Christ Healing a bleeding woman, as depicted in the Catacombs of Rome. Public domain.
Thoughts that have stayed with me after #metoo week:
When the debate camp counselor twenty years older than me asked me for a massage, that summer I was sixteen and as naive as a Utah County-bred Mormon teenager can be, and then I actually gave him one, was it not my fault?
If I had told someone then, would they have blamed me and said I should have known better?
Should I have known better? How much did God blame me for being stupid enough to do that? Why do I still feel embarrassed to tell that story? Why does reading about Harvey Weinstein bring it all back to me, and make me feel for the first time that the debate camp counselor was more wrong than I was?
Is there anything that I could have done as a missionary in Ecuador to prevent men from catcalling me, or teenage boys from grabbing my butt and running away laughing? That man who masturbated as we walked past him–could we have prevented him or stopped him? It was my first week in Ecuador. What were we supposed to do? If we had told someone, would it have mattered? Was it because the harrassment was so ever-present that it would have been ridiculous to complain? Pointless, since nothing would change and we were doing the Lord’s work anyway. And he would protect us.
Except with some sister missionaries, like the ones who were assaulted in Chile. They were not protected. They were assaulted.
An Endless Scroll of #metoo Friends
Is it really true that there are so many women in my Facebook feed who’ve been harassed in some way? Of course it’s true, but it astonished me anyway. Why have we not realized this before? Or have we realized it and decided that such was the world, that this was the weather, that it did not matter? That connection between daily aggression and rape, has it always been there?
Are things worse now than they used to be? With pornography so ubiquitous, do men feel more entitled to women’s bodies, to their attention? Or have they always felt this entitled? Is there some protective twisted love behind keeping women inside, behind, enclosed, silent–men know, perhaps, just how bad they could be, and they want the women they love to be protected from exposure to their demons. Behave just right and you will be safe.
Why are there so many layers of sexism and why do we tolerate them all? There’s the layer of obvious wrongness, which is rape, followed by the layer of harassment, and then the layer of this entitled attitude that says women owe you some part of their bodies or their attention or their beauty even if you have no connection to them beyond the fact that you are male and they are female. Give me a smile, sweetheart. Smile for me.
I think we can all agree that these layers are unequivocally wrong. Right? Right?
I don’t know what to do with all the other layers, the less overt ones. You act too smart, people used to tell me. No one will want to marry you. Or, from my ninth grade Seminary teacher (a direct quote): “If all the women in the world talked as much as you, all the men would be celibate.”
Words like that sink in and form part of my skin and my soul, the way I see myself, the way I think I ought to be. They create layers of guilt and resentment and doubt.
I want answers. I don’t have any.
I have only this story.
It changes only my own heart, but that is enough for now:
43 ¶ And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
I think of that story as a metaphor for all women. She had an issue of blood–an eternal period–for 12 years, and the laws of her time meant that having an issue of blood caused her perpetual uncleanness. She couldn’t touch men, or sit where they sat. She was permanently exiled for being extremely female, for having the most female of problems.
The Savior healed her.
He was aware of her. She was hidden, unacknowledged, the way so many problems inherent to womanhood have been for centuries, and yet He healed her. More than that, He realized her need for healing. He saw the faith it took to ask for healing at all, to touch the hem of His garment.
I believe He sees #metoo.