#Me Too-for both Women and Men

A friend shared an article from the Opinion section of The New York Times
written by Bari Weiss this week which resonated deeply with me. Ms. Weiss
entitled the article, “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I think without seeming to espouse
disbelief or failing to support both my gender and those who have been
victimized. Having treated many women who are survivors of sexual abuse, I am
extremely sensitive to all the damage, as well as the difficulties for repair and efforts necessary for recovery. I would never want to suggest otherwise.

That said, being a woman, I am keenly aware of the role we women may play in instances when we do have the freedom to take care of ourselves when fear of danger or repercussions is not present, yet we do not feel on a fundamental level that we have the right to do so. We are severely hampered by our ingrained instinct to protect a man’s ego, even at our own expense. I’ve seen this repeatedly and have even experienced some degree of it myself, especially when I was younger. So I speak from personal as well as professional
experience here.

It is not only men who need to be educated-it is women, as well. Ms. Weiss suggests that a woman’s inability to speak up “transforms what ought to be a movement for women’s empowerment into an emblem for female helplessness.” She asks the question, “Shouldn’t we try to change our broken sexual culture?
And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes.”

She goes on to say, “But the solution to these problems does not begin with women
torching men for failing to understand their ‘nonverbal cues’. It is for women to be
more verbal. It’s to say: ‘This is what turns me on.’ It’s to say ‘I don’t want to do that’.
And, yes, sometimes it means saying good-bye.” I completely agree with her statement
that “The single most distressing thing to me about Grace’s story is that the only person
with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. Grace is merely acted upon.”

She continues, “To judge from social media reaction to Grace’s story, they also
see a flagrant abuse of power in this sexual encounter. Yes, Mr. Ansari is a
wealthy celebrity with a Netflix show. But he had no actual power over Grace —
professionally or otherwise. And lumping him in with the same movement that
brought down men who ran movie studios and forced themselves on actresses, or
the factory floor supervisors who demanded sex from women workers, trivializes
what #MeToo first stood for.”

I believe that we must learn the distinction between “learned helplessness” and true victimization, and that discerning that is not often an easy task, but is an essential one in achieving true equality.

Weiss states that “The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and
young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued like they’re in a porn
film, and one in which girls and young women are (Parentheses mine-‘entitled
and’) empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want.“

Interpreting male behavior as predatory when a woman has not made a clear verbal
statement of what’s okay with her and what’s not, serves to perpetuate a model of victim/victimizer. It interferes with and inhibits a healthy conviction that we are all deserving of respect, understanding and clear communication. The recognition of the difference between someone’s actual power/desire to harm us and our own power to resist when possible is an essential component in any interaction between two adults, not only in the sexual realm. Failure to learn these things moves us all backwards in the quest for achieving both a healthy sexual culture and true gender equality.

What’s all this fuss about communication??

The fuss is because it’s so difficult and challenging to communicate effectively. We think it should be easy, but the fact is it’s far from that. Remember the game you played as a kid where everyone sat it a big circle and the first person whispered in the ear of the one sitting next to them and so on until the last person would repeat what they heard. It was never the same, and usually not even close to what the first person said.

What we say is not always what someone hears. What we hear is not always what someone meant. There are so many possible misinterpretations in what appears to be a simple dialogue. So just take that as a given, and you’ll be on the right track.

What you can do to help facilitate good communication includes things such as using “I” messages; talking about yourself instead of the other so they are less likely to feel criticized, become defensive and more likely to really hear you, take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings instead of saying “You (or that) made me feel…”, and use reflective listening when necessary, “What did you hear me say?” or “I heard you say…”.

Other tips include asking for permission before offering input or an opinion (I call this “knocking before entering”) and accepting “no” if that’s the answer you get. Perhaps most crucial of all, speak to the other person with respect and truly listen, which also indicates respect. It’s also important to consider boundaries-yours and the person you are speaking with, and to make sure those are respected as well, be they verbal, emotional or physical.

