This is not a post about sexual harassment

This post started to be about powerful men and their propensity for sexual harassing women, but honestly just thinking about that made me tired. After a lifetime of dealing with and fighting sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, having my voice dismissed, my veracity questioned, my abilities disdained, my rights to control my body attacked because I’m a woman – I’m too damn tired to state the obvious. As a five-year-old arguing with my mother about why the church wouldn’t let me become a minister, I naively believed that would change. If not by the time I was twenty at least by the time I was sixty. But here we are and the reality is that the problem isn’t Andrew Cuomo, Donald Trump, politicians, or powerful men. The problem is society. The problem is all of us.

We live in a world where women’s voices are too shrill and demanding, or too soft and not commanding enough. Where women are both too aggressive and yet, also not considered competent or confident. Where we are both not to be believed about our experiences and so nurturing we can’t be trusted to make tough decisions. To be a woman is to be both revered for motherhood and scorned for not being ambitious enough to do it all. To be a woman is to be not quite human in a world where humanity is, by definition, a white male.  We live in a world where all our attempts to fix lead to a patched, added-on, hodge-podge house built on a corrupt foundation that cannot be made whole by tweaks here and there. There are days, many, most, when all I can think of is – burn it down, BURN-IT-DOWN.

All my life I’ve heard women told to not be so shrill in our demands. To not call our selves feminist because it has the wrong connotation. For years now, I’ve heard white people telling BLM activists much the same thing. “Don’t be so demanding. Work for change more incrementally. Be more “polite in your protesting.” But equality and equity do not come from asking nicely for consideration. Women did not get the right to vote by asking politely. They chained themselves to fences, got arrested, went on hunger strikes, endured forced feedings. Civil rights activists have endured the same oppression that blacks have endured in this country for centuries – being attacked by police, hosed, beaten, bombed, lynched. There’s a high price to pay to change society so everyone has equality and equity and it is not paid by the powerful and privileged. It’s paid by the oppressed as they fight to claim what is rightfully theirs.

We are living in the midst of a pandemic, where everyone keeps saying “I can’t wait till things get back to normal,” but normal was never good. This is a time of transition and transitions are the best time to shake it all up, turn it upside down, and build a new, free, equitable society that works for everyone. For BIPOC, for women, for LGBTQ, for people with disabilities, for people of all faiths, for everyone. The Democratic party needs to be leading the way, not walking the fine line of bi-partisanship in order to not seem “too progressive” or involved with “identity-politics.” This isn’t about identity. This is about the rights of the majority of Americans. If we aren’t the creators of a new world, then we are just part of maintaining the status quo of the old one. Let’s build a new world that works for everyone.

By Priscilla Berggren-Thomas