In the early 1970s, we American feminist psychologists took a bold and daring step. We decided to believe what women told us had happened to them. The stories of sexual assault and rape, intimate partner violence, and other forms of terrorizing women came like a tidal wave until it was impossible not to see what was right in front of our eyes. Even as feminists who thought we had our eyes wide open, there was so much that we did not see because each of us thought whatever offense had happened only to her and that she should have been ablated prevent it. This is one of the most malignant effects of the strong American belief in individuality.
If she took it to therapy, she was advised to keep peace in the home by not complaining or that she imagined it, asked for it, dressed for it and was appropriately masochistic and, therefore, feminine. All these interpretations came through the cultural and psychological masculine gaze, known then as “objectivity.”
Most of the dedicated readers of this blog are familiar with this history and may be wondering why I am repeating it now. “Now” is almost 50 years later and feminist psychotherapies have long labored over these issues and the dangers and offenses to girls and women on this planet. Of late, the reality of this situation has become so clear and obvious that more and more women have come forward to tell their stories, to say “Me too,” whether they are celebrities or ordinary women. There is power in numbers when you lack other forms of power.
The reality of sexual assault, misogyny and intersecting qualities such as race and ethnicity, has reached a critical mass, so critical that we are living both sides of the issue out loud today in glorious technicolor. While there are gasps of disingenuous surprise that can be heard throughout liberal territory at the incidents involving Harvey Weinstein, the more conservative side of the street has colluded to elect a man who brags openly about sexual assault.
Despite these opposing perspectives, the secrets are coming out. No one can any longer deny women’s reality. The question is no longer “Did it actually happen?," but “Why did it take so long for women to support each other’s experiences to claim them as their own?" "Why is it so difficult for many otherwise decent men to stand up against toxic masculinity?" “When will there finally be an end to one group of humans holding so much power over others that they feel entitled to hurt, exploit and brutalize them with impunity and without a second thought?” These original questions of feminist psychology have become questions for us all.