Why Can’t a Woman be More like a Man?

For those of you who are much younger than I, this is the title of a song from the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady”.  This is actually an age old query, as is its natural opposite-the one women ask about men.  Simply put, they (we) just can’t.  Gender differences are real.  The are not fixed in stone, but generally speaking, we’re just different from each other.  Or, as John Gray would say, we’re from different planets!  Don’t underestimate, however, the fact that under it all, we’re all just human beings, and that is our always present common denominator.  I have raised two sons and am watching my almost six year old granddaughter grow up.  Sure, there are many similarities, but at least as many differences.  Each individual is unique, of course, but shockingly, my sons never played with dolls!  On the other hand, my granddaughter does play with cars.  All three had their favorite stuffed animal, all named and essential to their sense of well-being-especially at bedtime!  So for now, I just want to put forward the idea that if you expect your partner (if they are the opposite gender from you) to be like you, you will almost always be disappointed.  They may have some common traits, but not only are they different individuals, they probably don’t speak the same language.  Which gets us to what is often the core issue:  who’s right and who’s wrong.  As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the answer is no one.  We’re just different, and despite the inherent challenges, I doubt most of us would really want it any other way.

More on Desire

I want to follow up on my last post and talk about women’s lack of autonomy in our culture. I do believe this is changing, but considering that the women who raised the women of today were themselves taught how to be a woman by their mothers (whether by example, direct communication or both), the trans-generational patterns still continue to some extent, even among the current generation of young adults. If you buy the premise that autonomy and choice are infringed upon for women by their connection with another, then choice is only an option after considering another’s preference. At that point, it’s not really a choice, but more of a mandate or at best, a compromise. For example, if a woman is at a function she desires to leave but her partner wants to stay, can she feel free to tell her partner that she wants to leave, or does she have to consider what the other wants? If she does consider what her partner wants (which is not wrong or remiss in any way), can she still opt to go with her own desire or must she defer to her partners’? This is a rather mundane example, however it applies across the board. It’s easy to see why that can become problematic, not only in life, but about sexual intimacy. What I so often see is women who have divested themselves of their sexuality and given it over to their partner. What follows next makes perfect sense. If her sexuality is not for her, it no longer belongs to her, therefore, she loses any investment in having desire, let alone acting upon it in her relationship. My recommendation in this instance is that she take her sexuality back, claim it as her own, embrace that experience and then choose what she wants to do with it. In other words, she now has the capacity to feel her own desire sexually, as opposed to being a receptacle for someone else’s. Once again, this applies in all aspects of life. We can always consider another’s needs and wants, yet stay true to our own, consistently and in a manner which allows us to truly and deeply value ourselves, as well as our autonomy and freedom to choose.

Women and Desire

As I often do, I found inspiration in an interview with Esther Perel by Chantal Pierrat, Founder and CEO of Emerging Women, entitled “The Fluidity of Desire” https://emergingwomen.com/podcast/esther-perel-the-fluidity-of-desire/?

About the interview I wrote: “As always, Esther beautifully articulates the ‘what and why’ about desire, the lack of it and most importantly, why women are so challenged by-claiming themselves, their autonomy and their worth in the face of a culture which teaches them to focus on the needs of others and not their own. It’s my belief that in it’s most simple form, if a woman can give herself permission not to want, without guilt or obligation, she is most likely to free herself to become truly autonomous and discover she does want, after all. Often it is an internal struggle and challenge to have that exchange with herself, but necessary to free her from the ties that bind which can eliminate the possibility of desire.”

