Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#MeToo - Reality, Foundation and the after-math

Image: Beyond #MeToo, WNYC, 1/22-25/18, https://www.wnyc.org/shows/beyond-metoo

If anyone reads, watches, or listens to the news lately; they are fully aware of the #MeToo movement. A worthy subject indeed. During my searches, I came across a New York City radio show that is addressing what is next now that women from all over have spoken up and they have tagged it: Beyond #MeToo. Equally as worthy a subject, if not more of a problem-solving approach too! 

However, I bring this subject up from a different point-of-view: Mental Health...
In the mental health field, we see a lot of causes for what is happening around us. In the news we see school shootings and other violence, controversies abound in politics, NFL, the U.S. justice system and the list is virtually endless. Everybody has an opinion and in some of the news stories, those opinions are both equally intriguing and valid. Granted, you do get some true "trolls" who throw out impossible ideas and offensive words for the fun of it. But we also see people's ideas and opinions that are serious, well thought out and wholly frightening for a civilized society. 
Image: Burrow Gallery, http://gallery.burrowowl.net/index.php?q=/post/view/23582

So what are we to believe? How do we sort through the influx of information and reports, speeches, rallies, and the like and fully know and understand what message we are supposed to be getting and what are we to do with this message? 

This all tracks back to mental health. The mentally healthy out there see the goings on of the recent men in Hollywood and in positions of high regard using those positions to extort sexual activities from women under their position, as unacceptable behavior and clearly see that a change in view needs to occur. The mentally healthy have empathy for women (and yes, even men) that have been subjected to this under-the-covers acceptable option to get a leg up in a person's career. It is wrong that this happens in a civilized society. A mentally healthy person can see the undermining effects of allowing this to continue for so many years. Yes, it typically will happen, by-in-large, to more women than men, but make no mistake, this happens to men too and it will be perpetrated by a woman in many cases as well. This is obvious to the mentally healthy. Just because it is not "reported" on, or many of the women speaking out against this behavior is not explicitly mentioning it, a mentally healthy person understands this trading sex for better grades, a better position at work, or a role in Hollywood happens across the board to men and women, perpetrated by men and women and is allowed to grow because there are men and women out there that accept this quid pro quo. And that the end result of this ropes in unwilling participants and the pressure mounts and what is created is a society full of men and women that are mentally affected, to the point that their own mental health has been compromised and in doing so, their choices are affected and the domino effect creates a whole ugly side to our society that begins and ends with the idea that a person in authority over another felt that sex was an OK bargaining tool. 

We have Natalie Portman speaking out against "Sexual Terrorism" - unless we redefine what terrorism is, this successful actress has now implied that actions taken on by others, regarding her person as a sexual being (albeit totally inappropriate) is "violence and intimidation for political" reasons. Yes, I realize that is taking one definition of the word terrorism. Merriam-Webster's defines it as "a systematic use of terror for coercion" - which is clearly more of what Ms. Portman was referring to. I get that, however, most people relate the word terrorism with politics and suicide bombers, the World Trade Center bombing, 9-11, ISIS, war, OKC bombing, etc. and that is how the message seems to be falling on the public's eyes and ears and the point of what Ms. Portman was making is completely falling short. But what I noted more about her speech was the misunderstanding that the vast majority of the public had about the point of what she was saying. What society have we built that says it is OK to publicly make a count-down to when a young woman is legally of age to consent to... sex - justified because "she chose to be an actress and is in the public's eye."? The focus has been on sex. Not the person, her accomplishments, her likes and dislikes, but sex. One could sit in a debate for both sides of what went right about Ms. Portman's speech and her expression of her experience and what went wrong - and walk away not fully grasping the true problem. 

The same happens in the education arena. Most recently Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke out about her thinking on the #metoo movement. Sadly, by-in-large, she was also met with backlash, horrible comments about how desperate a professor must have been to want to trade sex with her for a grade. What is wrong with this picture? What was missed entirely is that the basis for getting a grade even has the option of trading sex. Instead, the focus was on how unattractive she is/was. If that doesn't highlight the exact problem, I am not sure it will become any plainer to the majority of people in our society. 

