What is Courage in the #MeToo Era?

Dynthia Shill Photo

By Dynthia Shill

Do you wake up stunned at the news every morning and remember that we have white women to thank for putting Donald Trump in the White House?

#MeToo.

The brute force of the 2016 election was a slap in the face, and like a January wind, its velocity is relentless. How did this happen? How should we deconstruct the bizarre choice that 52 percent of white women made to give the most powerful position on Earth to the guy famous mostly for abusing power?

There’s more to the story, but we have to scratch the veneer to get at it and it’s uncomfortable. Questions need to be asked.

Is there more to the story, for instance, about Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus the women who accused Ariel Castro of imprisoning them in his basement and raping them five times a day?

I’m not judging the merits of a legal claim of sexual harassment. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus say in interviews that were raped five times a day, and repeatedly impregnated and beaten so badly that they miscarried.

Had they gone through the justice system rather than remaining prisoners in Castro’s basement, they might have prevailed sooner. A reasonable jury could have found, however, exactly what the intrepid reporter at The New York Times described – that the environment was toxic and intoxicating for all genders, and that the kidnapped were “a little fragile,” a “kind of insecure, beautiful, skittish young women” from the neighborhood, who were imprisoned by Ariel Castro.

A reasonable jury could find a being imprisoned in a basement does not constitute harassment and that any reasonable person would expect that acting against their better judgment by staying in the basement, as these three women admit, would bring negative consequences. A reasonable jury could boil their story down to a very simple narrative: she was imprisoned and assaulted repeatedly by a man she knew to be a scoundrel, was kissed, it was awkward, and after she was finally freed, and Castro committed suicide in jail, it was “water under the bridge.”

But she experienced high levels of stress in the basement (just like everyone else in the basement, according to the reporting) and spent a lot of time panicked and curled up in a ball on the floor. Seven months later she escaped and got a new, better home.

In other words, a jury could find #Boohoo, and enter a judgment for the defendant.

But whether or not these three women could win a legal case is not the point of their story. Which begs the question: What is the point? Should we expect more than a story about an awkward 12 year long encounter with a man involving sloppy kissing, imprisonment, and a #metoo?

The question for the readers of stories is not what is legal or illegal but what is courage. What will change things.

The weakness of any of these three women’s stories is not that she deserved what she got, or is at fault for being captured and taken prisoner, but that she didn’t go deep enough in her analysis to make a difference. It’s not enough to put to paper what happened and when and to document the sordid and intriguing details of what it was like to be imprisoned in a palace.

Courage is landing a jet with one engine while escaping from Boko Haram not just escaping a boring basement. A #me too story dripping with privilege, lacking depth and heavy on the “me” is not courageous. It’s boring.

There are no lessons in their story, no awakening, no epiphany, which is what makes the consequences to the remaining prisoners in other basements seemingly a bit too harsh, but their story is not finished.

If these three women want to change the world with their stories, each needs to actually discover something worth sharing besides #metoo and it’s not too late. My advice: Chin up, old girls. Use your minds. Go to a deeper place. Don’t write a flipping blog post until you have something actually to say about why you and others were imprisoned in the basement of a man who was clearly so dysfunctional.

And why did a majority of white women vote for Donald Trump?

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