Most of us would agree that 2016 has been a challenging year, with so much loss, grief, polarization and despair. We’ve gone through a lot as a culture and as a nation and certainly, individuals are going through their own deep pain on a personal level as we feel what is happening in our world.
This week Oprah interviewed Michelle Obama and the FLOTUS said about hope:
“We’re feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary…Barack didn’t talk about hope just because it was a nice slogan to get votes…What else do you have if you don’t have hope?”
So as 2016 comes to a welcome close, going back to sexuality as our life-giving source is still the answer. Empowering ourselves and those in our communities is the place to start and the touchstone to come back to over and over as we work to keep our hope and faith strong. Let us end this year by building and stirring up good things in the world to have a positive impact. Each of our individual positive acts creates a stronger, more optimistic, and hopeful whole.
As we complete this turbulent spin around the sun, I’m not going to remind you of all the crap that happened, rather, let’s focus on the 13 most hopeful things that happened in our sexual wrap-up of 2016:
1. A woman ran for president and won the popular vote, bringing forward conversations about gender, sexism, feminism, political power and pantsuits, which were uncomfortable (sometimes painful) yet needed. Despite the bitterness and vitriol of the election season, I appreciate Hillary Clinton’s legacy (following on Shirley Chisholm’s presidential bid in 1968) and I know we will see a woman become president of this nation because of the groundwork laid this year.
2. With the high profile Stanford Rape Case we saw unprecedented attention given to the pervasive social ill of sexual assault. Newscasters actually gave this woman (the survivor) a voice by reading her statement about her experience in its entirety on primetime national news programs. Colleges and universities have been forced to examine how they have not created a safe environment for all students on campus under Title 9. Title 9 is being upheld in the most powerful way to date and schools, though far from creating solid solutions, are addressing sexual assault on campus like they never have before. The problem is now undeniable, which makes solutions possible. That is reason for great hope.
3. An unprecedented number of college men’s sports teams have been suspended and called out on their sexist, misogynist and racist behavior. Soccer teams, football teams, cross-country, and swim teams have faced penalties for their behavior, often towards the women athletes, who are speaking up and challenging the way they have been objectified and demeaned by male athletes who feel entitled to talk about them however they want. It remains to be seen what will come of this, and this is a step in the right direction.
4. Lady Gaga’s performance of “TIll It Happens to You” from the documentary film “The Hunting Ground” won the Oscars. The song about sexual assault is written for and featured in the film about rape on college campuses and brought the issue of sexual assault front and center to the biggest Hollywood event of the year. Her Oscars performance included a diverse array of over 50 survivors of sexual assault and put a human face on a pervasive issue. Gaga continues to use her platform to share powerful messages that can impact our world. In tandem, the White House annouced its campaign “It’s On Us” to address this issue—a first from the executive branch.
From “Lemonade” (2016)
6. Standing Rock. The world has watched and supported the water protectors at Standing Rock as they have become an example of nonviolent resistance and the healing power of the collective in their powerful resistance to corporate takeover of their water sources. This is about all of us, as water is the next natural resource we will fight wars over, as evidenced by the brutality waged against them for their peaceful protest. This has been a pivotal event in our nation’s history, as we have to face how colonialism has impacted the indigenous people of this continent, and how many treaties continue to be ignored and broken. President Obama worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to halt the oil pipeline that is putting Lakota land and water at risk, forcing the engineering team to look at alternatives. This story will continue to unfold and our resistance and support will continue to be needed. Women (who in indigenous cultures have long been protectors of water) started the resistance, and have played a pivotal leadership role in all that has unfolded at Standing Rock.
7. LGBTQ2 Acceptance & Resilience. Although we saw huge tragedy in Orlando, the LGBTQ2 community got support from around the world in its aftermath. There has been a doubling down from LGBTQ2 activists and organizations around doing our work and not going into hiding, and instead, being as visible and united as ever against bigotry, xenophobia and homophobia and how connected they are. More voices continue to rise in service of the rights and dignity of LGBTQ2 people.
8. Outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina got the boot, after the appalling “Bathroom Bill” he signed into law resulting in boycotts and national attention to the issue of bathroom safety for transgender people. Though NC lawmakers defended the bill this week, incoming Governor Roy Cooper vowed to repeal the law when he takes office. This has created a national dialogue that is long overdue and there is a new understanding of the need for gender-neutral bathrooms, which are popping up everywhere now.
9. Ava DuVernay released “13th,” an incredible film about the 13th amendment to the US constitution. 13th investigates the progression in the US from slavery to the prison industrial complex, depicting the systematic way that black men, in particular, went from being owned as slaves into being incarcerated, effectively removing their constitutional rights in another way. It examines how the stereotype of “menace and threat has” been superimposed on black male bodies. This film is a powerful look at racism, the slavery of incarceration, and the impact of these violent legacies on families and communities of color.
10. Here in my company, we saw our biggest numbers of people to date say “yes” to a virtual program, which says a lot. To my delight it was forCalling In White Women, a program designed as a call-to-action for white women to take a serious look at white supremacy and privilege and how we can support efforts of people of color to change the deeply entrenched racism in this country at a time when we are all needed more than ever to take a stand for what is right. We are tremendously excited and invigorated with hope by seeing so many women step forward with a commitment to do something meaningful to address racism and white supremacy.
11. Madonna won Woman of the Year at Billboard’s Women in Music 2016and gave a powerful acceptance speech about sexism, misogyny and feminism in the music industry. The sexist double-standards in the music industry are no secret and she laid out with brutal truth what it has been like to be a woman in music:
12. We saw increasingly diverse, nuanced representations of female and queer sexuality in film & TV. The narrow roles for women and staid depiction of our sexuality has been consistent since the advent of the moving picture. With more women directors, writers and producers telling our stories from a real place, we are seeing a blossoming of female roles and stories that is refreshing and might just move the pendulum from the stale limited space we are used to occupying in media images. With more stories and diverse characters we can relate to, and more reflections of what it really means to explore and discover our sexuality and to fair its dangers and challenges, real women will be more empowered to be honest about what sexuality really is for us and to come out about the things we keep in the closet. Check out the way Elle addresses rape, and many stories by and about women of color from Chewing Gum to Insecure to The Handmaiden and Jane the Virgin. Art reflects life and life reflects art. This can only bode well. We all need to see depictions of ourselves.
13. Inside our sexual empowerment programs, the individual work of sexual liberation and transformation has continued to deepen the lives of so many. I cannot imagine work more rewarding and rich than to witness women stepping into their full personal power, reconnecting the parts of themselves that have been disenfranchised and buried, and giving their sexuality their love and attention. To assist women as they own their sexual power and agency, mend the parts that have felt broken, and to enact their empowerment in their relationships, work, creativity and lives is as fulfilling as I can imagine work being. I am grateful for every client we shared this year with and for the collective support and community we have developed together.
“I recognize that there’s an election everyday.
I am always choosing my inner stance.
Each morning, I choose how I will meet and honor my life energy.
I vote every time I choose which thoughts or behaviors I will energize.
Each morning, I can elect myself to serve life in conscious self-leadership.
I exercise my right to participate in life, either by design or by default.
I can elect to respond or to react.
It’s up to me.
As it turns out, love is not just a feeling, it’s a decision.
It’s a verb that holds my core, creative energy and my freedom to choose.
I choose which part of me will represent me at the table of life.
I make love to my life every day as I make decisions to slip my core values into my choice of daily activities.
Sexual congress, redefined, is this … the act of coming together within me, agency aroused, to proactively create the world I want, both within and without.
I can turn myself on and stay awake to my potency or I can allow myself to be turned off and stay asleep to my potential.
… at the end of the day, it’s a morning election.”
By Jackie Jones, Self-Acceptance Coach at MeaningfulLifeStudio.com