I believe this may take a great deal of practice and must become a conscious process in which she asks herself, “Do I want this?” and is able to answer without constraint regarding what’s expected of her or what others want. This may take a great deal of repetition, perhaps indefinitely, for her to achieve, but is so important in order to attain the desired results. This is especially obvious around sexual desire. Perel speaks to the idea that “women are socialized for connection and men are socialized for autonomy”. As a result, women have a struggle when it comes to separating their own desires from those of their partner and claiming themselves in the process. As Perel says, this is not only in the sexual arena, but across the board, and is often powered by the goal of attaining perfection. We must be the best at all we do, professionally, personally, socially and, of course, with our families. Since perfection isn’t attainable, life is spent reaching for the unreachable along with feeling like a failure. When it comes to sexual desire, men are free to keep theirs, for the most part, as it’s a part of their autonomy. For women, it is much more of a challenge. But we can choose to have and keep our own individuality and become empowered in the process. For more on this, see my posts: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/not-tonight-dear-mismatched-libidos-gmp/ and

Back to my Book

As I hear feedback from readers, I’m recognizing that the book is accomplishing what I hoped it would. It’s provoking thoughts about putting oneself first despite the many mandates not to do so. It’s encouraging readers to think about what negative messages they give themselves and pay attention so they can change those to positive ones. For relationships, it’s helping people recognize just how very difficult good communication and boundaries are and incorporating some of the ideas espoused for more effective communication, problem solving, disagreements and respect for one’s and others’ boundaries. I’m also hearing about sexuality and its importance and value in the lives of individuals and couples, as well as the need for transparent communication between a couple. Some of the specific areas covered such as infertility, blended families, divorce and affairs strike an important note for some readers, as does the complexity of parenting and maintaining a close intimate sexual relationship once the kids “arrive” on the scene. It’s gratifying to me to recognize that my aim in writing the book is being realized by many of my readers-to help them gain knowledge and skills in the most important areas of life that we’re never (or very rarely) taught about. My thanks to them for their invaluable feedback!

2017 Has Arrived!

Despite my hope that we could achieve cohesion in our country and peace both here and world-wide, we don’t seem to have gotten off to a great start. I don’t want to make this blog a political one, however, the national and world events greatly impact our emotional well-being, both in positive and not-so-positive ways. I’m heartened to hear that there is a national women’s movement afoot, and part of it entails women and those who support us and our rights, to literally stand for one minute for women everywhere on January 21st at 1 p.m. EST. This looks to be a very powerful statement about how we value ourselves and are valued by the men and other women in our lives.

Any solidarity seems like a good thing right about now. As I’ve stated, I think of myself as a humanist, hoping we all receive equally good treatment from others and from ourselves. The last part may sound a bit strange, however, unfortunately many people treat themselves with a lack of respect, and not only fail to take good care of themselves but also disparage and disrespect themselves, at least at times.

For us to fare well in the world (and for the world to fare well) we must learn our value and respect the value of others. When we achieve this, the chance for acts of violence against others is bound to diminish. I find it difficult to believe that those who perpetrate violence are at peace with and loving themselves, no matter the rhetoric surrounding them. I’m reminded of my youth and the words of John Lennon, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Isn’t that still something worth doing? How wonderful it would be if we started with inner peace and spread it out to all those we know. I’m sure some will consider me an old hippie (maybe rightfully so) and perhaps out of touch with reality (I’d quibble on that one), but it’s my belief and my wish for us all. We so deserve to feel good about ourselves and others, as well as safe in the world we inhabit. We might even unite on the idea of “random acts of kindness”. I hope this new year will bring with it many positive movements and happy surprises demonstrating the best in all of us. Goodness knows, we could use both!

Looking at 2016

December is here, and in addition to the upcoming holidays, this is a time for reflection on the year almost past. After a painfully divisive pre and post-election, it becomes even more clear that our country needs to unify and come together in the spirit which does, in fact, make America great. We are a country of immigrants (with the exception of Native Americans) with broad and diverse backgrounds in all areas. What if, instead of letting those differences divide us, we allowed them to enrich us and make us more, rather than less? My wish for 2017 is that we will find a way to do just that. My hope is that we go forward, not backward in regaining some of what we’ve lost and gaining in what we’ve yet to find. Let’s let go of the anger and discontent so we may truly have Happy Holidays!

Just as I was trying to determine how to say it, I read this!

