So what’s a “circle of inquiry?” It’s basic. If you doubt the extent or feel uncomfortable with the numbers of women who report being harassed, sexually abused, assaulted or discriminated against….or are curious about the actual extent of this ghastly behavior, and have no idea what to do…..INQUIRE!
I’m suggesting to simply ask your mothers, grandmothers, women friends and colleagues about their historic experiences….and ones they perhaps have never discussed with anyone. Further, I suggest a quiet evening in someone’s home…maybe invite 5 to 7 other women you are comfortable with, letting them know your intention….to simply share, and discuss, and process “history.” Initially, it’s a simple sharing process. And talking in a safe environment helps many recall experiences that have been shoved to the back of the mind ..out of fear, shame, embarrassment….and most frequently “what the H_____ difference would it have made if I’d talked about it at the time?”
This is just a kind of release valve. I’m suggesting nothing but conversation, and most of all, support. Perhaps most important, this kind of quiet sharing can drive home the extent of POWERLESSNESS felt by many if not most in every institution each woman interacts with — from the family to the schools, universities, the volunteer organizations, government institutions, the companies/organizations where everyone works or HAS worked….
My hope is that as more women experience the “shelter” and power in numbers, the extent of the IMBALANCE IN POWER THROUGHOUT OUR INSTITUTIONS will become front and center. It’s important to surface and acknowledge the pain and humiliation and fear around individual experiences, and I want to emphasize it’s equally important to come to terms with how broken our SYSTEMS are! Fixing systems is the way through to healthier places to live and work! The starting place for women is to share our stories. Wanting to share publicly is TOTALLY an individual decision….and historically that has been something that has created even more pain than the actual horrific event. Today that is hopefully changing.
And this is where it’s important to celebrate the MEN who are speaking up, offering support, and hopefully getting both heads and hands around the sickness in most systems. THANK the ones you know are finding their voices on our behalf.
My personal experiences are work related…some of my early job interviews after graduate school in the 70’s…. were sometimes both disgusting and illegal….without any actual protection from being treated differently/ in a non-discriminatory way at that time in history……and sometimes left me quite breathless that a man with a PhD thought he could ask intrusive questions about my personal life in a work interview….will spare you the details. I never actually hit anyone! But my athletic background certainly prepared me to do so….and certainly gave me the attitude and words to both assert and defend myself…. I share that because I believe most of us have been taught to be NICE regardless…and I must add that I was always uncomfortable “confronting” the situation or defending myself …. and clearly doubtful about the outcome of the conversation….since my choice was to be NOT SO NICE….with an automatic assumption that I was likely “in trouble.” So WHAT/WHO taught me that standing up for myself could get me in trouble or cause me to lose the possibility of a great job? THAT is another system issue….
And that is what we need to examine. We need, as women, to strike a balance between understanding OURSELVES and the SYSTEMS we live in and work in. That is the way forward. If we support one another and welcome as well as ask for, the men we know to step up, I think this “watershed moment” could create wonderful, healthy changes in society at large. Sound too optimistic? Then never underestimate the power of a woman who has figured out what’s really going on!
And let me know if you start a circle of inquiry…there might be helpful stories worth sharing! Go for it. Get the support and help you need. And always feel free to contact me. If you want to read my earliest thoughts on the power issue….see RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE.