Editor’s Note: Kyle Godfrey-Ryan is the founder of Tune.Studio, a medical-grade sound healing company that uses healthy sound frequencies to promote wellness. She lives in New York with her two children. Godfrey-Ryan was a former assistant to Charlie Rose. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.
Kyle Godfrey-Ryan: We must not use moment of reckoning to vilify the accused
The issue is far more pervasive than that of a few powerful men, she says
We have entered an age in which women can safely discuss sexual misconduct in the workplace without fear of retaliation and retribution.
As such, in recent weeks, we have seen women from a multitude of industries – media, politics and entertainment – come forward with their stories of sexual assault and harassment. I am one of those women. I allowed The Washington Post to use my name and story after learning about the other women who have accused Charlie Rose of “unwanted sexual advances.” I felt that if I withheld my identity, I would be delegitimizing the experiences of these other women – a form of being complicit in their suffering.
As a small player in this recent uprising and as a product of generations of fierce women, I recognize the potential brevity of this moment and don’t want us to squander it with only rage and pain. I have heard a simplified and repeated story line these last few weeks – men are vile and women are victims. And I do not want to re-enforce a story line that pits men against women.
While healing will require time, unified awareness around the issue and a great deal of humility, we must use this moment to improve the future. In other words, we must transform this reckoning into a reconciliation.
We must take advantage of the opportunity to shift the lens through which we view power and freedom. The men who have been publicly accused in recent weeks could have been replaced years ago. But they were protected and supported because the industries surrounding them believed these men’s ability to deliver sponsorship, viewers and ticket sales far outweighed the responsibility of providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.
We also need to reconcile that the behavior, highlighted by the #MeToo campaign, is not restricted to a few bad apples – it’s far more pervasive. To repair this issue, we need to address the root cause and not oversimplify it as the reprehensible actions of a few “villainous” celebrities. This kind of societal reconciliation is hard. It requires us all to take a hard look at ourselves and our actions, or in many cases, to reflect on the actions others took against us.
I would like for us to consider that by labeling these men as villains, we are neither curing the underlying problem nor achieving the freedom we desire. In fact, the label itself serves as an insurmountable block against addressing and acknowledging similar actions we might exhibit ourselves. By identifying these men’s actions (I am not discussing cases that require law enforcement) as fringe, it reinforces the perception that this is a rare occurrence. Many abusers do not recognize their actions as wrong, and by villainizing common-place sexual assault, we are creating an impediment in raising awareness of the breadth of the issue.
At this point, there are many men and women who would greatly benefit from reconciling the abuse of power they have engaged in from both sides; I can tell you this practice has greatly benefited my life. I had to reconcile staying in an unhealthy and abusive work environment because I held some poisonous beliefs. I believed I didn’t have other options and that I somehow equally deserved and created the treatment I received. To heal, I had to repair the places that allowed for this abuse, and I did that through learning to love and value myself.
I implore us to embrace and examine the discomfort of this historic time. Allow the anger, the rage, the sadness and the numbness to sink in. Only then can we treat ourselves with all the compassion and vigor we can muster. A society in which everyone, men and women, allow themselves to feel and process difficult experiences is both healthier and less susceptible to predatory behavior.
This is not an impossible task, but it is a hurdle we must overcome. Today, we are in mourning. We are still immersed in a time that has only recently unchained the suppressed female voice. Tomorrow, we will be required to live again, and I hope we choose to heal.