Together We Can Make the Future Female
***TRIGGER WARNING. I describe an assault in this post.***
It's been a rough week for women. You had to feel that obvious shift into second place, right? Whether you're conservative, liberal, or something in between you must see that our voices were diminished this week by the GOP. Is that really what we want for our daughters? Our stepdaughters? Our nieces? Our granddaughters? Ourselves? Can't we all agree that enough is enough? That we've been second class for too long? We're the majority of this country and yet, we are told to let the men handle the running of it. That's bullshit. We need to take back our power. I wonder what last week's proceedings might have looked like with more women on that Republican panel. I wonder what corporate America would look like with more women in the boardroom. Some believe power corrupts all kinds of people and women would be corrupt if we had the power, but I say, I'll take that chance. We can't fuck it up any worse than our male leaders have. I'd rather we try than sit quietly and watch our democracy be stolen by a handful of entitled men. Nothing gets done in silence. We must raise our voices. We must set aside our differences and come together on the one thing we all have in common: we've all been mistreated by a man during our lifetime and we don't want that for the young women in our lives.
I was riveted to the television for the entire live coverage of the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh interviews. I was moved by Dr. Ford's pain in reliving her traumatic experience and her careful choice of words and emotion. On the flip side, I was appalled by Judge Kavanaugh's outrage and vitriol (and crocodile tears). I'll be honest, I already didn't like his previous rulings and I wasn't crazy about an ultra-conservative judge taking the place of a swing vote and thus upsetting the balance of the court. But I was resolved to accept that this is way things work in our democracy and the pendulum will swing again at a later date. But then once I read about the allegations against the Judge I was concerned. I wanted to know more. I wanted an FBI investigation into his past and into the allegations brought against him. I wanted to hear from Dr. Ford and I wanted to hear from him. After he spoke (if we can even call that rage word salad he spit out speaking), I was even more convinced he was unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice. Not because I believed Dr. Ford, but because I saw how Judge Kavanaugh behaves under duress. I saw how he handles stressful situations. And I was I not impressed. I heard the clearly partisan accusations and spew from him, I saw his belligerent attitude toward the female Senators who questioned him, the deflecting and the sneering were enough to make up my mind. I watched him melt into a puddle of rage tears and I didn't believe for a second he was crying because he was contrite, I believe he was crying because he finally got caught. He proved that he does not have what it takes to be a Supreme Court Justice. Ironically, he's far too emotional, which is a phrase almost always lobbied at women.
If watching him was bad, it was even worse to see the Republican Senators clutch their pearls and swoon in sorrow over the mistreatment of one of their own: a good ole boy. They put themselves in his shoes and they quaked in fear and then voted him through, with only one tiny caveat: a one week FBI investigation.
It's a crumb, and I'll take that crumb, but I don't have high hopes much will come of this investigation. There isn't enough time to really dig deep into these women's stories and the eyewitness to this event says he remembers nothing. Of course he doesn't, he's written an entire book about his drunken teenage years. Maybe he doesn't "remember" anything because he'd also implicate himself?
This whole circus surrounding Judge Kavanaugh got me thinking. I've never been raped, but since I was about 11 years old I've been manhandled, touched inappropriately, groped, and I've even been grabbed by the pussy, as our President is wont to do. I've had to force boys and men to keep their hands to themselves. I've had strange men grab my ass on public transportation and/or expose themselves to me. I've received unsolicited dick pics (really, how many of us solicit them?) as well as degrading and threatening emails and messages from men when they disagree with me or feel that I've somehow wronged them with the words I write.
What about you, ladies? Can you honestly say you've NEVER had unwanted touches from a male? NEVER?? Not once? Not one time did a boy flip your skirt or snap your bra strap? Never once did a date grab your breast after you'd asked him to stop? If you say, "Never," my first instinct is to say, "I don't believe you." But I'm not saying that anymore about my fellow women. I believe you, but you should know, you are a small minority of the female population and you should count yourself incredibly lucky, because every woman I know is nodding her head and saying, "Yep, that's happened to me too."
I've seen a lot of questions about Dr. Ford story. One, in particular, is why can't she remember important details? Well, let me tell you about my story. I can remember where it was, because it was a party at my off-campus apartment in college. However, I attended many parties in college at random houses and barns and fields. (What can I say? It was Iowa.) I caught rides with people, I had half-assed directions sometimes and rarely did I know an exact address. This incident had to occur during my my last two years of college, because those were the only years I lived off-campus. I have no idea what day or month it was. I'm guessing fall or winter, because I remember I was wearing jeans.
