My morning meditation seemed to dovetail with another subject that has been rolling around in my mind the last few days. This is part of what I read:
The high expectations that we have of each other call out of us the best that we have. We become good people and faithful family members, in part, because we are expected to be so. All of us tend to try to measure up to what the significant others in our lives expect us to be. (Tony Campolo)
Demanding high expectations of those around us. I do not want to tar all men with what I am about to write. As a woman it has been my privilege to grow up with and work with many very fine, good men who have demanded the highest expectations of behavior for themselves and those around them. My thoughts are not about them, but rather about the hidden predators that threaten women in our society, and through their actions take away the safety we all desire for ourselves and those we love.
For the past month or more the television news and the newspapers have had multiple stories concerning sexual harassment in the field of journalism, in the fields of art and entertainment, in the military, and in politics, for all practical purposes wherever we look. Over the past decades we have heard about it in the church as well. Some of those we have heard about were men we admired, intellectuals and artists, until this underside of their lives was exposed. Sexual harassment has always been there, of course, but for many women, especially those not under some kind of protection, it has been a hidden fear that centers around not “if”, but “when” and then results in a sense of shame that dogs the victim for the rest of their lives. As I look at my limited knowledge of the issue I really am amazed that we, as a culture, have allowed this to happen to women in our world. Long ago I read a book by Susan Brownmiller entitled Against our will: Men, Women and Rape. The premise of her research was that rape was about power and control and her premise has certainly been proven true. We have long heard about “glass ceilings” and women who simply cannot break through the protective grid men have constructed to keep them in control. “The old boys’ club” has long been alive and well.
In the Western world we are supposedly guided by the principal that we are created equally in the image of God and we have assumed (evidently wrongly) we had higher standards than the treatment of women in the Moslem world or in Asia or Africa or South America. I recently read of African women who were afraid to venture outside a refugee center because the men outside were raping indiscriminately. The premise was to destroy a tribe by creating children of mixed parentage who would not be accepted in that society.
Sexual harassment has always been about the objectification of women’s bodies by those in power, usually men over women. It is a terrible thing when our control over our bodies is taken away from us.
How terribly sad, that women, educated and eager to start contributing and working in the career they have chosen, are instead singled out as victims by men who should be mentors, simply because the men can. Unfortunately our presidents have not escaped the tarred brush.
One of the dangers I see is that too many women do not protect each other, hence we have Roy Moore who will likely be elected to Congress because, as one woman said, politics makes it expedient. I am more concerned about turning men like that loose in our society. They are predators and have no respect. They hide behind victimizers of like mind. Our high expectations for men and women who are supposed to guide us, are lost among the ugly side of life.
Now we have heard from women who at last are not afraid to speak out against the darkest side of our society. I hope for the best, but I remember Anita Hill and the hearings against Clarence Thomas and many others who have spoken out, but are not heard because they lack the power to make themselves heard. I also wonder about the women who are poor and struggling to support themselves and their children in low paying jobs. Perhaps they are illegal immigrants or disabled or mentally incapable of protecting themselves. To live with that kind of fear is exhausting and traumatizing. As a white woman who was privileged to receive a good education and to work with men and women who had high expectations of each other, I have to be an advocate for other women wherever sexual harassment occurs. Whether it is the president of the United States, or someone else in a position of power, if we women do not stand up for each other, who will protect us.
The other evening, I was watching a program on television (fiction, not true). A woman veteran had been raped and traumatized by her Commanding Officer when she was deployed in the Middle East. When finally confronted with her situation her cry was, “He was supposed to keep us safe.” That is at the root of all our expectations of the world into which we are born. That really is the cry of all people, we just want to be safe, to be protected, to be allowed to live with a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs and go about the business of making a life. Everyone has to be held to the highest expectations if we are to have a healthy and a free society and world.