Involvement in the movement has been growing the past few months. It is exciting to see the mobilization that is happening nationally and locally. The increase in involvement is bringing some growing pains. There is some confusion when those with power are asked to take a back seat or are informed that they aren’t safe. Many of those who have been inspired to get involved want to be immediately accepted because their intentions are true for social change and protecting marginalized people. I see them as they begin to recognize, or for the first time hear, that they aren’t safe.
I got to live in Argentina for a short time. While I was there I took tango lessons. Lots of fun!!! The lessons were taught by an amazing dance couple. The male partner was handsome, charming, and funny and we were all enamored of him. They taught the class by taking turns dancing with the students. Each time it was my turn I just couldn’t do it. See, while I had a grand crush on this gorgeous man in front of me, he is also the man I’ve been scared of for most of adult life. In my heart, this was the guy that would be sexually violent to me and when I went for help no one would believe me; they would blame me for what happened. I had been friends with girls who’d been trapped in rooms with this guy, I had counseled girls who had been convinced that they should have done something different and I had been that girl who thought she had great support, but found out, because of who the guy was, there wasn’t anyone with a shoulder to cry on. Taking my dance turn with him felt like dropping myself into the lion’s den.
At one lesson, he tried to make me take my turn dancing with him. He thought I was embarrassed. He didn’t see/know how unsafe he was for me. I finally shared with him in my broken Spanish, “I am afraid of you”. He thought I was using the wrong Spanish words and laughed and started pulling me onto the dance floor. Then, he saw the fear in my face and dropped my arm. He began telling me his great qualities and that he’d never hurt me. He became frustrated trying to convince me of how safe he was. His convincing made me more and more scared. And, he kept trying to take me to the side, away from the music so I could better hear and understand him, which sent me into a panic attack.
I felt bad for him and I wanted him to feel good about himself and I wanted so much to trust and believe that he was safe. But, I couldn’t be in that space with him. He actually wasn’t safe. I’m sure other women had told him millions of times that he was a great guy, but none of that changed who he was to me. I still knew that his privilege and place in our world made him unsafe and uncomfortable.
I see the same confused looks on many faces in the growth of the movement. That curious look of, “Why are you scared of me? I’m one of the good ones.” If you are the person with power and privilege, you cannot determine for others that you are the safe person. You may feel like you are full of positive intentions and a hero for the cause. That is appreciated! We’re glad to have you be involved. But know, that still, you likely feel unsafe to others. I hope you will feel as motivated and inspired to explore this important part of the movement, learning about your own privilege.