking: where do we bring our stories of misogyny into the daylight?  On social media? by filing legal charges? testifying in a court of law or a legislative hearing? sitting with a therapist, a friend over coffee, strangers (but not) in a support group? via text message, Facebook post, letter to the editor?

And how do we bring our stories out, pull the words up from our guts and out of our mouths? dry-eyed and reportorially? in a whisper? with weeping and railing? with what combination of anger and anguish?

I have thought a lot about modesty over the years – what gets exposed where, whether it’s a woman’s skin, a woman’s heart, a woman’s pain. Truths are being exposed. Must they also be an exposé?

Women are blowing the lid off generations of stories of suffering at the hands of a certain class of abusers of power. Frat boys. Good ‘ol boys. Locker-room buddies. Rich guys. Formerly adulated “stars” of screen and turf. A friend and I concluded ruefully that the US economy would tank if every guy who had sexually harassed, stalked, cornered, or violated women were fired from their jobs.

The public naming/shaming of these men is a lurid shadow of the shame that reinforced women’s silence. Condemnation by other men – the public distancing from the contaminated, is a lurid shadow of the isolation of every woman who bears her story, told or untold.

There are many possible outcomes of the above strategies. A woman might garner some mix of relief, validation, the protection of other women, closure, shaming, revenge.

 

But how do we heal?

How do we consecrate these stories, these bodies and psyches, these women, our sisters, holy each and every one?

For me it starts with weeping, weeping together as we women encircle one another with kindness and every bruise-healing balm we can muster.

 

And here lies a brutal challenge to my full humanity.

Can I –  who was raised to consider men irrelevant at best and fools at worst – loosen the bonds of my own identity just a bit?

Can I lay down my sword and shield for a sacrosanct second or two?

Can I weep for the offending men too, my brothers, who are so lost to themselves?

I think I could get there if the men in my life were ready to ready to weep with me.

And that is my human imperfection, not theirs.

Thank you to my women friends who come bearing gifts

From birth to death, life is a messy proposition. Sanity, strength, hilarity, tears: I get through one thing after another thanks to my women friends who come bearing gifts and sorrows for one another.

This poem is for you, my true goddsibbs.

 

Birthing room etymology

by Sara Eisenberg

 

On any given day

I ponder

your dear faces:

you

and you

and you,

my godsibbs,

women I would invite

into my lying-in room,

my dying-in room

where fluids leak

sour, briny, pungent.

You have your wits about you,

words precise, blessed, musical,

walk right into trouble,

knives

at the ready,

to cut or cut out,

needles

at the ready

to mend or embellish,

soft cloths and lavender water

at the ready

to cool a feverish brow.

Your strewing herbs are

affection, regard, discretion –

with them you refresh the air, comfort us

in this dark, warm chamber.

Through what meanness,

incomprehension,

listening at the keyhole,

did affections thus exchanged

become idle, trifling,

and the speakers

thereof

common

gossips?

 


Image is fabric on canvas by Kenneth Ngosi that I photographed at the Hillsborough, NC Gallery of Arts.