A why is a powerful thing, and yet...
E is for Everything
Exploring everything in between.
When the best question isn't good enough
I'm starting with the five today because, for those who need a rest from reading about stories of abuse, I’d like to save you the scroll:  

  1. How to sleep: Sleep and I have a really contentious relationship. Sometimes, though, I find reading about sleep helps inspire me to try new ways of going about my sleep routine. (The Atlantic)
  2. Why the secret to office happiness is caring less: You are not your job. You are you. (Quartz)
  3. In China, an Education in Dating: The hard-learned lesson in why women and men should always be valued equally continues in China. (The New York Times)
  4. The yin and yang of organizational health: A bit jargon-y, but worth reading — if only to confirm what you already know to be true about your organization’s health. (McKinsey Quarterly)
  5. My vagina is terrific. Your opinion about it is not.: This should be obvious. Sadly, it’s not. That's why, even if you think you know what this is about, it's still well worth reading. (The New York Times)

    BONUS: How periods got woke: When we keep women’s reproductive health shrouded in taboo and ignorance, we all lose. The menstrual cycle is critical to our very existence. Learning about it should be standard practice for everyone. Even more importantly, innovating to satisfy women’s needs and even delight them should be considered a holy grail for entrepreneurs and corporations the world over. (The Guardian)
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One of the most important questions we ask throughout the course of our lives is “why?”. Once we, as children, figure out how this powerful little word works, we use it constantly. It helps us make sense of the world around us and reveals new pathways to discovery.  

I've been asking myself this question a lot lately as I read stories about the growing number of women and men who have been the victims of sexual abuse and assault by powerful members of society. These abusers are people we invest in, believing that by making such an investment, they will protect us.

Some say a veil has been lifted. It’s a poetic phrase, but it denies the victims the recognition they deserve for speaking out. People who the powerful have attempted to silence are speaking up about abuse that we, as a society, have chosen to turn a blind eye to. This is no veil; these are people rising up and speaking out.  

We’ve known, but we’ve condoned.  
WHY?

Reading the stories of pain and heartbreak, it’s easy to say, “Sure, but I don’t know that person” or “I’d never do something like that”.  

WHY?

I remember when I was groped in a night club in New York. I can’t forget it. Trust me, I’ve tried. I remember the look on the man’s face (he was barely a man — a boy, really) when I swung my head around. We made eye contact briefly before a slithered out of the club and back into the city.

If looks could kill, mine would have sent him into an entirely new dimension of hell. That's right, my face wasn’t surprised, it was livid. How dare he?!

He looked simultaneously terrified and self-congratulatory. He looked like he was walking away with something he knew didn’t belong to him but that he felt was his right to take anyway. He was walking away with the ill gotten gain of a primal power grab, but he had lost far more. He lost his dignity in my eyes — his essential humanness. That. Matters. He descended the evolutionary ladder from man to pest. Cockroaches don’t ask to enter one’s home and eat their food, yet they take up residence in the shadows and spread disease anyway. That’s basically what this pest had done, but to my body.  

Millions of people do this around the world to their fellow human beings.  
WHY?

Far more knowledgeable people have written deeply-researched white papers, books, essays, articles and poems than I can ever hope to write around the fundamental question of what drives we humans to so fundamentally disrespect and abuse one another. I must fully acknowledge my shortcomings, but in my small space here, I also must ask... 

WHY!?

No amount of reading about the brain, philosophy, economics, history, anthropology or the arts has provided me with a satisfactory answer for why me, my friends and millions of others — male, female, transgendered alike — have been abused. There is no biochemical, philosophical, sociological, psychological, anthropological, historical answer that will satisfy me.  

The only conclusion that has given me some small amount of peace is this: It will not break me, and it must stop.

One of my favorite lessons from the d.school is this: “You cannot break people.” When I learned it, it was in the context of always looking for creative solutions when working with those who have reached out to you for help in their creative problem-solving. It’s a call to never shy away from trying something new and a reminder that people are remarkably resilient.  

That lesson resonates more some days than it does others. It’s invaluable when I host workshops or otherwise try to work with people to get through difficult scenarios. Other days though, it falls flat. Those days, I just feel broken. But the fact of the matter is, I am not. Parts of me may crack or break...  

But. No. One. Breaks. Me.

Over time, in fact, they do quite the opposite. I am stronger for my life experiences — especially the ugliest, most difficult ones. Even in writing this, I get a little bit stronger. I also see the strength in my friends as their emotional bones heal stronger in the broken places. I bet the pest in that nightclub didn’t think that would happen. After all, pests aren’t known for thinking much — not to mention thinking ahead. 

So, I’m done asking “why”, because I feel that, in this rare instance, it's the wrong question. The right question is, how — how, with all of our strength in the broken and unbroken places -- do we make it stop? 

The men and women speaking up are showing us. I, for one, will do my utmost to raise my voice and take compassionate, respectful and thoughtful actions -- no matter how big or small -- to join them.  

Thank you, as always to my two largest supporters: Natalya Pemberton & Tim Karu!

Natalya is a culture and design enthusiast learning Sustainable Systems at the innovative Presidio Graduate School.

Tim runs the Mercury Inn in Portland, Maine.

These folks have generously supported E is for Everything on Patreon. Please jump on through to learn more about both them and their projects.
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Do you wish I'd shared something else? Please send me recommendations via Facebook, Twitter at @emikolawole, on Medium or reply directly to this e-mail. I will always and whenever possible give credit where it's due for great recommendations and inspiration. Have a great weekend!
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Emi Kolawole · E is for Everything HQ · Palo Alto California 94306 · USA
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