#MeToo

In the immediate aftermath of the daily increasing revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long sexual predation against women, the #MeToo campaign was launched with a simple, straightforward, profoundly compelling message:

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

Carried aloft on the wings of social media, the response or rather, truly, sadly, the manifold responses of many, many women, some chronicling, detailing particular personal experiences of harassment and assault has been…is an unassailable testament to “the magnitude of the problem.”

My fear – perhaps, I confess, rooted in my prevailing pessimism about the perfectibility (or rather my persuasion about the imperfectability) of human nature – is that little to nothing will change; that, in days, weeks, months, years to come, #MeToo will have proven to be a powerfully cathartic, personally transformative, but not a communally revolutionary experience.

Why?

Because sexual predation, as, I believe, is true of all oppression, is an expression of the exercise of power, and…

Power is that capacity for one, always within the context of an enabling system, structure, society, to will and to do something, in this case, to harass and to abuse women, and…

As I read and reflect on human history, I cannot think of a time when the powerful, for the sake of the justice of equality, relinquished their privilege, however ethically bankrupt, to will and to do.

In the spirit of the Magnificat,[1] Mary’s song of praise to God in her reverent recognition of the One she bore in her womb, especially her words – He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly – I, in faith, hope, and love, shall pray fervently that I am wrong. For I, and I trust in league with many, many women and men, with the help of God and helping God, shall pray and labor for change.

 

Footnote:

[1] The full text of the Magnificat or The Song of Mary (Luke 1.46-55):

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.

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6 thoughts on “#MeToo

  1. Dear Paul,

    Even when I don’t always reply to your posts, I read them. It means so much to me to know of your faithful wrestling with the hard questions and issues that seem to come so close on each others’ heels these days that we can barely see where one ends (if it does) and the next one begins (as it always does!). The issue of the harassment and abuse of women is of course one that is very near, if not dear, to my heart. I myself experienced it countless times until I became the age where I turned “invisible,” which I would argue is another form of abuse visited particularly upon women as they age out of physical beauty by the world’s standards. Most of all, as the mother of a daughter I feel the dark threat of male power wrongly used to hurt, control, and render women and girls passive and powerless.

    I don’t want to respond particularly about despair about the abuse of male power against women being so entrenched as to likely be forever intractable and incurable, regardless of what happens. I feel somewhat more optimistic than you that things will gradually change as men come to recognize that women are no longer willing to keep silence and simply absorb the abuse. When men’s power is routinely threatened by the bright light of day shining on their weaknesses and pathologies, I do believe things will begin to change. It won’t be in our lifetimes, but I believe change will come. I believe much that we currently despair about will ultimately begin to change, unless humanity manages to do itself and the planet in before that can happen.

    What I really want to do is to offer you a prayer that came to me earlier in the week as I was reading my regular morning meditation from Richard Rohr. The prayer came in the context of a series of guest meditations by Cynthia Bourgeault that center on the thinking and writing of a man I’ve known about since I was in college, but have never satisfactorily gotten my head around. I admire him and think he was one of the more innovative theological and scientific thinkers of the 20th century: Teilhard de Chardin. I will be very surprised if you don’t tell me that you have been fascinated by his ideas also. In any event, I pass this prayer on to you hoping it may serve as balm for you and others, as it did for me a couple of days ago, amid the despair and grief I know you feel so pointedly about the pain our world is undergoing daily. The first paragraph is Bourgeault’s brief introduction and context for the prayer.

    “The haunting prayer woven into Teilhard’s reflection on faith in The Divine Milieu makes clear that it is no cheap optimism he is dispensing here, but a wrenchingly honest acknowledgement of our human predicament and an unfailing fidelity to seeing God in every aspect of the earth, even in our human suffering:

    ‘Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal. . . . At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks—the thing which we try hard to forget is always there, separated from us by a flimsy partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces—these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love.
    Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this . . . teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.’”

    All I can say, dear Paul, in response to those words is “Amen.” Hard as it may be, still amen.

    With much love for your heart, your honesty, your earnestness, and your devotion,

    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.”

      Lord, have mercy, Karen, what, for me, a noble AND ignoble thought, concept, idea. To behold in the horrors we can (and will and do) know in this life the hand of God. Such a transformative, verily, healing perspective, surely insofar as we can prevent the terrible things that happen.

      And, yes, Teilhard de Chardin is one of my personal and theological heroes – though many years ago, at my first exposure to him, I beheld him as nearly unfathomable! – especially for the enlightenment I have relished through another of his seminal insights that we are no so much humans in search of spiritual experience as we are spiritual beings immersed in human experience.

      Blessings, my beloved sister, in our ongoing and earnest quest for meaning amidst the alienation and anomie of this age.

      Love and peace and perseverance,
      Paul

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      • I was thinking further about Teilhard’s prayer, and it came to me that seeing Jesus on the cross is be the only example I can think of that may have any hope of teaching us to see God concealed in great tragedy and great loss.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Karen! As another friend of mine pointed out, there, in Christ on the cross, is the Supreme example of power that relinquished power for the sake of the justice of equality and the equality of justice. Praise God!

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  2. Paul!!

    I copied your post into my phone and then read it and responded on the plane so I could paste it into this spot….. well best laid plans cause it’s not here.

    In any case what I tried to say is that I hope your wrong and that some good comes of this. Someone commented on your Facebook post that they have hope because some men responded to the #me too campaign that they had sexually harassed women themselves or had observed it but didn’t say anything.

    I think we fight POWER by Banding together, men and women and standing up to these bullies. I had two colleagues come to my defense when other men made sexual comments to me, and I’ll never forget that they did that for me. I hope more men do that in the future and that more women have the courage to come forward too (though I know the reasons they don’t want to)…. it’s so hard to fight power alone.

    That’s kind of the gist of my original posts… but I hope and pray that something comes of this and that we keep talking AND supporting those who are brave enough to admit what they’ve been through WITHOUT judgement.

    Much love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, I am invigorated by the responses to this blog post, even more by the responses to the issue at hand. To wit, there are many who are able and willing to stand up for themselves when harassed and abused and many who are able and willing to stand up for those harassed and abused and, at least, some who are able and willing to confess their past (and to disavow any future) harassment and abuse. I think of the words of the hymn: “Blessed be the ties that bind our hearts in mutual love.” May we all of goodwill continue to stand. Love

      Liked by 1 person

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