My roommate and I invited several friends over. At one point I needed a restroom so I made my way to the only bathroom. I could draw you a map of my apartment, there wasn't much to it. The bathroom was down the hall between the two bedrooms in a secluded hallway, away from the kitchen and living area. There was music playing. I have no idea what song. There was a TV on. I have no idea what was showing. People were talking and laughing and having fun. I couldn't hear distinct words, but conversations were happening. I went into the empty bathroom, swinging the door shut behind me. As I turned to lock it, I was surprised to hear the door lock behind me. There was a student I knew well standing between me and the door. He was someone I thought was my friend. Someone who was well-respected on campus and well-liked. He was incredibly drunk and he had a weird look on his face. My first instinct was that he was lost. That he didn't realize the bathroom was occupied. But before I could even ask what he was doing in the bathroom with me, he moved quickly and shoved his hand down the front of my jeans.
He grabbed me by the pussy.
I was stunned. I could barely comprehend what was happening to me. I'd never been assaulted like that before and I'd never had any man touch me so intimately without consent. My mind raced. The door was locked, the party was loud. No one would hear me scream. My initial reaction was to cower and to let him get it over with.
And then I thought, NO!!!! He's going to have to fight me at least.
"Get your hand out of my pants," I said.
He sneered at me. "Or what?"
That's when I shoved my hand down his pants. I found his testicles and I cupped them in my hand. He was surprised by my change of heart. He smiled, thinking I was there to play. "Or I'll rip off your fucking nuts," I said, twisting.
He was livid. He let go of me and shoved me away from him. He called me a "Fat fucking dyke." He told me that he was doing me a "favor" and that I should be "grateful" for his attention.
I don't remember how I got out of that bathroom. I just know that I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep him away from me. I was ready to bite and claw my way out if I had to. I don't remember what I did, but I got out unscathed.
When I emerged from the bathroom with him behind me, I remember making eye contact with several of my male classmates who were congregated in the hall. I can't remember any names or faces today. I know I looked enraged and mortified and terrified, but not one of them asked me if I was okay. I didn't shut down the party. I didn't call the cops. I didn't do anything other than find my roommate and ask her to come to the bathroom with me, because I still had to pee. If you asked her about this night, she wouldn't remember, because this wasn't an important night to her. This was one of many parties we threw, and there would be no reason for her to remember that night.
I also didn't report this, because I'd been trained to think this wasn't a "big deal" it wasn't like he raped me. That "boys will be boys." I was a nobody. I was the snarky girl with the big mouth. He was an athlete who brought in donations to the college. I knew I'd never be believed or taken seriously. However, if I saw this now-40-something-year-old man's name on a short list to be a Supreme Court Justice, you bet your ass I'd report. Because I would want the people of the United States to know that a man applying for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land has a problem with consumption, with aggression, with women. No, I don't have a DNA sample I took that night or photographic evidence of his hand down my pants, but my word should be enough, because most women have a very similar story. Most women recognize and see their own story in mine.
I think about the young men outside the bathroom that night. Did they know what he was doing in there? Did they see him go in after me? Did they think I wanted him to come in or did they know he was going in without my knowledge? I used to give people the benefit of the doubt. I used to think, "Surely they didn't realize what was happening to me. Surely they didn't understand what his intentions were when he followed me in or they would have intervened." But now I'm not so sure.
That's why I'm working on raising a boy who will be the one who recognizes a woman in trouble. Who will step in and intervene and help her. It's not easy, because I feel like all I do is lecture him about consent and restraint and empathy and leadership, but I can't stop. I am responsible for sending out a good man into the world. My son is a teenager now. He's bigger than me. He's stronger than me. He's faster than me. Sometimes he holds me too tightly or won't release a hug when I feel uncomfortable and ask him to let me go. That's when I talk to him about consent. That's when I talk to him about reading verbal and nonverbal cues. That's when I talk to him about communicating and listening to others. Yes, part of me is worried about him being falsely accused someday, but frankly, I'm more worried about my daughter being raped. The statistics are against her more than they're against him. I found a really thorough and detailed thread on Twitter that goes into these facts and I highly recommend you click and read.
Here's the thing, ladies, we can make the future female. Together with our daughters and our sons, we can make the change. We can raise strong girls and boys who recognize that justice and equality are what makes America great. We can raise girls and boys who respect one another and treat one another with dignity and kindness. I'm still calling my representatives and demanding that Judge Kavanaugh not be appointed to the Supreme Court and I'll vote and campaign for my candidates in the mid-terms, but I'm only one person and I can't control these things completely. The one thing I can control is how I raise my kids. I'm teaching my daughter to be a badass, and I'm also teaching my son to be a decent human being.
There have been many calls for empowering women and I have a suggestion for you. Buy this book. I published this book because it was important to me to showcase strong, fearless female voices in a time when we're being silenced more and more. I chose poems and essays from girls as young as 12 dreaming of the future when they are our leaders as well as work from older women sharing their wisdom and hope for their children. Get this book and support these females and amplify their voices.