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  • Sigita Ivaškaitė

#me and #metoo even if #menot = ?

(as promised, some things, that can be interesting outside LT will be in English)

This just might be the most stupid idea I’ve ever had. I mean to write this post. But some thoughts and serious hysterical shout outs that aren’t leaving me for several days must be written out.

So, long story short, I thought that a story of a grown(ass)woman who came to peace with the #metoo movement might be interesting for many. 1st of all because everyone had to make friends or enemies, or whatever with this phenomenon. And 2nd – there is a shit crap of situation here in LT.

When I first saw that some women in Hollywood started to speak up about sexual misconduct and even rape, I wasn’t really shocked. Like most of us, I guess. When my fb feed was drowned in metoo hashtags I went a bit: “huh, really?”. But when in such a short time a Lithuanian actress came forward with her story about Bartas, it was: “whaaaaaat? Is this a TREND now?!”

I was kinda confused. Somehow it seemed logical for me, that this kind of “taking action” would be a normal process in Hollywood. Because for long time now everybody was hearing more louder voices of women in cinema, claiming that they never earn as much money and respect, as their male costars and so on. Also, as far, as my knowledge of US culture today, it seems, that even with an enormous number of powerful women, it still is a white mans’ world. I mean, if Trump can be the president…

Somehow, I felt that the news and events of the past year or two were leading women in US to this point. And god bless the brave ones.

But then, very quickly, jumping to Lithuania, it didn’t feel right (?). I thought it was a bit fake. Why? I guess, when it happens so near, you start to put your own experience into it as an example. And you do tend to think better about yourself, then you ever should. What do I mean?

Basically, with the first brave woman here, my reaction was a bit “careful”: “but how can one know the truth now? But what was it exactly? But…” In a way it was a bit unexpected, the fact, that this wave of truth, honesty and shout out came here, to this forsaken land and… well, what will we do with it? This is such a Western thing, you know? And for the moment, never mind the things that were happening in the spotlight, because, well, this is a different kind of story.

Now, it comes a moment, where I remember my conversation on this same subject with a really thoughtful man. A conversation that ended in my attempts to describe the feeling a woman gets when some dude is crossing boundaries… And I caught myself doing it and went: “wait, so if I have to talk about this with you, then it means the rest of us is really fucked”. And there it was, the answer to my doubts or however you would call them… Our problem here, about being so careful to believe and encourage these women, was that not one of us could describe sexual misconduct in the same way. For men it has to be pure physical, while women do care about emotions, words and intentions. But most importantly, I started to feel how clumsy it gets when you have to talk about power in the context of harassment.

Somewhat at the same time Selma Hayeks’ story came out. It was really powerful. Well, to me, because it was a story about a strong woman, constantly saying “no” and still being hurt by this… grinding. And this was another thing that felt more real to me, than another “young girl in the city” story (no offence). It gave me a wider view. And, once again, proved that we ARE talking about the power in many different ways.

And, of course, in the LT media, there was this fuss going on… none of it actually took care or looked into the real problem. And it just got worse. Women were speaking out and were being bullied even more. Because nobody could understand why they weren’t talking all of those years ago. Well, my dearies, I am still amazed that they spoke out now, because most of the people here are still full of shit.

But, you know, I’m not judging. Sort of. Because this is a story of how I am trying not to be full of it anymore. Anyway.

For me, the highest point and my personal enlightenment of the story were the accusations for theatre director Vaitkus. Because now I actually was one of those people that always “heard” or “kind of knew” what was going on, but has never even made contact with the man. But it all started to make sense. For one, I understood, why all of these stories are coming out in the field of arts. Because here, as strict as you are, no one puts actual boundaries on (non)professional communication. Because here we still get those “geniuses”, “maestros”, and “untouchables”, because, you know – art(ists). Ugh. Just like the gymnasts’ were being “healed”, actresses and actors can tell you even more about the ways that they were taught to really feel, kiss etc… on stage. And all of those traditions of arts academy professors going out for a drink with their students… oh man… and here the concept of power has many different layers. A power to give an education, working place, knowledge, experience and… shame.

