Stacking newspapers a few weeks ago I saw a headline that no longer shocks me: “3 women accuse Boulton of sexual misconduct”. I sighed, my face twisting into a frown, as I shook my head in disgust.
Wait. Who? I thought. Now hang on a minute. That’s MY senator, for MY district. He’s one of the good guys! He votes in line with my values and beliefs. This can’t be right. Slightly alarmed and looking for lies, I started reading the article.
“One woman told the Des Moines Register that Boulton, now 38, repeatedly grabbed her buttocks at a bar in 2015. Two others told the Register that when Boulton was in law school more than a decade ago, he rubbed his clothed crotch against them pressing his erect penis into their thighs.”*
Oh, whatever. That’s it? I mean, that’s what happens in college, right? What did you expect? It happens all the time. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything bad by it. Nobody really got hurt. And- what was she wearing?
My disgruntled thoughts continued along those lines, trying to find a way to punch a hole in the accusations, trying to make it ok, so I could go back to my complacent comfort. I read on to see what his response was.
“I don’t have the same recollection,” the article quoted him. “But I am not going to offer any additional context to this, other than to say if someone’s perspective is that it was inappropriate and I crossed a line and I misread a situation in a social setting, I do apologize.
“He declined to comment or discuss the specific incidents, saying, “I think if I add context it quickly becomes victim-blaming and I don’t want to go down that path.”*
See? He apologized! Good guy. Fairly classy response. I’ll still vote for him.”
Then the thick stinky goo of truth started seeping in.
I. Was. Dismissing. Them.
I liked the person being accused, so I was dismissing the women.
The goo reached my stomach. I felt slightly sick.
All the dismissals of my past popped to mind like Satanic prairie dogs.
“That’s not what really happened.”
“It’s just not true.”
“That doesn’t happen here.”
“Ya can’t blame a fella … you know, with how she looked and all.”
“You probably just misunderstood.”
I continued feeling like a lowlife traitor as truth’s cement cured. I, of all people, was letting the belief of “it’s always been that way” be an acceptable explanation for a man’s bad behavior and to discount a woman’s pain. I was using tradition to excuse sexual harassment and sexism.
Fortunately, the lesson soon dawned and cured the sick feeling: “THIS is why personal and social change is so difficult!”
We cling so tightly to our opinions, beliefs, and perspectives that we anchor our security and identity in them. Do you question your identity or give up your security easily? I don’t. This situation called my beliefs and opinions into question and it was threatening my security. It’s not easily stomached.
I have experienced the same thing those women did, as well as other, much grosser things. I’ve lived that story. I have done the grueling work to uncover the deep wounds, drain, flush, and treat them. I’ve passed out fliers, worn ribbons, marched, and raged. Some days it stings like a simple splinter. Other days it slumps my shoulders into despair that our society still hasn’t made positive headway against these personal crimes.
The lesson, though, is this: I was experiencing the same reaction that all those people I see as “the others”, “those people” and “the enemy” have when their security is threatened. Therefore, I am their equal. There truly is no us and them- only we.
Our calling is not to condemn others, but to honor and respect them, so they can learn to honor and respect themselves, so they can learn to honor and respect others, so they can learn to honor and respect themselves….ad infinitum.
*” Three women accuse Iowa governor candidate Nate Boulton of sexual misconduct. ” The Des Moines Register, May 23, 2018. Link: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2018/05/23/democrat-nate-boulton-accused-sexual-misconduct-iowa-state-senator-governor-candidate-metoo/637373002/