Going further back in the news, we have the comedian, Aziz Ansari, who had a sexual encounter (by both parties definition) and when he was told the day after that she was putting off "non-verbal cues" that she was not interested, he apologized (again, this is admitted to by both parties.) This particular news piece was most upsetting in that, from the sounds of it (if the reported information is accurate) - both parties agreed to a date, both parties agreed to a sexual encounter, the lady in this scenario decided after a spell of sexual contact she did not want to further it and left. Mr. Ansari did not stop her, nor did either party indicate he berated her for wanting to leave or in any way disrespected her choice to leave. When the following day a text came from the lady explaining to Mr. Ansari that he had missed her non-verbal cues and that she did not feel OK about the encounter - both parties report that he gave a meaningful apology and the situation was over. What exactly is newsworthy about this? How does this encounter fit into the #metoo movement? Why are non-verbal cues expected to be read the way they were sent? 

Catherine-Zeta-Jones has recently spoken up about accusations regarding her husband. Which clearly points out another aspect of this whole mess, the innocent or not-so-innocent family members of the accused. I personally did not read a whole lot about who is accusing her husband and the circumstances to which he is being accused. I could not get past her, Ms. Jones' highly sensitive words regarding her husband's actions and then to read how the two of them came to be together in the first place was enough for me to see, that this was yet another example of diverting from the problem. It is reported that soon after having met Ms. Jones, Michael Douglas told her that he "wanted to father her children." - A couple things here, if this is untrue, it would seem more important to speak out and dispel this rumor than it would to speak out about the current accusations, This is because, if this is true - well, that simply doesn't paint a very innocent picture of her husband's view of women in their shared industry. Next, if there is an extenuating circumstance to this comment that would in some way change what this comment seems to indicate, again - it probably would be a good idea to speak up about it in support of him. Neither of them is doing so. Does that mean he is guilty? Does that mean she is guilty? I don't know. What I do know is, this brings a perfect question to the fore: how does this fit into the #metoo movement, when women and men are both accepting of the assertion he had taken in fathering her children. He was awarded, by her, for that comment. 

Then we have many, many, others that have been fired, blackballed, or had other unpleasant immediate consequences for their behaviors. I refuse to mention these by name because the women they clearly behaved inappropriately to deserve the attention on this subject, not them. They are nobodies, who were once somebodies and built a life on the quid pro quo concept and developed patterns of behavior from that. They developed friendships, careers, families, entitlement expectations... all with the idea that their sex drive takes the front seat to all that defines them. 

This is why people are arguing over whether it is OK to ask a co-worker on a date, or whether two consenting adults have to get it in writing before they engage in sexual behavior or not. People are confused, angry and overwhelmed because they are left to sift through the garbage, the 15-minutes of famers, the bandwagon people, the ones protecting their friends and families and the true underlying problem that is the cause of all of it. Between the misinformation, the emotional outpouring and the true-blue guilty pigs (male or female) where does society stand with #metoo? 

It ought to focus on Mental Health. 

We are brought back to this underlying foundation. The woman who works at CBS or NBC or ABC or where ever, that was pressured to perform sexual acts, coerced to wear revealing clothing, shamed into being the "eye-candy" that her boss wants for fear of losing her job, her reputation, or whatever - and the entire time she did not have a voice is the problem. The multitudes of actresses that did undress, have sex with, play sex games for, for the guy in charge of hiring her or the guy that has the power to influence whether she will get another job in Hollywood, lost her voice. She did not have the power to say no, to avoid the encounter, to come out of the situation without compromising her own integrity. The student that did have sex with the professor for the passing grade did not have her voice. - Mind you, we are not talking about the actress, career woman, or student that wanted to give sexual favors in exchange for success. We are talking about the women who did not want to. We are talking about the women who wanted to be successful career women, actresses, and students based on their abilities, not how sexually appealing they are to the person in charge. We are talking about this: at the beginning of the women's rights movement when women started to be allowed to own property or a bank account without their husband's permission. When women secured their right to vote, to work and be married, to have children and have a career. When all of this started, while no one who has an opinion on these matters now was alive then, I do believe it is safe to say that when women started gaining rights, it was not lead by the group of women who wanted to exchange their rights for sexual favors, no - rather it was most likely led by women who wanted their abilities, their accomplishments and their own power to accomplish success. They wanted to stand on their own merit, not their sex appeal. 

Accepting that ones sex appeal is a bargaining tool is a product of the problem. It is a deficit in one's mental health to believe that a woman's vagina holds the power to her success and that a woman is somehow empowered to be herself and achieve success on an unprecedented scale the more she uses her sexuality. Women who believe this is a viable choice in securing her future are deficient in mental health. They are less powerful simply because they have had their ability to choose, stolen. They have taken the default road and worse yet, they have been conditioned to believe they chose it! Talk about deterioration from reality. 

