“Me too” or ~ #MeToo spread virally as a two word hashtag on social media this month (October 2017) to denounce sexual assault and harassment. The context for this is the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Obviously similar allegations have recently been made against the current president of the US, Donald Trump.
The phrase was coined to be used in this particular sense by social activist Tarana Burke as part of an awareness campaign in 2016. More recently it was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano who encouraged women to “tweet” (repost and publicize this on social media) to demonstrate the widespread nature of abuse and misogynistic behaviour. Millions of women, including many celebrities, responded to this call.
So this month has seen the mushrooming of this phenomenon. I have been observing this with fascination (and admiration for the collective courage in action!) and some misgivings both. I chose not to participate and this article explains my reasons for that, first posted as a blog and now rewritten for Pagan Pages, with additional paragraphs addressing some issues raised by people who responded to the original blog.
First a misconception: I was under the impression that the original post asked women to post “me too” if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted at any time during their lives. I was informed that the original campaign invited both men and women to participate. I did not see any posts by men, so I assumed it was an “all women phenomenon”. I admit that I should have done my research before writing about the subject!
I have been trying sort out my personal take on this tidal wave phenomenon. I appreciate that awareness of issues often needs to mushroom to reach a (so called) tipping point or critical mass, where real change can occur – as opposed to everything re-setting to exactly the way it was before a particular volcano erupted. From that point of view it is beautiful to watch the collective courage and candidness of many women (who do not even all know each other personally) in action. I want to acknowledge this fully and wholeheartedly!!
However, for me personally that is only one part of what is happening here .No “#Me Too” message has appeared on my own page. I am not denying that abuse occurred in my life too, but I decided quite a long time ago (after much soul searching and inner work) that I no longer wish to let this define me and who I am today.
Please note that I am only speaking for myself in this article – not for others. Some people suggested that I should have stayed silent and out of things completely. That is a fair point in some ways. In another way I feel that the Western World is (thankfully!) one of free speech. After weeks of reading stories about abuse and sexual assault, I also want to tell a story – a healing story, not a story that adds to the growing rift between men and women in our society. This my choice and reflects on me alone! No one is forced to read it!
As goes for everyone alive today: I became the person I am today because of a complex mix of experiences (some “good” and some “bad”, as viewed in our polarised world). Even the negative experiences brought me gifts – or forced me to develop my own innate gifts.
Someone (author Patricia Cori) ran a post in response saying women need to consider privacy and confidentiality issues before posting this where an awful lot of people can see it. Do we really want this information in the public eye and out there in the public domain?! I agree that this is an overlooked point here – but world history shows that extreme action sometimes brings lasting change. So I trust that women all over the world gave this serious thought before posting. Sometimes vulnerability paired with courage can be a great agent for change, a catalyst!
My own personal perception is that we are “all in this together” – meaning that, sadly, only very few women will escape harassment or abuse during their (average of) 84 years on the planet. Abuse is systemic in our family systems. (I am not saying this is OK or acceptable – I am just saying this is WHAT IS,the larger fabric of human history and reality).
Whatever our ancestors do not heal is passed on future generations because it seeks healing. And awareness of any issue (a “thank you for coming to attention and inviting me to decide on a response or course of action” – please see the other article I wrote for this same issue of PaganPagesOrg about Rage and Spiritual People) is the first step. Abuse, sexism, racism, misogyny, patriarchy etc. – all those things (and many others) are wired very deeply into our culture and family systems. Humanity is still in its relative infancy – we are only just learning different ways of being in the world.
Another issue I have with this phenomenon (as it unfolded, not as it was apparently intended) is that I am the sister of brothers – and the mother of sons. I have no (biological) sisters or daughters. Perhaps that has been a great privilege (or personal teaching) because living so close up to men and boys (in various stages of becoming) for all of my life, I am simply not able to make sweeping statements that all men are “in the wrong here”. I think that the issue is more complex than that. I will say the unspeakable here: women habitually abuse men too!
I am deeply moved by the process of my own eldest son (aged 17) navigating issues in his social circle with deep thought and integrity – always seeking to restore harmony.
As a shamanic practitioner I have done a lot of shamanic healing work with men (and men attend my classes in shamanism). I know only too well that men and boys too get harassed and raped. That “soft or pretty boys” do not always have an easy time of things. That “cooler boys” learn to put on an act in the outside world, (to stay safe and keep their street cred), etc… That co called ‘nerds’ find other ways again of being safe and accepted. That some young men grow up on the streets where “killing someone” is seen as a rite of passage and proof of reaching manhood.
We live in times of many hidden things being exposed and seeing daylight, which is an entirely good thing because that means they can no longer fester and the people responsible are finally held accountable (assuming they are still alive). Here I am thinking of many media stories of priests abusing children (commonly young boys). The Church actively covered up such stories for many centuries and that is not right on any level! The Church is now being held accountable for this. About time too!
