By Samantha McKenzie
I’m exhausted. I’m not tired from work nor the usual things in life that often weigh me down. I’m not even tired from relationships — the ones with family members, loved ones, or associates. I’m exhausted from sexism, from chauvinism, from the pervasive machismo that exists in our world. I’m exhausted from the pain that ravages our once vibrant lives and torments us well into adulthood. I’m exhausted that even when we speak, we are not believed. Or when we yell these days, we are still not heard.
I’m exhausted by the conversations on sexual assault that have consumed the headlines and daily chatter. I’m irritated that which ever side you land on with the Brett Kavanaugh appointment, I will never get over hearing the President of the United States openly and publicly mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on national television. It was insensitive. It was immature. It was degrading. In that moment, I was ashamed to be an American.
I’m equally tormented by Bill Cosby and how his sentencing split many people, those who are passionate about supporting women who have been sexually abused and those who grew up on his television shows that literally helped shape their decisions about parenthood, family values, going to college, and success. I chose to separate the television character from the person, the good deeds over the abuse of power. But it wore me out.
It’s been amazing to watch women find the courage – at any age and every stage of their lives – to tell their heartbreaking stories. Their stories, just like mine, almost always mixed with joy and pain, suffering and success, and an unbelievable amount of strength. Their cups filled with oil and water, never really mixing well, and yet they persevere.
I thought about Anita Hill. And I reflected on Monica Lewinsky. But mostly I prayed for the nameless victims whose stories we’ll never hear and whose confessions may still fall on deaf ears. I chose to pray for them all to heal, to restore, to find the strength to seek treatment for their traumatic experiences. Even in my tiredness, I prayed earnestly.
I deliberately meddled in conversations with male friends, trying my best to help them understand the damaging effects of double standards. I spent time with my adult son because I feel a personal responsibility for how he thinks and treats women. He knows that I am a hopeless champion for the female perspective and he allows me the space to help him remain conscious and compassionate towards her.
I’m exhausted still. I don’t believe every man is guilty. But I do believe men have a responsibility to speak up and work on correcting one another, first in private, and then in public. There will be no heroes in this chapter of our history. We will all participate, willingly or unwillingly, and there will be many among us that will be permanently injured. That’s the result of living in a world of broken women, especially when we continue to break them. We are either the prey, the predator, the guilty, the victim or those who casually stood by.
To every soul too heavy to speak for itself, I share this message of hope for you…in spite of the times:
“We will never fully be able to explain the why. Why one human would use their power to abuse another. Why those who are supposed to protect us end up being the ones who hurt us the most. Why even when “he” denies our truth, we follow suit. We fold like dominoes. Almost too quickly. Even so, I still believe that we are more powerful than we think. And that our pain can be used as a part of our power, a power the earth has not seen yet. We must speak. We must tell. We must press forward and remain one – an army of her stories, with similar experiences, thread together by our indomitable unity — filled with the belief that we can win. Because she is too important not to. And because we were meant to. And so we must.”