By Laurie Marsden
Last year, I think everyone was concerned about the election of our current president. Not only did we not get our first female president, but we got a man who’s talk, rhetoric and history with women was a throwback from some Madmen episode. I think his blatant disrespect for women, and minorities, the disabled and immigrants as well as his bullying, was just too much for a lot of people to tolerate. And so we marched. And we marched again at airports and we protested over proposed changes to immigration, and then we went to Congress and we protested over health care.
“We the people” have found our voice and are understanding the fragile and sacred nature of a constitutional representative democracy. And we are fighting for it. And I am proud of that.
But there is one thing that stands out for me, that I personally am so, so thankful for. And that is that women have found their voice. That women have let go of their fear and spoken their truth. What has been the truth? That workplaces aren’t always fair, that sexual pressure and favors and expectations of men in power have limited women, ruined careers, taken away advancement and sometimes even limited a woman’s ability to put food on the table for her family. Women in all industries have dealt with this culture of objectification, power and control. This pay for play attitude.
As a therapist for 20 years, I have witnessed the terrible damage of oppression, of rape, assault and abuse.
But I say — we say — no more. We are going to create a world where women can walk down the street without being harassed, where they can study in universities, be on Olympic sports teams and rise in their professions without some person drunk on his power interfering with their success. On Facebook alone the #metoo was used by more that 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours! And with that, our silence was forever broken.
I posted with #metoo. I only posted a few of my stories, but there are many. I admit before I pushed that “post” button I was nervous, scared. I was coming out and disclosing painful memories of disempowerment and career injuring episodes that happened because I wouldn’t sleep with someone… But I took courage from all the women who were coming out. We are strong when we stand together. And we have seen the result. We were heard!! Believed! And change and retribution happened quickly to a variety of perpetrators.
I know the great men and women here today are here because they believe a better more equal society is not only possible, but necessary. Women have so much to offer… and I am so happy and so grateful that because of activism like this and movements like this, that my daughter will be able to offer her gifts to this world without having to give up her dignity, or be shamed, or be pressured, or be fired or not hired due to some insidious and repressive expectation.
And let me say, that it is so good to see so many men here again this year. I know good men have been equally appalled at the stories that have come out this year. And that they too look at their sons and daughters and want a better world. Men, teach your sons to have good character and to respect women, and minorities, and immigrants and not to bully. Gals, you too need to raise your boys to be respectful and fair and raise your girls to expect to be respected. And to use their voice if they are not.
We have power here in helping create a future that men and women can be proud of. One that is inclusive, fair, based on merit and dignity.
Contrary to some people who oppose these types of rallies, no one is saying that women are better than men. But men are also not better than women. We are different and with mutual respect we can come together to make the world better.
As Carole Gilligan wrote in 1982, women have a different voice, we come from a different perspective, one of connection and consideration for the other. And yet we have historically been seen and judged through a male dominated lens, one that values a world view and a system that has been made and shaped by men. In her letter to readers in 1993 Carol said “To have a voice is to be human, to have something to say is to be a person. But speaking depends on listening and being heard. It is an intensely relational act.”
I stand here today grateful that we are being listened to and that we are listening to each other. Thank you for being here today, for listening to me. And for using your voice to let people know that you stand for unity and equality.