Shame. Somehow, it comes so naturally to women. Had a one night stand? Well, you will do your little walk of shame as gracefully as you can, call your bf to talk about it and that should cover it. A guy will go and have a big breakfast, because, you know – hungry (wink, wink). And thirsty (wink). And, YES I KNOW, not everyone is like that. I exaggerate for effect. Why? Because, as far as this thing has happened in LT, only one of the accused had the balls to go “I’m sorry, I might have gone too far/ done something wrong”. Rest of them? Denial, disrespectful lies, and (for crying out loud) RUSSIAN propaganda story.

And to top all of this, there comes a WOMAN DIRECTOR, standing in favor of Vaitkus. REALLY? And she is the one, that likes to be very serious, wearing a lot of pants costumes, short hair and so on. You know, proving that theory, that in order to be a strong woman, you need to become a man. (ahem, no, darling, no) And also talk BS when asked.

Now, I have totally lost my point here. But all of this comes to make sense. Let’s get to it now.

I don’t know how, but my fairly conservative parents have raised me sort of blind to noticing different sex… explain… While growing up, of course, I have heard the words “girls should/shouldn’t do that”, but as long as my father cared, I could do anything. I mean, as far as I am able to. If I can lift something – why shouldn’t I, if I can make something by myself, why shouldn’t I? And like that, up until this day I don’t need to go around looking for a man to open up a jar of jam. Truth be told, sometimes I do it quicker than my partner :D And for me it was never about feminism, it was just the way I saw the world. And maybe because it was mostly my fathers’ merit, a portrait of this kind of a respectful man and world view was a norm for me. Of course, I knew that there are people who think otherwise, but I never thought that they could be in charge of…well anything.

For a long time in workplaces, where I usually had to confront producers, directors and so on (mostly male), I always thought that it was my youth that bothered them so much. When I was right and had the position to overrule them it freaked them out. And only when I started to work in a state institution, I started to notice, that it does have something to do with the fact that I’m a woman. And, oh honey, what nice time I had later being a pregnant and (relatively) young woman in a manager’s position. Men freaked twice as they normally do and feared even more :D

All of this had me frequently asking about some choices women made or fights they went to fight. I felt as they were living some sort of different kind of life. Or I was. Of course, with maternity a lot has changed for me now. A LOT of new things I have learned, and one of them is that we do tend to think too good about ourselves. Especially while judging people behavior in a situation that we have never been in before. We think that we can stay in “a clear mind” whenever needed. Nah. So not true.

I understood another thing. #metoo is about talking. And I think everyone should be constantly reminded of that, because now there is too much rushed concentration on who and how should get punished. It is true, that proving a misconduct will always be harder, than a rape. And that is where the shame part comes in. Most of the crimes can be investigated and solved using evidence that is not a part of humans’ body or mind. Well, this is not the case. And that is scary, and that awakens the shame. Because here it is only you and your word. And after being unheard, mistreated and humiliated by one person, you have to go to another and somehow hope that this time your voice will be heard and taken the right way, that they will believe you... Also, talking includes being honest and true about your actions, learning to acknowledge faults and misbehaviors. And, again, it‘s just the tip of the iceberg...

But we have to work and talk towards the new normal view, where the “shame” is gone. Where it is normal to speak up. Where no one cares how old, young, what gender are you. Where truth and words can break up the cycle of fear and power. If there will be a ton of stories from 10 years ago, later there will be from, 9, 8…a year ago. Then we can see the reality as it is. Stop judging. Start using our empathy again. And I know and am so sorry that some of those stories will be fake, but… I see no other way.

And how will it all end? No idea. I just wish that with every movement like this, more people could reinvent themselves in some way. Somehow like it got to me and kept me thinking and rethinking. This is not a motivational or an inspirational speech. Just a story.

Oh, and also, I’m 100 percent sure that the core of this problem lies in sexual education. In the way that we are taught to deal with intimacy… oh, you know, that is the core with 99% of any human misconduct.

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