What To Do About “Me Too”?

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” 
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

When I reflect upon the past week of people posting the phrase “me too” (indicating they have at some point been sexually harassed or assaulted), all I can think is, “these adults were once children”, and I am saddened that they were exposed to these situations. But it also reinforces the necessity of equipping our children with the mental and physical tools they need to help protect themselves, should it ever become necessary. Over the last 20-plus years I’ve done nothing but try to teach children how to develop and protect boundaries, respect and empower themselves, defend themselves, rely on themselves and discipline themselves. This is to ensure that they are prepared, should they ever go up against any of these societal ills.

I like being an agent of change; over the last 20 years my goal has been to empower young men and women and to help them develop into the best people they can be. For young women this is especially relevant because our society doesn’t always portray strong, powerful women in a positive light, and there are still plenty of societal implications centered on the idea that women should be weak. So for some young women, they have difficulty finding their voice, and strength is a space they typically are not used to inhabiting. The best way to become emboldened and to grow stronger is to be taught. Yet, for boys, there is an automatic assumption that they will grow up to be strong men that can “handle themselves” – just because they are boys; that somehow, young boys will just naturally be able to regulate their power and place in society. However, the body cannot go where the mind has never gone; one has to be taught to be strong and to speak up and/or stand up for his or herself.

A boy will not stand up to another boy’s misdeeds if he has been constantly told “yes” by everyone in his family, and has not had the opportunity to learn to do so. A boy will not stand up to a man if he has constantly been taught to defer to an authority with every slight he has ever encountered. Similarly, a girl will not likely speak up for herself, or challenge an abuser, if she has not been taught her worth and taught to feel comfortable reaching out for support to the women AND men in her life. A girl will not feel comfortable establishing boundaries and protecting them (violently, if need be) if she has never been taught how to establish boundaries, nor taught to feel comfortable about protecting those boundaries.

As we all know, most attackers are men. Therefore, girls will never learn what it takes to protect themselves from boys/men if they are sheltered from intense, male energy. If they’ve never been exposed to controlled, safe situations where men have challenged them physically, as opposed to just intellectually, then they will never know how to respond if a violent encounter ever arises. In order for any female (or male for that matter) to truly feel comfortable in creating these boundaries and defending these boundaries, they must work with other boys and men that challenge those  boundaries in a safe environment.

This is what White Tiger Dojo does everyday. So this is a shout out to all the men and women of the White Tiger Dojo community: I’d like our community to come together and try to bring as many young men AND women to the White Tiger Dojo for a seminar about this very topic. (Date TBA/Proceeds will go to Jersey Battered Women’s Service). The seminar for boys/men is called “Man Up”. I’ve designed this coursework to help young men learn how to better respect each other, authority, and women and to become the brave men that they need to be in order to protect anyone who cannot protect themselves. Then I’d like to offer the same free seminar to young women so that they too can have a better understanding of how to stand up to, and stand together against unnecessary violence.

With all that has been discussed in Hollywood and anywhere else in our country, what I find most surprising is how so many people only stood up after the fact. Look at how many links you find across Facebook that say, “I knew, everybody knew, but I didn’t stand up and say something.” Well, that’s not good enough for our community. I believe that through educating people about a course of action they can take, empowering them to find their voice and teaching them to feel justified in speaking out when something is happening – rather than after the fact, is a great way to prevent future cases of abuse. And the only way for this to become possible, is to learn it by having actually “gone there” at some point in the earlier part of one’s life. If you’ve been trained to value your worth, learned that others are entitled to the same respect and protections, and have practiced speaking up for and defending yourself and others, you will feel more comfortable, confident and be more successful should you ever encounter such a situation. Once again, the body cannot go where the brain has never been.

After these seminars, I will publish an account of how each went and what value – if any, people felt they provided and/or have ascertained. Our community needs to know if we are going to be the instigators of positive change or if we are just going to stand by idly and watch. We need to hold ourselves, as a community, accountable. Will you help be a part of the solution?

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