Yoga teacher was an easy target

WILMINGTON — After centuries of living under repressive patriarchal systems, women in advanced nations have achieved important rights to life, liberty and self-determination. But in conflict regions, refugee camps, and repressive societies, the story is quite different. Each year, millions of woman are beaten, raped, jailed, kidnapped, and sold into slavery.

And this is why I'm uneasy about The Commons' four-page expose about a local yoga teacher accused of inappropriately touching his students and causing physical harm to several.

There's no minimizing the pain of students injured by Peter Rizzo's inept spinal manipulations or his insensitive, boorish behavior. However, The Commons' overheated treatment of his comeuppance feels a little excessive.

Mr. Rizzo had no legal or economic control over his students' lives, and his yoga classes were not jails. From what I can tell, he appears to be an opportunistic bully and grabber who betrayed his students' trust. He deserves to be called out.

And yet I can't ignore the gulf between first-world women demonstrating against a yoga teacher's inappropriate behavior and third-world women fighting for basic human rights.

We know the personal is political. But as a target for rage, Mr. Rizzo is easy pickings. If we're really committed to fighting systemic sexism in our community, we might want to look wider and deeper. To women paid less than male coworkers. To women whose bosses are blackmailing them for “favors.” To women desperate to escape violent partners. To teens sexually bullied on social media.

I believe the Time's Up movement is a very big deal. Today, we have a unique opportunity to create real and lasting changes for gender equality. My hope is that as empowered women, we will be thoughtful about our priorities and strategic about our targets. Because if all this energy fragments into hyper-personalized attacks on men of limited power and influence, it will lose momentum.

Yes, I stand firmly with all women fighting abuse and sexism. Treating women with civility and respect is one hallmark of the just and decent society we're all working toward.

So we must keep our “eyes on the prize,” as Zora Neale Hurston said of the Civil Rights Movement. Let's not get too caught up in purging low-level jerks.

Remember, we have millions of sisters for whom male privilege too often means the loss of life, liberty, and human rights. They need us, too.

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