The Other I

February 18, 2018

Not me too

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 10:00 pm
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A friend has just told me about an alternative feminist response to the #Me Too approach of the thousands of women who are describing sexual abuse which they have experienced.  She called this alternative Not Me Too.

I am astonished by the depth of my response to this alternative.  Yes, yes, yes!  Not Me Too doesn’t mean “I haven’t been abused.”  Nor does it mean that I’m not joining those who have been wretchedly abused, whether they are women, children, or even men.

Rather Not Me Too is a response that says “I will not be a Victim”.  I will fight, I will not hang my head in shame or fear of not being believed or of not getting whatever the abuser has to offer in exchange for my sexual acquiescence.  Not Me Too includes both males and females, young and old, celebrity or unknown, abused or not.  It is an approach that enables all of us to fight against abuse, and to give support and encouragement to whose abused who speak out against their treatment.

I said in a recent post, I have no doubt that sexual abuse is real, and I do not condone it.  But as I have said for years, this is not always a black-and-white question of pleasure-seeking men who have little respect for the opposite sex.  I lived through a period in my own life in which I was culturally naive and sent out signals to men that were misinterpreted.  I think sometimes I might as well have walked topless down Broadway in New York City in terms of the signals I was unwittingly sending.  And of course, there are not only cultural signals of which we are unaware, but children must learn the cultural norms in which they are growing up, and taking advantage of their innocence is, at best, the work of a damaged individual.

But what concerns me immensely about today’s #Me Too movement is that it suggests that the only response on the part of women who have been abused is that of victim, and men are always the perpetrators.  That is not so.  We don’t have to be victims.  We can fight back.  There are women who have said they will not advance their careers on their backs – that giving up one’s freedom in this regard is a ransom too high to pay for any amount of money or celebrity or professional success.  It may come with a high price to scream, to  kick, to lose one’s job, but there are those who will not be quiet if this kind of abuse is happening to them or to anybody they know.

Are there times when I would understand – and would support – a woman who uses sex to make money?  Yes.  I understand a mother with no other options who would use sex to get enough food for her children.  Or perhaps during war, to save a life of someone being unjustly threatened with death- a Jew perhaps.

That’s not what Not Me Too means.  It is not in favour of keeping females safe by hiding them away, by making it clear that they are never first in command, by limiting their education or even by refusing to let us, under appropriate circumstances, make our sexuality, and sexual preferences and desires clear.

It is about making women equal.  That does not mean wiping out our individual differences, whether they are based on biology or personal preferences.  Rather it is a commitment to listening, to reaching consensus rather than imposing sheer power, whether that power lies in physical, political, or economic strength.

I have just read the obituary of a woman who exemplified the Not Me Too philosophy, and I am in deep admiration and regard.  The Economist describes Asma Jahangir as “Pakistan’s loudest voice for democracy and human rights.”   (https://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21736994-pakistans-loudest-voice-democracy-and-human-rights-was-66-obituary-asma-jahangir-died)   She was an independent teenager, complaining at her convent school about the undemocratic selection of the head girl.  Later, as a mother even with a law degree she was forbidden to work.  So she set up the first all-women law firm, defending the helpless, such as girls raped and facing flogging, a young Christian boy facing the death penalty for scrawling on the wall of the village mosque.

It is worth going to Google Search and searching for Asma Jahangir.  She is a model I would offer to anyone.

6 Comments »

  1. Terry,

    Thanks for this post. I tried also to “like” it but wordpress would not accept my e-maill address.
    The mutual exercise of power between males and females and the characteristically submissive female responses designed precisely to outflank male power moves have been in the literary record since Ovid and Catullus. Thank you for clarifying: women do not need to use tactics that involve their submission ( feigned or not ) in order to defend themselves. They can do so directly, honestly and with full confidence on the support of the rest of human society, male and female, who are universally enjoined to pursue justice and protect the victims of abuse. Just as violence is never ended by violence, sexual manipulation is not ended by more sexual manipulation. Putting the discourse on the human plane is the way mature adults deal with these issues.
    Thanks again,
    Tony Equale

    Like

    Comment by Tony Equale — February 19, 2018 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Tony, for your feedback. I agree that working out male-female relationships goes back as far as we can see. Beyond, I think, even the Greeks. Beginning when we climbed out of the trees. But the development of civilization displacing the hunter-gatherers I suspect represents a major change. While women continued to need the skills possessed predominantly by males at that time, males were able to develop preferences for monogamy and in the process often developed the critically important parenting skills that only fathers can provide. I could not agree more that today putting the discourse between us on a mature human level is the only way forward. I may think, though, that we may have further to go than you do when you say we can have full confidence of the support of the rest of human society. As I look around the world, that does not always seem so to me. When women are flogged for fornication when they have been raped, I do not think they can speak out without fear.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I inevitably learn something from listening to them. Terry

      Like

      Comment by theotheri — February 19, 2018 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  2. Terry,
    Thanks for mentioning Asma Jahangir. One of the great privileges of my life was to have known her. I treasure her friendship, her vision, and what she taught me about courage. . . and I loved her wonderful sense of humor! I mourn her loss in a very personal way.
    One of my favorite pieces written about Asma was from Slate.com. Here is an excerpt
    “It’s easy, when going through Jahangir’s career, to feel like you are reading or typing an endless list of causes, achievements, and struggles. But the breadth of the battles she engaged in and causes she upheld are integral to understanding what was important to her and why she was so important to Pakistan.
    “Many Pakistanis—especially liberal or secular ones—often speak of politics with a practiced, amusing cynicism. That was never the case when anyone brought up Jahangir; she was spoken of reverently, with real awe. She must have had to make compromises in her life—as everyone does, especially if you want to get things done in a country like Pakistan—but she appeared as unsullied by hypocrisy as humanly possible.
    “And yet, if Jahangir occasionally seemed to have a saintly glow, she was also biting and funny in public. Heroes sometimes take the guise of apparitions or seem unwilling to get their hands too dirty. She was the opposite. There was nothing she wouldn’t push for. The amount of good work and courage she showed should make us all wince a little bit, because it is an uncomfortable reminder that we could all be doing a little more to make our countries better and fairer. How fortunate we are to live among people who will never stop fighting—at least until they are lost to us, much too soon.”
    Marge

    Like

    Comment by Marg Schuler — February 19, 2018 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comments, Marge. I was wondering when I read about Asma Jahangir if you possibly knew her. I can imagine why your mourn her loss in a very personal way.
      Terry

      Like

      Comment by theotheri — February 19, 2018 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  3. Another thought:
    By whatever name it is called, a powerful movement of women (in the US) is being born today. I believe this broader movement, which can’t be contained by a single label, is being sparked in part by women being fed up about not being believed (“me too” or “not me too”) and in part by the appalling reality that our country is being led by the misogynist Donald Trump and those in congress who support him. There are probably by many other influences, such as gun violence, but what is happening today is quite profound and at this point a reason for hope. Women are running for office in number never seen before, are speaking up as never before. Of course, they are not all the same and some of their messages may be flawed, but I can’t help but be hopeful that this movement can help turn things around in some important ways.

    Like

    Comment by Marg Schuler — February 19, 2018 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I too am cautiously hopeful…

      Like

      Comment by theotheri — February 19, 2018 @ 5:11 pm | Reply


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