It was only after I started my counseling degree did I realize how many limitations I had in reaching exactly what I set out for in this program. One was guiding others to seek counseling. I have developed great presentation and persuasion skills for this. Where is the limitation you ask? I do not seek counseling, even though I need it, even though my supervisor tells me to go, even though I tell everyone it’s great and empowering. I am a hypocrite. I believe I am too well for counseling, projecting negative beliefs that people who do seek counseling “aren't well” when I really don’t believe that.
The second, which left me fuming at myself for being such an idiot was holding others responsible for their toxic actions, for actions that don't only just impact through words, but heavily through actions, and who said feelings weren't actions anyway. You know those instances where you say, “If this happened to me, I would do this and this, for sure!” Those same instances that you have been empowering others to take, to stand their ground, and to make sure their voices are heard.
But I didn't. Hypocritical Zeina again.
This instance shook me to my core. Where did my values go? How effective was I if I couldn't do anything about this happening to me? A couple hours later and I still found that "womanly instinct", what my mother and her mother taught me, to just let it go. I know we talk about women in experiences of harassment who can’t do anything because of how shocked they are, and that is 100% valid. But I could have done something. Why didn't I? Too lazy perhaps? Too much going on? I didn't know how to fit "make him accountable for his actions" into my schedule. This is not only a disappointment in myself for not doing something for myself, it was a disappointment in myself for not being representative of the women I was constantly talking about and the women I wanted to protect. Those exact women that I told to stand their ground.
I’m shaking while writing this.
I am really sorry for letting you all down because I don't have the energy to fight for us. I am sorry that it has come to this, where I have experienced it and allowed it to keep happening. What was it? You probably want to know. I’ll just tell you that it has a lot to do with men, a lot to do with masculinity, and when you mix those two you get a threat in your email. Not only are you sitting next to your father, trying not to look red from both anger that a man would dare talk to you in such a demeaning way, and sadness that it actually happened, but trying to understand the violence of such a message in a way that you can’t even believe someone typed it out and pressed send. I moved away to sit on a different couch to think of ways to respond that would both show that I am standing my ground and holding him responsible for such a vile message.
And I wrote a response, a pretty good one at that.
One that made him blabber in his response, take back things he said, things "he didn't mean that way", and to apologize. But that can’t possibly be the end, right? He can’t just apologize and get away with it. It was clearly a threat in response to his own threat to his masculinity. I can’t forget what he said, how violent it was and how scared I felt. People say things out of anger, but this was a type of anger we have let men get away with since the beginning of time. It’s the type of anger that gets women killed. It’s the type of anger I couldn't share with friends out of fear that I would be told to report, to call out even further, and to make a big deal of. I couldn't do it. I work in a legal office, and the last thing I want to do while balancing work, interning, and 5 classes, was to deal with a legal case. But frankly, I was just terrified of what he do when he found out I reported him. I was terrified. I replied but I desperately wanted it to end. I couldn't deal with it any longer.
They say the system protects you, but it never has. It has never protected women. It just repeats a cycle of hate, of violence, and retaliation. It keeps us silent. I was stuck between reporting and risking my life and keeping silent and disappointing myself and what I've stood for.
And I chose the latter. I'm so sorry.
Published by Zeina Beena