I read Jessica Valenti’s article “How Very Bad Men Get Away With Rape” and her point that it takes a village to let or help the few men who do rape skate by over and over was spot on. And infuriating.
Women in America are mandated to wear the shame and guilt of being abused. It happens rampantly on social media, clearly it’s a model in government; many of us have experienced it at work and it’s perpetuated in our own families when misogyny is passed on or internalized. This expectation we behave by wearing the guilt and shame of our abuse is poisoning women’s lives.
Admonitions tossed at women to behave are intended to silence and ignore the cruelty being waged on us; cruelty that has been waged on women for generations and continues today. Admonitions from family to get over something or maligning statements about the fact that abuse happened decades ago from politicians only come at a cost of our own welfare and to the benefit of men who abuse. This moment in history is pressing women to fight for themselves in many ways. Why aren’t things different than they were for Anita Hill?
We watched Dr. Hill testify. We’ll be watching Dr. Ford testify. It’s a devastating timeline to be aware of for women to recognize that 27 years ago when Dr. Hill faced her abuser, she was maligned and harassed – by the people we supposedly trust to appoint our SCOTUS members. It’s infuriating to read and hear how Dr. Ford has gotten death threats and had to move her family. We’ve seen how drastically the trust we are supposed to have in Congress has become a joke. Today it’s hard to find anything different from Dr. Hill’s experience as Dr. Ford is faced with preparing to be put through what will be a side show that we will look back on with shame like we do Anita Hill’s experience. It’s devastating for women who were abused 40 or more years ago to digest the many stories like privileged brock turner who sexually assaulted a woman and was gifted his future because it matters more than the woman’s. It’s devastating to read Charnesia Corley’s sexual assault by two Houston police who were cleared and did not suffer any consequences of their brutality because their careers matter more than Charnesia’s life. It’s enraging to know and experience the fact that women are not valued in this culture.
There’s an organization that offers a retreat for women who were sexually abused at 18 or younger. I listened to the founder origin story on youtube, a white husband and wife who have not experienced sexual abuse but were inspired by someone who had. The husband, who sold a company and was looking for his next thing is shown in the video saying “…and it always troubled me and bothered me that a woman would take guilt on herself for what someone else had done.” So of course he decided he should be the someone who would do something about it. This does not sit well with me. I hope they are doing true and long term good. Besides the feel of the site, its images, and messaging which seem so much like the white savior complex you see when arguably well meaning but misplaced efforts support a child through a subscription and a photo to hang on the fridge or those organizations that travel to spread Christianity, his statement of surprise that women take on the guilt of abuse is one of ignorance unless you’re a woman who has tried to talk to someone about being abused. What appears to be a heroic gesture feels … impure.
It’s devastating to women who experience not being valued in America. It’s soul crushing to experience not being valued as a woman in my own family. I’ve been struggling with reconciling my role and responsibility in the scope of my deeply dysfunctional family, where narcissism was the cloak my parents hid behind. I’m learning to have empathy for my dad who was a deeply depressed man, an alcoholic, and a sardonically humored person who lobbed cutting remarks my way throughout my life like calling me a klutz or dummy or little girl (even into my 50’s) because I intellectually get it that his pain was so big he could not prevent himself from giving me some of his. At the age of 78 he died of his alcoholism after having a stroke. I’m trying to have empathy for my mother who is a covert narcissist and expertly uses triangulation to silo anyone who jostles her perception of herself as selfless through tactics that would make any of today’s gaslighting politicians proud. My mother holds her 50+ year marriage out as a lovely success, when in fact they were bitter and mean toward one another for as long as I can remember. Her own internalized misogyny is unconscious to her. My parents generously painted their bitterness onto their children and sent us out into the world with toxicity to spare, share and pass on. And unfortunately we’ve been very good at it.
As a country we’re experiencing something very similar. This administration spews it’s poison led by a gaslighting reprehensible misogynist; this SCOTUS circus where the revelation that Kavanaugh is a sexual predator to at least 3 women, will certainly turn into the evisceration of Dr. Ford when she testifies. #METOO has settled into an ebbing rhythm of immense pain and comforting camaraderie, where so many of us are re-experiencing our traumas whether it’s sexual abuse, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, complete family dysfunction or a combination of abuses.
Power in America demands women wear the guilt of their abuse. Their abusers skate. Our culture is set up systemically to value a brock turner and vilify an Emily Doe. Our culture demands Dr. Ford show up to be grilled by an panel of utterly ignorant men with dark agendas to subject her to what will not in fact be a circus but a horror show. And the culture will not be sympathetic. Anita Hill’s violation showed us that. Somehow Dr. Ford’s situation may be framed differently – because she’s white – Hill was treated horrifically by people we’re blinded to the actions of today because we forget this shit so easily. So when it comes to fitness for the job, I’m speaking to you, Joe Biden, I hope you don’t run.
These last couple of weeks reading the #WhyIDidntReport posts on Twitter, sadly, I know it will get quiet again until a next wave. And over time those waves will not make as much of an impact. That’s the goal of systemic oppression. It’s clear because we see how power won’t change gun laws in this country. You know it because the catholic church is still in business and to this day continues to protect pedophile priests. You know it because the NFL is still ignoring Colin Kaepernick and an asshole like the owner of bowtie barbershop can have a noose dangling Colin’s photograph in his barbershop since 2016 and we only found out about it this week. It’s clear because the list of people of color dying at the hands of police who are not accountable for their murders is endless. It’s our normal – not new – it’s our normal. Violence in America is to be endured by children and women and people of color but not by white men. America is where we know Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey and ADA Andrew Grannik will protect a sexual predator who kidnapped a woman, rendered her unconscious, masturbated on her and paid no penalty. Grannik, by the way, refused to bring sexual assault charges against a ballet studio owner who was accused by two students of assault, but hey.
I cannot understand why this is still the reality we women live in but I’m not surprised. All I need to do is look at who is in power in this country. I know most likely my parent’s trauma was gifted to them. While both of them were damaged, my mom got the shit end of it because women tend to get the shit end of trauma. And because this culture hates women, mom was easily able to gift her trauma to me to grow and wear and learn, on my own, that while I’ve had moments of believing I was on level ground, they often turned to quicksand because I never got to, let alone through the doors where the insider tricks are reserved for men. I’m trying to learn to believe I was preparing through it all to fight my fucking heart out to get this trauma out of my cells. I believe some day the cells of women will be able to fight the psychopathy of misogyny. I don’t believe it will be in my lifetime.