After reading an article I got in a comment battle with another woman over how women should respond to sexual harassment and assault. She was very focused on offering empathy and sitting up all night with a woman who has been hurt. To her offering empathy and understanding is what empowered women do.
To me, empowered women do a lot more – they also take a stand and pursue justice. An empowered woman, after sitting up all night listening to her hurt friend, goes out the next morning and starts the process of getting justice. She is her advocate. Sher puts her empathy, caring and understanding into action to help her friend get the justice she deserves.
The other woman focused on being a victim and creating a lot of energy around those feelings of being a victim. But putting a lot of energy into that state perpetuates that state. And as the author of the article also discussed it is hard not to be affected yourself by the story of others and let it drag you down.
To me, we need to put the energy towards healing and moving beyond the incident so it doesn’t permanently alter our lives in a negative manner. I think of these incidents as someone pushing you down and infusing you with lots of their negative energy. Our recovery process has to focus on working our way back up, ejecting their negativity and replacing it with our own positive energy.
I have always found that standing up for myself and pursuing justice works miracles in speeding up the recovery process. It gets me and the energy moving in the right direction. Sometimes the justice process is swift and easy, sometimes it is really hard but you keep moving forward. If you are lucky enough to have an advocate she ensures you keep taking steps forward, even if they are baby steps.
When I feel I got the justice I deserve, I feel empowered and strong. This is why I don’t reflect back on my career and see a long list of harassment, discrimination or unfair incidents. I see challenges and obstacles that made me stronger and more confident. They are a reminder that men don’t have power over me.
The subtext of the other woman’s comments (and what really fired me up) was that it implied that when men act inappropriately, empowered women only respond in an emotional manner with empathy and understanding. Change can only come when men decide to change their own actions. Until then, it is women’s duty to keep pouring out the empathy and understanding to other women.
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the stereotypes?
Men act. Women are emotional.
What about women taking action?
After reading many comments on many posts, it seems that many women don’t believe or don’t want to believe that women have the power to act and influence men to change their actions.
Our society is conditioned to believe women won’t act. It believes if we give women their #MeToo moment to vent, appease them emotionally, sacrifice a few men, then eventually women will sit down, shut up and go away.
We conditioned men to believe they just have to wait it out. They don’t have to change because women aren’t going to do anything to make them change. Women aren’t going to impose consequences.
If women want real and lasting change in men’s behavior, then women have to stop just talking and empathizing. We need to act by standing up for ourselves, pursuing justice and imposing consequences.
But again, from reading through lots of comments, there are a lot of women who don’t want us to see women as actors and doers because it then makes women responsible and accountable for their own actions. In every incident they want women to be seen as innocent little lambs who are attacked by the big bad wolf in order to put 100% of the focus on men’s actions.
They don’t want us to ask “Why did you go up to his hotel room? Why did you get drunk with those guys? Why did you let him in?”
I can hear women screaming now “You want to bring back Victim Blaming!”
I want women to understand the negative consequences of us denying our action, responsibility and accountability.
An innocent little lamb is like a dependent child who needs others to protect and take care of it. That image reinforces the stereotypes, the patriarchy and the subjugation of women. It is not an image of an empowered woman who exercises her equality to men.
Empowered women aren’t afraid to admit their mistakes. Fear of Blame is a guy thing because men are afraid to be vulnerable. Unfortunately they’ve transferred it to women and use it against us as victim blaming.
Men use our 10% mistake to intimidate us into not exposing their 90% mistake.
We need to get wise to this and stop falling for it.
I’m not afraid to expose my mistake and take my 10% of accountability. If anyone wants to victim blame me then my response is “I know I’m not perfect. I am human. We all make mistakes.” Then I give them the look that says “Shall we discuss your long list of mistakes?”
This attitude let me to file an 80 page complaint against a serial abuser in which I included all of my dirty laundry. Not only was the serial abuser addressed but the company instituted a lot of policy changes to prevent the abuse he doled out.
I know I keep harping on how important your attitude and perspective are to standing up for yourself (and others) and getting justice. This is why you can’t see yourself as a powerless victim.
Several years ago I was sexually harassed at work and filed a complaint. My complaint was not kept confidential. Luckily someone who received it intervened and stopped a subsequent email that would have made it public.
I was horrified, disgusted and angry. As I drove home from work, I realized I was victimized – twice. I got very upset. After wallowing in my victimization for 20 minutes I thought “What the hell do I have to be ashamed of? I didn’t do anything wrong. The man who breached my confidentiality after being instructed to protect it was who was wrong.” (My harasser was already fired.)
I realized how thinking of myself as a victim disempowered me. So I picked up the phone, called the appropriate person and got my justice.
That was the only time in my career I ever associated myself with “victim.”
I prefer to be a justice seeker and someone who always stands up for what is right. I found there is a lot of power in that.
And that probably explains why women are discouraged from believing in their power to act, their power to influence men and their power to invoke consequences.
Empowered Women Put Their Empathy into Action
Find this article helpful?
Sign up to receive more