A roadmap home to ourselves—empowering ourselves as women
Over the last year, like many of you, I’ve been moved to tears numerous times at the growing movement of women speaking out in outrage around sexual abuse, no longer willing to tolerate in silence. As a survivor myself of childhood sexual abuse by a grown man, my young girl inside cheers every time I hear these stories of women rising up collectively to speak our truth in these courageous ways. Me too!
Hearing the intense emotions coursing through our nation of women, I am relieved that we are getting real. Some say that we are “too emotional.” Seriously?
In June 2018, the Thomson-Reuters Foundation released the results of an annual poll identifying the world’s most dangerous countries for women. The United States was the only Western nation in the top 10 and was ranked third in the category of sexual violence including rape, sexual harassment, coercion into sex and the lack of access to justice in rape cases.
Being “emotional” is a natural and healthy response to today’s realities. Our authentic feelings point us toward our underlying needs. The most basic human needs include safety and respect. What could be more important? And as we know in the women’s herbal community, suppressing our feelings and denying our needs impacts our health: emotionally, mentally, and physically.
The patriarchy depends on squelching women's voices. We are taught to put others’ needs before our own. If we are empowered to express our feelings, which unmet needs may surface to our attention? What aspects of internalized oppression might we choose to unlearn in ourselves? In truth, all of our feelings, from discomfort and aggravation, to grief, anger, and yes even outrage, are absolutely valid.
If you want support around reconnecting with your own feelings and needs, you may want to check out my worksheet It’s Your Time Now!
I know my own needs for safety and respect were unmet for so long that it wasn’t in until I was in my 40s, that I realized what a healthy relationship looks like—based in mutuality, meeting needs of both people for safety, respect, valuing, and clarity. Sadly this confusion about relationships is true for all too many women and girls today, one of the common and lasting psychological impacts of complex trauma.
As time goes on, there may be increasing resistance to women speaking up. Women’s stories may be criticized, minimized or disbelieved. We may even begin to do that to ourselves. It’s a natural response to trauma—in order to cope, our brains minimize our experiences and our feelings. We develop false core beliefs that something is wrong with us. It takes work to keep those critical voices, internal and external, at bay.
We need one another. This current wave of women’s empowerment is at the heart, a collection of individual journeys which are changing the way we view ourselves and women as a whole. It is the alliances among women and the validation we receive from hearing one another’s stories that can silence the critical voices. Together we understand that we are not alone and that the challenges we face are systemic, not a reflection of our own shortcomings.
Are we being “too emotional”? No. Paying attention to our own feelings and our underlying needs is actually the roadmap home to ourselves. To a place where we make choices that meet our needs, for respect and safety, as well as love, connection, integrity, authenticity, community, meaning, purpose, and contribution.
Is that what patriarchy wants? No. Is that what we want? Yes. Is that what the world needs, for the benefit for all beings? Yes, indeed!
Tarana Burke started Me Too! ~ a movement, not a moment
Tarana Burke's movement, which was founded more than 10 years ago, has inspired survivors of sexual violence from all over the world to find pathways to healing—including myself.
Tarana first used the phrase "Me Too" in 2006 while working with young black women and girls from low-income communities for whom she developed a culturally informed curriculum to discuss sexual assault and harassment. The #metoo social media hashtag campaign has generated more than 13 million posts, emerging as a rallying cry for people everywhere who have survived sexual violence.
As Angelica Wind, Executive Director of Our VOICE in Asheville NC, says, “Her message is inspirational: That together we are creating a movement—because it's not just a moment—and that this movement is actively shaping and changing our cultural norms now and for future generations to come.”
Tarana currently works under the banner of the movement, which is housed at the Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity organization, where she serves as senior director.
Corinna Wood, seasoned teacher and mentor along the wise woman path–from herbs to self love
"I was initiated into the Wise Woman Tradition at the tender age of 22, by Susun Weed and a beloved patch of nettles. Today, I support women with inner growth and healing tools to ground you in your own innate wisdom, needs and desires. My teachings on heart and soul healing draw on earth wisdom of our foremothers––the shoulders on which we stand––to navigate the challenges we face as women in the world today."