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The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

September 20, 2018 by

When You Say #MeToo, What Dangers Lurk?

We’ve heard a lot recently about becoming an upstander, rather than being a passive bystander when you’ve witnessed a bad event. We’re learning how to defuse a threatening situation on a street or in a crowd, how to offer support on the spot to someone being bullied or harassed.

But now, especially in the wake of Yom Kippur, I’ve been thinking about how we can become attentive to other aspects of wrongdoing or suffering that seem less obvious. We fast and beat our breasts and recite our transgressions and shortcomings each year to improve. And one of those ways is to become more aware of the less obvious needs around us—something that recent trends in feminist activism can help us do.

Maybe we already notice the woman balancing on a cane who needs help putting on her coat at the diner, or the person struggling to negotiate a baby in a stroller getting up the subway steps. And maybe we already do help in those circumstances, because they cry out for our empathy.

Yet there are less noticeable needs lurking beneath the surface. When we speak out to support laws protecting a woman’s right to choose abortion, for instance, we don’t always imagine or notice the other supports a woman might need as she enacts her choice. But abortion fund activism reminds us to look deeper. Who will care for her other children if she has to travel to another town, or another state, to obtain this abortion care? How will she pay her travel expenses?

There are funds that will help, and now also networks of people who offer home hospitality for an overnight stay. Activists who support reproductive justice are noticing those ancillary needs that follow from the initial need to terminate a pregnancy.

Worth bringing into consciousness in the coming year was another need hiding in plain sight, right before me when I re-connected with social media after break-fast last night. An appeal from one of my Facebook friends announced that coming forward with her accusations of a sexually violent attack by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has cost Christine Blasey Ford more than simply opening up her personal life to public scrutiny. “This will wipe her and her family out” said the friend, as she linked to a Go Fund Me campaign. The financial—as opposed to the personal—costs of Ford’s coming forward hadn’t occurred to me even for one moment. It had escaped my notice over the several days that I’d been following this news. But feminists banding together and spotlighting these hidden sequelae brought another example of how to notice the need behind the need. 

What is called for—demanded of us, in fact, in the High Holidays liturgy–­­is the kind of radical empathy that will let us see past the surface and imagine the various steps that a person in crisis must take. In the case of a high-profile #MeToo accuser, these could include expected costs like hiring lawyers, losing time from work, paying for cross-country flights to testify. And also unexpected and unwelcome expenses like hiring security guards to protect against threats, relocating her family because of the opprobrium her accusation has brought forth, among others. 

Noticing not only the dangers and pitfalls that face us on our own paths (animals do this pretty well, after all), but noticing the less-obvious needs of others. This is one of our opportunities to be human.