#MeToo and #Times Up? (dedicated to Aretha)

            I just returned from the “Ending Sexual Harassment in the Academy Summit” at Texas Tech (http://today.ttu.edu/posts/2018/08/sexual-harassment-summit).  I was honored to be invited to share the keynote on #timesupacademia on the day that Aretha passed. In the spirit of TCB (Taking Care of Business) and R.E.S.P.E.C.T., which is what we all want and deserve as core element of our humanity, some of my abbreviated remarks are below.

In “A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor:  Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America” my mother’s experience of rape by her brother was witnessed by her sister.  My mother’s sister, Bernice, shared what she saw with me and said, “I didn’t tell Mama because I didn’t have the words for it. I would have told about the rape if I had words. I didn’t. I left it alone.” (A Black Woman’s Journey, p. 94).

In the context of #TimesUp and #MeToo, my question is when women have the words, what have we done — we as women, we as women of color, we as men? Where was the world when Anita Hill, in October 1991, a woman of one, found the words, when she simply said, “ME.  ME.”  She couldn’t even say, “Me, too.”  She just said, “ME.”  And she was silenced, ignored, humiliated, and disrespected in the most powerful forum in America – the seat of all power in the Senate.  A Senate hearing full of White men.  Where was the world? Where were women?  Where were women of color?  Where were the sisters of sororities?  Invisible…Like Bernice, they left it alone.  They left HER alone.

Is time up?  Is time up for Black women to remain silent?   Is time up for men – husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, to remain silent?  Is time up only up for White privileged, wealthy women, to proclaim #MeToo and #TimesUp? What about the poor women, women of color who have been Me, not Me, too, just Me?

As Oprah said in her Golden Globe speech, “It’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.”  http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a14551183/oprah-winfrey-golden-globes-speech-transcript/

We have to acknowledge, know, and share the truth.  The truth is not that White women in privileged entertainment and sports industries suddenly uncovered and identified a significant societal program.  It is that women and girls since the beginning of time (including those in Africa, Asia, South America, India, Middle East, and all over the world) have been persecuted, abused, disrespected, and marginalized by men and even other women in positions of power.  Do these women get to say Time’s Up when their family’s survival – food, clothes, and shelter — literally depends on their ability to daily survive abuse?  Can they choose?  Is there a choice? Is time up for them?

Shifts have to happen to create change. In my work on social movements in Critical Race Feminism and Education:  A Social Justice Model, there is a concept of a “catalyst” point — a signature moment that generates energy and a sense of moral obligation that moves largely stagnant and apathetic people to action.  And we need these moments that create movements.   Moments when there is a stage and forum and place for a young woman like Aly Raisman to be heard when she said to during her survivor impact statement: “Abusers, your time is up. The survivors are here, standing tall, and we are not going anywhere.” http://mag.bleacherreport.com/aly-raisman-power-50-cover-2018/?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

A bold and powerful proclamation:y  “Abusers, our time is up!”  The TimesUpNow website (https://timesupnow.com) says: “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it. No more silence. No more waiting. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse.”

Time’s Up!  But is it?  What do we really mean? When you, or I, say Times Up….is it a statement that ends with a question mark? It is essentially a question?  Is it a statement of belief and hope?  Or is it a proclamation of conviction; determination; mandate that nothing, no one, no situation will be allowed to exist that dehumanizes, minimizes, denigrates, and degrades women.   How can time be up in America for racism, sexism, homophobia, religious persecution?  How can time be up across the globe where race, gender, and class have such defining power to determine future paths, direction, and opportunities? How can time be up?  What exactly does this mean?  How can time be up in the reality of today’s political climate in America?

Time’s Up for what? Time’s Up for who?  How is Time Up?  When do we know we are done? Who gets to decide? How do we know we have succeeded? What are the markers of success? Who are the allies?  Who feels included?  Who feels motivated?  Where are the advocates?  Can women of color and White women work together?  Where are the men?  What role is there for the intersectionality of race, of gender identity, of religion, of ways of thought and being that legitimate and perpetuate inequality?  Where are the schools of thought and the programs that educate about hegemony of the academy?  Are we willing to dismantle structures that promote privilege from which we benefit? What interpersonal relationships do we have that allow us to engage and support others?  What policies, procedures, and practices are we challenging and changing? Are we willing to challenge men who are the bullies that everyone knows in every department?  Are we willing to challenge other women who cover their eyes and seal their lips and keep walking in their privilege?

What I realized is that we actually need to have tools to do this work.  As Bernice said, we need the words.  It is not enough to have a hashtag and to proclaim that times is up and do very little.  We must be educated activists – scholar activists, particularly if we are interested in disrupting the status quo of the academy, founded upon principles of sexism and exclusion, and presumptions about the ability of women to think.  We must seek to understand power and its manifestations and design strategies to combat it.  Patricia Hill Collins (2009, 292) reminds us that we must see power, “not as a something that groups possess, but as an intangible entity that circulates within a particular matrix of domination and to which individuals stand in varying relationships.”  What Collins helps us realize that is that to address power, we have to understand its multiple manifestations.

Why does this matter?  Because if we are going to be audacious enough to say, “Times Up” we must be courageous enough to say times up for patriarchy, colonialism, sexism, racism, and homophobia; we have to say times up for policies, practices, and procedures that reinforce the status quo; we have to say times up for our systems and structures that are institutionalized in America that perpetuate and legitimate oppression; we have to say times up for micro and macro aggressions in day to day relationships and interactions.  We have to Time’s Up!

Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992) and Dr. Waded Cruzado, Montana State University president, challenge us: “If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, assertive, rebellious, you are on the right track. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time.”  (See Journeys of Social Justice: Women of Color Presidents in the Academy, p. 184-185).

So, time is not yet up for us to fight; time is not yet up for us to speak; time is not yet up for us to advocate; time is not yet up for us to challenge power; time is not yet up for us to be defiant, cunning, insurgent, unruly, assertive, and rebellious.  Our time, your time, is not yet up!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *