I hesitated many times before writing about #MeToo. My inner voice said: “Who are you to write about this? First of all, you’re a guy. There’s no way you can truly understand the pain of those hurt. Secondly, You’re just an educator, not an authority familiar with any research or studies about the effects of sexual assault on its victims. Thirdly, this is such a volatile issue, are people willing to hear a level of nuance to the conversations or will I be accused of ‘not getting it’ and will the talkbacks be brutal?”
But I would like to address the issue from an Ayeka perspective of hiding, journey, and responsibility. Maybe there is something that we can all learn from this debacle as we stumble in our journeys, while moving forward.
I wonder what Harvey Weinstein is thinking now. What is going through the mind of James Franco? Dustin Hoffman? Kevin Spacey? And the countless others.
Are they thinking: “My life is over. I will never be able to show my face in public again.” Are they considering harming themselves? Are they thinking that their lives will no longer be defined by their successes, but by the most awful and now embarrassing moments of their lives?
Are they the new lepers of our society? Living as pariahs, outside of the community? The leper of the Torah had to call out: “Impure, impure” whenever someone came close to him, to warn others away. Will they forever be considered as “Untouchables” by others?
Probably. For most if not all of them. We may never see or hear from them again.
They may be thinking that they were put on this earth for their theatrical talents and extraordinary ability to perform. And now that is finished and their lives are in ruins. Rock bottom.
But God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes hitting rock bottom can be the best thing that happens to someone, even when it doesn’t feel like that at all.
What if one of these figures now stood up and said: “I am thoroughly guilty. I am thoroughly impure. There is a moral stain on my soul that will never be washed away. I have caused incalculable pain to other innocent human beings. I have demonstrated terrible judgment. And now — I own it and I’m going to do something about it.”
What if one of these figures declared: “I’m going to commit the huge wealth that I have acquired while doing these heinous acts to preventing their recurring.”
What if one of them founded an organization that would protect young women who are constantly facing abuse? What if he spearheaded a change in the exploitation of women in our society? What if he now became the face campaigning for a new way to treat women? What if he admitted, again and again, his guilt, shame, and disgrace. What if he now dedicated his life to publicly talking about this fall from grace?
Sometimes what we think is our life is actually just a prelude for the real reason we have been brought into this world. Sometimes there are many preludes to our actual lives.
The response of the first personality in the Torah who made a mistake, Adam in the Garden of Eden, was to hide. The first spiritual and moral lesson the Torah offers us is to take responsibility and own our mistakes.
On the soulful path, we are always stumbling. We all have our shadow sides, the parts of us that are distasteful, our lower selves. We all have our rock bottoms. Not owning these parts of ourselves don’t make them go away. They are opportunities for us to accept our full selves, learn from our mistakes, and take small steps forward.
These public figures can now also go into hiding. They can take their wealth and disappear. They can spin and deny and retreat.
Or they can stand up and do something noble to benefit society. Even at their rock bottom, they have a choice of how they will be remembered.
They were part of the problem. They now have an opportunity to step up and be part of the solution. It will surely be the hardest and most challenging role they have ever taken on.
(Inspired by Sharon Shenhav)