Why was it so hard to post that on my Facebook this week? Have I internalized what shouldn’t be normal as normal? Have I learned ways of coping with what should not be tolerated? The sexual comments come almost every day when I walk to and from work. In my suit, in my clerical collar, in a dress, the assaulting comments that make me wonder if my body is really mine. Is my sexuality, is my body, is my spirit really mine or is it up for commentary from power that can’t stand a woman to claim her place? Or is it the painful reality that despite my boldness, despite my relatively ease of confidence, despite my compassionate commanding presence that I really love about myself, I am no less vulnerable than any other human and does that vulnerability make me feel uncomfortable? Or was it the painful reality that assault and harassment are the price women have to pay for the sins of power and desire? Or was it hard to write that on my facebook because it just made me so sad? Yes to all of these.
Sometimes I pray to God and ask God about reparations in heaven for people who have been treated poorly here on earth. Sometimes I wonder if God has got the most special of places reserved for those who have experienced violence of any kind here on earth, an eternal spa would be a good place to start, Oh God. Sometimes I think God has some explaining to do for the ways sin has thwarted our interactions here on earth. I don’t mind talking to God so straight like that. God and I are on really good terms and we can talk boldly with each other because ultimately I do trust God, I just wonder what God is going to do to make up for some of the violence my friends and I have faced. I wondered that again this week.
This week on social media there was a resurrection of the #MeToo Campaign that Tarana Burke, a 44-year-old black woman, created in 2007 to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities. You may have seen women, and men, post “Me Too” on their Facebook. A grassroots movement of raising awareness of just how prevalent sexual assault and harassment is. From comments, to touching, to rape, I was reminded that Me too is a common thread among the men and women I call my friends. A heavy reality.
Do you understand that when women walk down a city block we do not assume we can walk down that block with ease and security, we assess what is in front of us and is it worth it to walk down that block. Here’s what I mean. Yesterday I got up early, as I do most days. I live a block away from Central Park. One block, that’s all it takes for me to get to the park so I can run in the morning. As I was walking down the block there was a large group of men watching me as I came down the sidewalk. I could feel their gaze even as I turned up the volume on my iPod. I looked up and their gaze was still on me. I did not want to face the comments or sexual innuendos so I switched my course. I walked to the other side of the street, in the middle of the block, so I could protect myself from the possible comments that would barrage me if I walked by. Do you know how many times women do this in a typical day?
My fiancé and I were walking down the street to Marble Collegiate Church. I was speaking that day on Joyful Resistance. She and I were holding hands. I was in a clerical collar and she was in a bow tie and button down shirt. It doesn’t matter how respectable we looked. A couple blocks away from the church a group of men called out “Mommy, I want to (insert sexual innuendos that I do not consent to).” I wish I would have screamed back I am not your, Mommy. I have at other times, but that is a name I get called a lot even as I’m functioning as Reverend in society. But this time I was too focused on the work that was in front of me that I just kept going. That’s what we do, we just keep going.
I wondered how many Biblical women could write Me, Too on their social media if that were a thing in Biblical times. Well of course, Tamar comes to my mind right away and the rape committed against her by her half-brother in 2 Samuel 13. Dinah in Genesis 34. In Numbers 31:15-18 Moses commands his army to avenge the Midianites and “save every virgin for themselves” which is a phrase scholars have used to interpret forced sexual rape in the Bible. Then there is the gang rape in Judges 19:22-26 when Gibeah and the Levite Concubine in which a man sends out his concubine to a group of angry men. Afterwards she is cut up into twelve pieces and sends them to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Biblical stories continue and they join in our chorus of Me, Too.
For everyone women, man, and person who posted Me Too this week, you’re not alone. It is a thread of violence that weaves us together and it is the thread of resilience that keeps us here. The ancestors of our Scripture scream Me Too with us. The only prayer I could utter this week in response to this was “God, thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven and may the healing of your people come swiftly and may the assault and violence cease.” Beth Moore tweeted #WeToo to remind us of our hope, our power we do indeed have. We stand, we sit, we cry, we live in the power of resurrection that is greater than any violent power that has transgressed our bodies. Healing, hope, and power rest within our bodies. Silence is not the option we take. In the power of the resurrected Jesus, we make our stories known and that is a sacred act of resilience we made known this week on social media.