November 19, 2017

True Colors

It can be heartbreaking when someone you like turns on you—but, when it comes down to it, it's a blessing.

Some people manage to get by wearing a mask of kindness or intelligence or charm—and even if their humor is occasionally blue, in general, they can seem innocuous.

But, as appearances aren't always what they seem, those well-liked and often respected people are actually the worst. Because underneath it all, they're red with rage, green with envy, yellow with fear, or black with hate.

Sometimes, they're a rainbow of all those things.

And when they finally show their true colors to you, well, it's better that you find out who they really are rather than be blindsided by it in a worse way later on.

No matter how much it may hurt.

There are certain times in life that bring out the worst in people. A death in the family, for example, is likely to tear even close siblings apart—especially when combined with yet another source of divisiveness, which is a fight over money.

And there's a reason why they say you should never discuss politics or religion. Both of those can really bring out the beast within.

Unfortunately, as I've discovered over the last few years, the same principle applies to the topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

As a general principle, I embrace spirited debate. I don't think everyone needs to agree with me, and I don't expect to agree with everyone else.

We are stronger in our diversity. And as long as the disagreement moves the conversation forward, it's OK.

It's better to talk about it than not talk about it. The secrecy and the silencing that surround these horrors just make the trauma worse and the problem more insidious.

So, I've braved the masses by speaking out about my own experiences in this arena, in hopes that I can give voice to those thoughts, feelings, and events that some others might not be able to so easily articulate. It's a dangerous path to follow, but it always seemed like the benefits to others outweighed the risks to myself.

Previously, it's aways been strangers or casual acquaintances who've belittled my experiences or blamed the victim—that is, blamed me for the abuse that's befallen me. And I've swiftly blocked them or removed them from my life. It hurts to hear things like "What did you think would happen?", but ultimately, you move past it and you make sure you never see that person again.

It's different when it comes from someone in your inner circle—maybe not a close friend per se, but a good friend of a good friend, someone who's around a lot and who might throw some cash your way if you were desperate.

And that's exactly what happened to me this week.

It's taken me a couple of days to wrap my head around the circumstances, but thanks to giving it some careful thought, I've come up with two helpful conclusions.

First, this person is not important enough to me to make me cry the way I did.

And second, it has nothing to do with me. This is all on them.

The statement I felt compelled to respond to was this:
"Let's not listen to the women who actually worked with him... Let's listen to an Ex-hooters waitress, Playboy bunny who has flashed her T and A for a living.... I've spent too much time with the Male species to know that Frat boy behavior is indemic [sic] in our culture and the male species.....sorry women...but men are pigs...not excusing it..just calling it what it is.... She wasn't a lily in the night."
This type of commentary sets a dangerous precedent and makes a slippery slope argument. Sure, there may be other reasons to discredit a woman who has claimed harassment or assault from a coworker. She may not be trustworthy at all.

But even sluts can be harassed and assaulted. And shaming them doesn't help.

So, while reading lots of comments and replies—some in agreement, others in vehement disagreement—I researched and verified the facts.

And after formulating my own opinion, I responded thus:
"Honestly I find your perspective on this appalling and disturbing and while I really am trying to understand where you're coming from, I think this is a very clear illustration of why this is still a problem and why it may always be.... There are untold numbers of people getting groped without their consent out there -- awake and asleep, male and female, gay and straight -- and it can very easily become a slippery slope argument....This was clearly "blue" humor but how many of these people would say "I was just joking"? Legally, the line is usually drawn at consent -- something that can't happen while you're asleep, high, drunk, or underage."
And furthermore:
"'Senstivity training' in a professional environment would tell you to not go there, at all, ever. No jokes, no comments about appearance, no questions about dating or romance or sex or anything. I really don't think any industry is or should be exempt from that -- entertainment, hospitality, sports, none of it. Even in the porn industry, if someone penetrates you while the cameras are NOT rolling and WITHOUT your consent. That's rape. It doesn't make it not rape just because you're a porn actor or even just because you may have had sex with the person in the past. (And that's an argument that dates back at least to the late 1970s/early '80s when judges had to be convinced that it was possible for a husband to rape his wife.)"
And finally:
"There's a lot to unpack here, and being a blowhard about it isn't helping. And I'm betting that I'm not the only female Facebook friend of yours that feels alienated and retraumatized by this thread."
I am somewhat of an authority on this matter, unfortunately. I've attended mandatory, staff-wide sensitivity training. I've worked in multiple industries, including entertainment. And I have been victimized by coworkers, bosses, classmates, dates, and friends.

Yet the person who I dared call out on the carpet, in a classic show of narcissism and lack of empathy, made it all about him, accusing me of vilifying him with rage. He reached out to me privately and told me I shouldn't have commented at all. And he scoffed at the notion of retraumatizing me.

At first, I chalked it up to a misunderstanding, so I tried to explain myself. I hadn't been angry at him for what he said. I just thought he was horribly and dangerously wrong.

But the more I responded to him with compassion and clarity, the more vitriolic he became. And then, of course, he pegged the vitriol on me.

He was so accusatory, in fact, that I told him he was scaring me.

His response? In essence: Give me a frigging break.

As horrible as I thought what he posted was, I hadn't been angry at him for that. This is a self-professed "progressive" father and husband who has marched for women's rights, so I thought that his intentions might have been good but that he'd been misled or misguided somehow, that his sense of feminism had somehow been warped in the heat of the moment.

But instead of illustrating a bad thing that someone may have done, he got trapped in that old virgin/whore complex.

It's understandable, and I can't even really blame him for that. This is why we speak up. Silence reinforces the misinformation.

What I can blame him for, however, is his abhorrent behavior in the aftermath. I didn't deserve to be attacked or belittled. Not for what's happened to me, and not for talking about it.

But that's what showed me his true colors. And for that, I'm grateful—despite the tears and the trauma.

Because this is not a person I want in my life.

Related Posts:
Don't Blame It On Me
Open Letter to Our New President

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