Unlearning

Unlearning

Hey everyone, been awhile.

And while I wish I was here to tell you about more adventures, instead I’m going to dig into this Gabby Douglas thing. If you don’t know, Gabby Douglas was a US gymnast in the 2012 Olympics and she kicked all kinds of ass.

Just two days ago, one of Gabby’s former teammates, Aly Riseman, posted her own #MeToo story. Gabby found her way into the story by tweeting in response to Aly’s story that women can avoid sexual assault by dressing modestly.

That’s bullshit.

I know that. You know that.

But none of us were born knowing that. We had to learn it. Or unlearn it. All our lives, doesn’t matter if you’re boy, girl, both, or neither, what is the one thing that we have always been taught about sexual assault? Victim blaming. What was she wearing? What was she drinking? Why did she walk home that way? This has been the narrative All Our Lives.

Hopefully, 2017 will do this one thing for us and radically change that narrative and young kids growing up now will not learn to victim blame.

But as I said, none of us are born knowing what gaslighting is or microaggressions or victim blaming. We had to learn from others by listening, by actively looking for help to understand. No one is faultless. As a friend said, “If you can look back five, ten years on your life and cringe at the things you thought and said, then you’ve grown.”

I can think of quite a few cringe-worthy moments. I have one that I’ve been thinking about since Gabby Douglas’ tweet blew up. Six years ago, maybe even seven, I was in the car with my friend. She confided in me that she’d sent nudes to her then long distance not-quite-boyfriend and they’d had a falling out. He threatened to post her nudes all over the internet in an act of revenge porn.

And I know exactly what I would say now about getting a shovel and some lye and hunting him down.

But then? I asked her why she sent the pictures to begin with. Victim blaming. This-bad-thing-happened-because-you-didn’t-fit-in-the-box-of-modesty-I’ve-been-told-is-the-only-way-to-stay-safe.

I wasn’t supportive. I wasn’t a good friend. I was just another mouthpiece of patriarchy telling her that she was the one who had done the bad thing, not him.

That moment is when we started to drift further apart. There were other things going on and that would happen later down the line, but that moment in the car is when the divide started to open wider. We’d been friends and confidants since elementary school. But in that moment I wasn’t a good friend and it doesn’t matter how many playground secrets you keep if you can’t be the friend you need to be when it matters.

We’re starting to talk more again, but I doubt we’re ever the friends we were back then. Because I messed up and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until years later. I had to learn.

The only saving grace any of us have is that we did a lot of learning before social media became the beast it is. Gabby Douglas is young and she messed up. Unfortunately, she messed up on a massive platform. This tweet is going to stick to her for the rest of her life. Doesn’t matter what she does or where she goes, there will always be someone who equates her with what she wrote when she was 21 years old. I can’t and don’t want to imagine what horrible things people have been tweeting at her for the last 48 hours because the world is not kind to black women, period. But if/when they mess up?

I hope there are people in her life who are patient and kind and who are willing to teach her. I hope she’s willing to learn. I hope she looks back in five years and cringes.

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