Some men certainly harass women and others go as far as assaulting them, or making their lives impossible in the workplace. I do not remotely deny this. Then there are the men who abuse their wives and children but keep their nose clean outside the home so no one knows what is really going down. There definitely is a HUGE hidden dimension to this phenomenon and that secrecy has now been pierced and penetrated so it can no longer veil or shroud abuse. For that I thank everyone who found the personal courage to speak out!!
BUT there is yet another dimension to this.
I have personally worked with men who thought they were having safe sex with a partner they trusted and the woman (often with a biological clock ticking ominously) decided to try for a baby. These men end up in highly challenging scenarios: parenting and financially supporting children they did not truly want (or actively decide to have). Not a great start for a father-child relationship. Some men had really wanted to father the child properly but the woman moved to another area, took another partner and denied the birth father access. I have worked with men who were buckling under the pressure of producing a baby (by partner and prospective grandparents) yet having a deep inner knowing that this was not the right path for them.
In shamanic healing sessions men have cried bitter heartfelt tears and pummelled a pillow with rage – because of all these scenarios they were lured into, or that crept up on them over time until they couldn’t see an honourable way out (meaning that the way out takes the form of depression or a nervous breakdown).
To my mind this is just one way women “sexually abuse men”: by not being honest about the parameters and possible consequences of the encounter. And let’s face it, in Western culture birth control is freely available, meaning not all of these outcomes are “accidents”.
Someone wrote in and challenged me over this: was I saying that birth control is always the responsibility of the woman?! No! Of course it is a shared responsibility!! BUT it is perfectly possible for a woman to say she is on the pill – when she is not. It is perfectly possible to be less than meticulous about using the pill. In longer-term relationships people do not always use condoms.
I have been in social situations where women have shared (after a few glasses of wine) that they are desperate for that last minute baby (before the menopause hits). Other women (after a few glasses of wine) have said things like: “Well, you know what to do… grab yourself a man and get on with things….” I seemed to be the only person present (possibly having drunk fewer glasses of wine) having a big issue with that “solution”.
I have one brother who is an amazing, dedicated step father to one boy. He does many things for that boy that his biological father will not stretch to (including financially supporting him and sitting with him every night to help with homework tasks). He is a major healing influence in that boy’s life. That boy will do well in life because my brother took on the challenge of being a live-in step parent involved in his day-to-day care.
On a completely personal level (and this does not reflect on anyone else, just on me) I decided a long time ago that my life was no longer going to be defined by abuse. Any abuse that did occur was really a “something desperately seeking healing”. So my personal response to such things (whenever and wherever they rear their ugly head) is to respond from a place of sacred wholeness and wellness – and do the healing work that the issue requires. That may include doing ancestral work, doing shadow work, working closely with the earth, reaching out to people and places suffering in ways I have personal experience of. Most of the time my response needs to be (and is) a mix of all of these things.
Writing blogs and articles is also one way I choose to respond to issues of collective concern. This raised the accusation (in one Facebook thread) that I am “a self-appointed guru”. Right! That was an interesting issue to do shadow work on: I am, on a purely factual level, a self-employed teacher of shamanism and sacred art. I run my own school and teach courses all over the world. Those courses are attended by people who choose to be there, of their own free will, and learn ancient shamanic techniques for personal and global healing. I don’t think that makes me a “guru” but I will take that on the chin and say yes: the “guru” archetype is a scary shadow manifestation (one of many!!) of the spiritual teacher phenomenon. I spent about a week doing deep shadow work on that one! Thank you!!
And I now invite every reader of this article to do their own shadow work on this: be brutally honest with yourself… Have you never ever abused another human being? Have you never cursed anyone or spouted abusive language at anyone?! No road rage ever?! Can you not find within yourself some form (however mild) of the abuser archetype? – I f that is truly so, you are better (more evolved and serene) human being that me!
I hold a strong personal vision of all of us accessing healthy expressions of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine in our lives. I actively bring this into all the courses I teach and all the groups I work with.
I have personally come to believe that staying in wounded consciousness (and an over-attachment to painful experiences – which for some people can become an identity and way of life) will ultimately – when a lot of time has passed and all is said and done – just attract more of the same. We live in a vibrational universe where our own vibration or energy signature attracts “more of the same”, not unlike a reverse magnet. We had better change our personal vibration with great care!
I observe that our wounds (once worked, grieved, keened over and healed) can teach us about creating healthy reality – about actively choosing not to perpetuate the dysfunctional imprints so common in our social and family systems.
For all of these reasons you will not see #MeToo appear on my Facebook page or on Twitter. This is a very personal response to a phenomenon that touched my life too as many abuse stories have recently flooded into my consciousness. My own spiritual beliefs require that I formulate a response. Which I have now done – twice!
Thank you for listening to different perspective!
There is no pressure to agree or approve of it.
Be true to yourself!!
With gratitude to all the people who wrote in and challenged the blog that forms the heart of this article. It can be found here:
Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 26 October 2017
About the Author:
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016. She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She currently divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US.
For Amazon information, click image below.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)