Yesterday I made a questionable decision – I commented on a contentious social media post.
The post was on Nextdoor, the local social media site for individual communities, and the author was complaining about planned development in my small town that he finds distasteful.
Here's what irked me: it began by saying that everyone in our community, especially women, needed to get off our “collective apathetic bums” and become more informed, or essentially our community was going to hell in a hand basket.
Not surprisingly, this annoyed me. I can think of lots of words to describe the women I know, and “apathetic” isn’t the first one I’d choose. Not by a long shot.
So I responded, simply pointing out that blaming women wasn’t going to win us over to his cause. A number of other people commented, too – some who felt offended by the original post, some claiming we were all too sensitive, etc. It’s continuing to spiral downward into your typical online argument.
This morning the author commented on his own post, explaining that his intent in mentioning women specifically was a way to “pay homage to the power that women possess, but sometimes fail to exercise. Women, frankly, scare the hell out of me.”
That last line made me chuckle. And while I hate to admit it and I certainly disagree with his approach, I think he might be onto something.
Sometimes I think of us women as survivors of a long captivity in which we’ve all, until recently, been struggling to shake off collective Stockholm Syndrome. If we developed this, it was for good reason – for 5,000 years, our best chances of survival were aligning ourselves with powerful men who would protect us. Otherwise, we risked being raped, burned at the stake, sold into slavery or just tossed onto the street penniless, left to die without property to own or a way to support ourselves.
Things have changed rapidly, especially in the decades since I’ve been alive. At least in this country, most of us don’t need to align ourselves with men to survive or thrive. We can do that just fine by ourselves.
But we all carry those painful memories in our bones. They’ve been passed on to us by all the women who have come before us. Because of this, it may be true that we don’t always realize our own power. And even if we do, we haven't always felt that it was safe to step into it, because somewhere, encoded deep in our subconscious, we remember the suffering of the past.
Until now. That phrase keeps running through my head.
I think of the incredible #metoo stories I've read and heard in the last several months, recounted by celebrities and ordinary women, including many of my friends. I think of the #Timesup initiative. I think of Emma Gonzalez and all of these strong, fearless teenagers who are leading the conversation about gun control.
I can feel all of us collectively shaking off those old, old, stories, those memories of pain that shackled our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and all our ancestors down the line. I can feel us claiming our freedom, one courageous woman at a time.
Yes, we have tremendous collective power. It’s awakening more every day. My neighbor might be scared of it, but I think it’s thrilling. And about damn time.