Me Too

February 9th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some lessons are taught by the most ironic teachers. In this case, the TV sitcom Two and Half Men’s insights into the #metoo movement.

It was the episode when rampant womaniser Charlie Harper discovered the power of the phrase “I understand.” He realises that “it makes people happy” when he says it, so he says it non stop. But of course he used it to manipulate, use, silence and get what he wanted. Imagine this power being used for good.

We’ve all felt the liberating power of those two little words and their many variants.

I understand.

I get that.

That must be awful.

I can only imagine.

I hear you.

I think I might have just a hint of what that’s like for you.

You too?

Me too.

There isn’t much that is more reassuring than feeling understood.

In my opinion the world shifted on its axis a little when the #metoo meme went viral. I was equal parts shocked by the stories that came out, and incredibly inspired by the global outpouring of empathy, understanding and support.

And I’m not even surprised that #metoo has become bigger than sexual assault. It’s about empathy, and empathy shines a light on all sorts of injustice. If you care about the welfare of others, you want a strong welfare system. If you care about peoples health, you want them to have affordable health care. If you don’t want people to be overtaxed, then you speak up about tax reform. If you want all people to feel the refuge of community support, you care about immigration legislation.  All these issues are related, and are all held together by empathy.

#Metoo is a social and political movement with understanding at its heart.

Being understood is the essence of so much of our lives; empathy, respect, communication, friendship, negotiation, change.

You seek out dogs at parties to avoid talking to people? Me too.

A roaring Saturday night for you revolves around ice cream and Netflix? Me too.

You eat all your movie snacks before the opening credits? Me too.

You’re tired of hate? Me too.

You desperately want to be understood? Me too.

 

 

C S Lewis said,

Friendship … is born at the moment when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one

I just tried to grab one ice cube from a cup with my mouth, and 500 ice cube comrades fell all over my face in solidarity. You too? Please tell me you can relate.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who’s walked around half the day with toothpaste on my nose, my fly down and my shirt inside out. We want to know we’re not alone, not the only ones messing up this thing called life we make up from day by day.

“Me too” is the catch cry of human connection, when we truly see all the pain and glory and want only the best for each other. We listen to each other. We believe each other, believe IN each other. We feel each other’s pain. We see each other as worthy of love and respect.

Just imagine if we truly “saw” each other. So much hatred and abuse would instantly vanish. When you see someone as a fellow human being with a past, a family, pains, and hopes, you can’t do anything other than love and respect them.

Einstein’s circle of compassion makes so much sense to me.

Our task must be to free ourselves … by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

I can easily understand self defense. I value myself enough to not knowingly allow someone to hurt me. As a husband, it’s in my DNA to protect Meg from harm wherever possible. As a father I have no doubt I would die for my kids if I knew it could keep them safe. This inner circle of trust is a fortress. But Einstein’s challenge is to go a lot further; to include people you know and people you don’t know, people you like and people you don’t like, people you can relate to and people you can’t relate to, animal, vegetable and mineral.

There’s something even better than being understood and that is being genuinely listened to, believed, and supported without being understood.

Imagine if I didn’t have to be a husband, a dad or a brother to see every woman as someone’s daughter and sister, and as an individual worthy of care and respect.

Imagine if we looked at every person we saw (even in our minds) with compassion; the old, the young, the grief stricken, the angry, the confused. At some point, we have been or will be all of these things.

As Thoreau said,

Could a greater miracle (of love and understanding) take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

In fact as a man, my highest offering to the #metoo movement is to say #notme.

Not me………. I’ve never been assaulted or harassed. I ride trains without anyone staring at me. I walk down streets without being propositioned. I don’t understand what it’s like for women, but I hear your stories about harassment and worse. I believe you, and I stand with you because it’s just not acceptable.

To all the women who are coming out about abuse, my heart is with you. I appreciate you being honest but this is not your responsibility alone. This is on men. Maybe we need a new hashtag for men #wetoo. We understand. We too will solve this problem. Men have inherited centuries of conditioning that women exist for our pleasure. The #metoo movement has helped to reveal the scope of male harassment and violence. But that’s only half of the equation. To truly end this dangerous dynamic, we need to understand the source of this violence and rage. And the only people who can do that are men.

#Wetoo need to speak up in every situation a woman is made to feel uncomfortable. Women have the right to experience life as we experience it; free from abuse, and #wetoo will do whatever we can to help achieve this freedom. Preferably with understanding, but if necessary without.

While I was in the process of writing this piece Meg arrived home and told me about yet another moment of harassment on the street. She spoke up and tried to put the man in his place. But its SO unfair that she had to go through it. Imagine men still being so disgusting even after all the media focus on Weinstein and co. Too many men still don’t get it. They don’t understand.

The #metoo movement has brought us so far. But #wetoo have a long way to go.

I long for a world where empathy rules, with or without understanding. You too?

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  1. Suzi Koster says:

    Ian, you must never stop writing and sharing. Much love to you and yours. Thank you for an excellent read. ❤️

  2. ian says:

    thank you Suzi. Now we just have to get Meg writing again too

  3. Ruth Simon says:

    Thank you Ian.  West Michigan loves you!!   

  4. Elizabeth McNally says:

    Thank you for this, Ian. It is a wonderful piece. 

  5. Chris Fletcher says:

    Wonderful to hear from you Ian. Inspirational words read on a wet day in Auckland. 

  6. Joan T. says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful remarks.  Yes there is a long way to go for men to be consistent allies in ending gender-based violence. 10 years ago our sexual assault centre started our Male Allies program to provide education and support for boys and men in our community around ending gender-based violence.  It continues to give me hope as the calls to our support line and for counselling grow beyond our capacity.  Together, I truly believe we can make a difference and change the world.  

  7. Andrea More says:

    It was so good to hear from you again. #MeToo movement has been the best thing that’s happened this past year. Why did Meg stop writing? I’ve missed hearing her talk about the kids etc… She stopped about the time your son went off to college I think. Perhaps she could start back up slow. Love you guys.

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