The power of “I see you.”

I’ve been hitting the job hunt particularly hard this week, and also have actual paying work (“this week” is currently shaping up to be monetarily equivalent to the combined months of July and August. Ah, freelancing!), which is why you’ve been seeing so many wee, little “Good Stuff” posts. This, too, will not be long.

But for some random reason, a memory just floated across my brain pan of a post a week or so back in which Ta-Nehisi Coates mentioned, almost in passing, that he was presuming that for many of the early feminists, the threat of sexual violence was a constant.

I was struck at the time by how powerful it is to have a man simply say the very thing I was thinking, struck by the unexpected wave of gratitude that washed over me as I read it, almost a little embarrassed, like: So what, a man said it — women have been known it since forever!

I don’t know why it came to me now (it may have been jogged by this story of Occupy Nashville protesters greeting a march by counter protesters with shouts of “We love you!”), but even as I wrote about something else altogether, I tried to tease out why it is so important to me to have men talk about women’s issues.

And I realized suddenly that it’s the simple power of being seen. Of feeling invisible, maybe almost without realizing it, and suddenly hearing someone say “I see you.”

The power is much greater than just that, of course — the growing involvement of men in the efforts against sexual violence of all kinds is a crucial component of the larger battle — but those moments, those little, unexpected moments when someone who has felt invisible — battered women, say, or LGBTQ kids, or Asian Americans virtually en masse — hears a simple “I see you,” those moments are often the moments that provide the actual healing. They are a balm, and they provide far more hope than I think we realize.

If only removing our blinders weren’t such a slow business.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.



  1. It is a slow business.

    The good thing is, it does happen.

  2. dmf

     /  November 4, 2011

    for friday and the spark of recognition:

    Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
    without your going, that cuts noon light
    like a blue flower, without your passing
    later through fog and stones,
    without the torch you lift in your hand
    that others may not see as golden,
    that perhaps no one believed blossomed
    the glowing origin of the rose,
    without, in the end, your being, your coming
    suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
    blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
    and it follows that I am, because you are:
    it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
    and, because of love, you will, I will,
    We will, come to be.

    Pablo Neruda