Obviously, we are not talking about a person's moral choice with regards to their sexuality. I refuse to entertain the moral choice aspect because morality is relative. You will find ones who firmly believe in God's word as the basis for morality and you will find ones who firmly believe in themselves as a basis for morality. Ironically enough, even the religious people who believe it is God's standards that we should live by must at some point give credit to the fact that since God gave humans free will, then it truly is up to them to decide for themselves whether their moral code should reflect that of God's or not. My personal opinion is not needed here, as for my purposes of writing this, I stand on the side of mental health. And from a mental health standpoint, there is no evidence to support that a person will gain mental health by promiscuity being used as a bargaining tool.

Let me say that again, promiscuity used as a bargaining tool will not gain mental health. 

Please understand, I fully grasp that the word promiscuity is defined as "immoral" - I have already negated the morality argument and am strictly using promiscuity as a term of being sexually active outside the realm of a committed relationship. Some choose this lifestyle and they feel it is their personal right to express themselves by engaging in sexual activity with whomever they please. I am not putting a judgment on that in terms of morality, I am only pointing out that when one uses that freeness of sexual encounters as a bargaining tool it becomes part of our problem in society and does not gain mental health. It has the exact opposite effect.  It tears down, it deteriorates the mental health condition of all involved and it gives the impression that it is OK for ones in authoritative positions to extort these sexual favors from others, whether they share the view of the willing participant or not. 

Until the #metoo movement addresses this... the public, in general, will continue to be confused, frustrated and feel overwhelmed as to what it all means. Each new news report, speech, actress, professional, or student that comes forward with a #metoo will be met with a whole gamut of emotions: some will have empathetic listening ears, some will be motivated to make a change, some will support it wholeheartedly and others will offer hate, frustration, sarcasm, disdainfulness and have zero support for the person speaking out. We, as a society, will continue to be torn over which side of the debate makes more sense, which will get us closer to our goals as a functional society and which side will make the gap bigger? Is it all men that behave this way? Is this strictly a women thing? Is it really true what Cher is quoted as saying recently, "if you want something done, get a woman" - is that truly the message we want to come from #metoo? Where does the work start? How do we undo the damage? How do we feel comfortable growing up into our own person, with our own unique body and have the confidence that it takes to be a successful human being in whatever we endeavor to do? 

It all starts with Mental Health. It all starts with having a voice. Once a person is making choices from wise-mind and they confidently have a voice, the perpetrator's out there, that would have us believe that our sexuality is a bargaining tool for success, will be squashed. Our personal integrity will remain intact and whether we are women or men, and whether we are being coerced by a man or woman will no longer be the focus, because we are a we. We are in this society together and we succeed or fail together. Give voices back to each other. Care for each other's mental health. This starts from the beginning. Just like the Beyond #MeToo picture, I found from the radio station in NYC is pointing out, what is beyond this movement is training our youngsters that where we are as a society changes today. Teach them in school about being mindful and aware of our surroundings. Teach our children that sexuality is not a bargaining tool. Teach our children that their voice matters, no - not that they are entitled to anything and everything that their voice happens to mention, but that their voice matters. Teach them that their personal integrity is to be cherished and protected, not given up on or trampled on at the earliest convenience. Teach them that it matters who you are and what your values are. If a person were to read any of the #metoo comments from women who successfully averted exchanging their sexuality for success, it would become quite clear they did not do it because they were more wealthy, or because they were prettier, or uglier, more talented or less talented, they did not avoid using their sexuality as a bargaining tool because they were somehow better than the one who did - it was strictly because they had a voice and they soundly knew who they were. Period. They were mentally healthy. 

Please understand, this is not to say that those who have suffered greatly at the hands of this practice of bargaining sexual favors is somehow defined as mentally ill, it is not an either or thing. But it does highlight a deficiency in their mental health. One can have a cold and not be dying from that cold - the cold is only a symptom of a momentary lapse in their health, a deficiency if you will. They need to take care of themselves and bring their health back to 100%. The same is true of our mental health. Of course, there are varying degrees of mental health, but for this subject, we are merely referring to a deficiency and the person is in need of bringing their mental health back to 100%. It is true, there are many cases where this bargaining for sexual favors has destroyed a person mentally and their health will restore with much more work, just as there are varying degrees of physical health. From both accounts, however, mindfulness and a wise mind voice is the key.

So when we go about our business today, tomorrow and into the future keep in mind: #MeToo, #GiveThemAVoice, #Mindfulness, #NoSexualBargaining, and #MentalHealth. Let's correct this glaring societal problem together, men and women - because if we want something to change, don't just call a woman or a man, call us all together to learn it and teach it differently than we have in the past, and listen to each other's voices!