Day 5: Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

When you interrupted your phone call yesterday and motioned the reporter out of the line, I felt it viscerally. I know that summons.  As the reporter stepped forward, she offered the requisite nervous laugh and you predictably let your eyes undress her as we all watched … 

Stop.

I don’t want to write to the president about this patriarchal bullshit. I don’t want to talk to men at all. I’m tired of trying to teach those who don’t want to learn.

On this, the 5th day after my 55th birthday, I want to write to myself and every other woman who has ever felt the unwelcome undressing gaze of man (which I’m guessing is pretty much all of us). I want to wonder aloud how we might helpfully move in the face of this predictable and utterly despicable pattern.

In the parlance of the tables, we might be wise to do a 4th step. After naming the resentment and describing the event (as specifically as we can), we are asked to reflect on how it made us feel, where it hooked us, how we were (and are) affected. This piece is key and lays the foundation for the next piece: what then is mine? Here we look at our own culpability and responsibility.

As I reflect on situations where I’ve been objectified by men, a place where I get hooked is my need for external validation. The little girl in me who is forever looking for daddy’s affirmation, I pause in the face of male attention. This is the hook. This is where I can and must work.

To be clear, I’m down with holding the men accountable. This is NOT in lieu of but rather preparatory work. I’m coming to believe that to be most effective we need to first find and disarm the hooks. Hooks that pull us towards the menace instead of running far and fast.

I imagine a time when that feeling of deference isn’t my instinct when a man starts the predictable pattern; I imagine how I might respond if unhooked, how I might name the objectification in real time, how I might speak with clarity in the moment. With mind and tongue freed from my own internalized sexism, I would be able to stand taller, own the space, and hold *him* accountable.

This is what I wish for myself.  For all of us.

Standing strong, together and unbound, we will be a mighty force.