It is a fact that women of color are the most violently targeted people in the world
Does the #MeToo movement apply to women of color?
So, what about the #MeToo movement and what does it mean to women who have, since the beginning of time, lacked representation, lacked inclusion and had no voice? Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced. The message #MeToo sent to a woman of color is, if you are wealthy (influential) and white, people will listen because you matter.
When you are white and aggrieved, people will hear you. They will hear your outcries, they will hear your protest, they will share on their social media platforms by the millions and yes - it will go viral. People will shout it from the tallest mountains and untorn every stone because you are white, and you are important enough. The world has no choice but to pay attention, and now get angry, because you are Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Fowler, Ashley Judd, McKayla Maroney, Jennifer Lawrence, or Uma Thurman, and how dare these men treat you that way.
Wasn't it an African-American woman by the name of Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, who founded the #MeToo movement over a decade ago in 2006? She used it for the same exact reason: to raise awareness of sexual abuse, rape and assault on women. Could Tarana have been louder? Possibly, but non-white women are told to be quiet when we feel wronged.
Women of color, especially black women, have been reporting harassment, rape and more since the beginning of time, and have always been silenced.
When actress Ashley Judd stood up against Harvey Weinstein, the cry of #MeToo caught fire. It was a breaking story and in all the headlines. Not to mention the shock, when we hear that good ole Matt Lauer was fired and must go. What was new about this story this time? Most women I've talked to have experienced some level of sexual harassment in the workplace and in society. Time Magazine even went as far as doing a cover called the “Silence Breakers," naming the #MeToo movement as Person of the Year. So now, in 2017, it's okay to be a silence breaker and say to the world, that sexual harassment and rape is not okay… what took so long?! It is a fact that movements are highly successful when combined with power and influence, and the world has always told women of color that they have none. What happens to a culture that has been victimized, shut out, shunned, and silenced? They lose their voice, they feel weak, and they fear speaking up when marginalized, discriminated against, and told to be quiet. The mindset is because you don't look like us, your voice doesn't matter and how dare you question it. For a fact, non-white women do not have a platform and black voices are discredited.
Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled four hours a day (two hours each way) for 8 years, just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support, and resources for African Americans are disparate.
Racism is real, still alive today, and institutionalized, which contributes to why no one was paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African-American women in decision making roles, power, and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand for change.
Being an African-American woman, you are made aware of the challenges and oppositions early. As a child, I traveled two hours a day (a total of 4 hours daily) - for 8 years- just to get a quality education. It was evident to me that education, access, opportunities, support and resources for African Americans are disparate. Racism is real, still alive today and institutionalized, so, whose paying attention to a hashtag or a slogan from a young black woman named Tarana from the Bronx. Combine that with the lack of African American women in decision making roles, power and access. Awareness and empathy must go hand and hand.
This #MeToo movement is no different than most historical feminist movements, which contain active racism, and have typically ignored the needs of non-white women even though women of color are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment. Let's change the benchmark and correct actions of wrong, from not just hearing the voices of privileged white women, but to hearing the voices of black women. It is by doing this that we will make a mark and the world will win.
Of course, women of color care about the #MeToo movement (we've always cared) BUT we've never been heard. When there is no power and influence behind the message, who's listening? One thing for sure is that black women have always advocated for human rights, injustice, and social justice – before it was popular to do so. There would be no #MeToo movement without black women. Let's hope that society be willing to listen the next time non-white women speak up the first time.
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Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.