The below email says it all better than I’ve been able to do. I want to be clear that it’s not just women who can benefit from this point of view, and obviously this was written by and for women. I like to think of myself as a “humanist” first, as opposed to just a feminist. I care as deeply about the welfare of males as I do females-hard not to, I’ve got two sons! Please keep that in mind as you read the wonderful words to follow.

I sent a (pretty different) version of the email below to a small section of our list last week, and I am so grateful for the responses I got. In sharing our stories, we find strength. We need this strength as we roll up our sleeves for the massive work to come. As Kate McKinnon (dressed as Hillary Clinton, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”) said on SNL this week, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” Big, big love – CP


Dear Emerging Women,

Tuesday night hit me like a punch to the gut. Like everything I believed about who we’ve become and where we’re headed was jerked out from under me like a tablecloth in some gaudy, awful magic trick. I have spent the last week going through the motions trying to reconcile this pain in my chest, the grief in my bones. Today I surrender to it.

Surrender, you ask? Is that a typo? We need to engage, we need to rally, we need to fight! Yes, all this is true. But there is something very powerful in this heartbreak, and I want to bring it with me to the front lines.

Herman Hesse said, “God sends us despair not to kill us; He sends it to us to awaken new life in us.”

I am ready for this new life. I am ready for a global collective that has the courage to love big and to dream gigantic – even in the face of heartbreak. Maybe especially in the face of heartbreak, for it is through the common human experience of love, loss and longing that we can truly feel connected with others, regardless of what may stand between us.

Maya Angelou said, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” The power of a recovered capacity for love is perhaps the greatest force in the universe because it knows the sacredness of our shared humanity. It is from this place that I want to move forward into the world.

At Emerging Women Live, Anne Lamott said, “Tell me what breaks your heart and I will tell you your purpose.” If you, like me, are sitting with a broken heart, let’s work together to create a world where all people feel included and love is the driving force behind all that we do.

It’s hard to forget a broken heart. So let’s not. Let’s remember. Remember what we stand for, what we love, what made our heart break in the first place. And let’s fight for that with strength, compassion and a fire that refuses to be extinguished.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I truly believe that intersectional feminism will bend that arc like a bow, speeding the path to justice for ALL. So this is not the end. This is an exposé. The skeletons have come tumbling out of America’s closet, and I’m ready to tackle them. With my sisters. Together, we can heal, we can protect, we can uplift, we can impact. And we will. I know we will.

This is a call for citizenship. To live a life of active participation. To place solidly at the center of our focus not just “How can I make my life better?” but “How can making my life better be relevant to making the world a better place?” or in other words, “How can I use my privilege to serve?”

Emerging Women and our sister organizations give me hope. I’m grateful that we’ve built a community that celebrates both individual expression and collective compassion, values that will lead us into a brighter, more just future. Diversity, empathy, and inclusion make us powerful, innovative, creative, and bold.

In unity, we are transformation personified. We are alchemy. We are revolution. And we are love and love one more time.

Big Love,

Chantal Pierrat | Founder, Emerging Women

Our country’s political dilemma

I have avoided writing about the state of our country due to what’s happening in this Presidential campaign, as I’m not an expert in that field and it’s rife with potential to create disharmony and potential strife. I can no longer refrain from stating what is if not explicitly, certainly implicitly obvious. Our country is being continually bombarded with information and reports which leave us feeling unsettled, worried and uncertain about both the state of our union as well as its future. Never in my lifetime have I experienced anything even close to this regarding a race for President, and my clients, family and friends are almost all being adversely affected by what’s going on daily. It’s frightening to experience and to see the negative effects on people. I wish I had answers to give, but all I can offer is that we buffer ourselves from the toxic impact and reassure ourselves that our country has rebounded from many different types of assaults, the most recent and horrific being 9/11, and we always manage to recover our equilibrium and sense of trust that we live in a free world which is more safe than not. In the meantime, let’s stay above the fray to the best of our ability to do so.