I recently opened up about my history in a certain work setting in which the environment was burdened by a sexual harassing vibe. I wrote how it affected me personally, how I saw the effects on those with whom I worked and those I heard about after I no longer worked there, I wrote of how no one said a word - well, I did say something to the perpetrator, but the conversations usually were laughed at or turned into some kind of a joke....or simply more flirty-over-the-line discourse, in which I participated. I wrote about how uncomfortable this environment was for me. I also wrote about how I benefited from this "attention," professionally, AND how it served to stir rumors about me that were wholly unflattering and untrue.
I had the bold idea of speaking about it in a public forum - truly speaking out. Without naming names, as was the case when I originally shared my story. I thought that it was about time. And then I was thoughtfully asked if I really knew what I was doing by offering my story in a public setting? The rational side of me knew that, even if names weren't included, I work in a profession in which many people are known to each other. It wouldn't be difficult to figure out the people about whom I was discussing. And as I was deliberating whether or not to do this, I could see the look of alarm on the faces of those who were offering me the forum. I could hear their concern for me and my professional mobility should I do this. While no one used the term, I could almost hear them telling me I'd be blacklisted should I go forward and speak.
I decided not to go forward and I feel very torn about it. I feel my decision IS the very thing that keeps this deplorable behavior going on. I'm complicit in its perpetuation by being protective of my professional future, even though it's no longer affecting me. I'm sure it's still affecting other women presently. But unlike the celebrities who were brave enough to speak out about their professional compromises over the course of their respective careers, I am still building my career. These women in Hollywood seemingly are in positions where screaming "j'accuse" will not boomerang back on them any longer. I am in no such position.....yet.
I am successful, skilled at what I do, I'm ambitious and I believe in speaking up. At the same time, my need for self-preservation is at odds with the latter point. This IS the very cycle of abuse that you hear about in situations of domestic violence, for example. The battered wife who stays (while others think she is nuts and weak) because the alternative seems more dangerous. Now, I'm not being battered or abused. I'm feeling a self-imposed silencing that, particularly because of the current political wave of "Me Too," feels abhorrently difficult to tolerate. But I will.
Until the moment feels more right. And then I will shout.