Writing in a Time of Plague

The first time I wrote on this blog in my truest voice, it was a declaration of independence from audience. “I am done speaking to the bodies of men,” I pronounced; “To the helpmeets of men.” I decided to write first and foremost for myself and, as a distant second, to address an imagined audience of other women who had survived sexual assault. Anybody else who wanted to listen? Was certainly welcome to do so, but I would make no adjustments for their comfort.

As last year began winding down, however, I started itching to leave this stance for greener, less plundered, pastures. Tired of five years of filling-in-the-blank “current occupation: rape survivor-in-recovery,” bored with my own intimate overexposure and the incessant “I… I… I…” of confessional writing.

I wondered what else I might want to say, if I no longer felt compelled to foreground the issue of violation.

And then my country elected a rapist as president.

ratking

Continue reading “Writing in a Time of Plague”

what has once been seen cannot be unseen

screenshot-2016-10-21-10-41-08
(screen shot via youtube)

I am filled with grief this morning for Melania Trump.

I watched her husband’s tasteless speech at the Al Smith charity dinner last night, in which he repeatedly and grotesquely insulted Hillary Clinton to her face. [Apparently this event has a longstanding tradition of both presidential candidates showing up to “roast” one another.] And I noted the ease with which Trump shifted into humiliating Melania as a tactic to garner audience support.

When the audience laughed—and laugh they did, breaking for a moment the tension of that excruciating speech—they laughed because for a moment his target felt like a safe one. What husband would say such a thing if his wife weren’t in on the joke, right? And maybe they laughed because they slipped into the same blurred distinctions as Donald, using his wife as a lightning rod for their discomfort with him just as he jabbed at her in a pretense of self-deprecating humor.

But a wife is not mere extension of the man she has married. Make no mistake: that was spousal abuse on display last night, as Trump commanded Melania to stand for the people laughing at him making fun of her. When he admitted that he had not warned her in advance of the humiliation he had planned, he used her own loyalty against her and cornered her into either immediately absolving him or making a scene at a hugely public event.

Continue reading “what has once been seen cannot be unseen”

#NotOkay

After the Trump video released last Friday, writer Kelly Oxford tweeted about her own experience—at only 12 years old—of having a strange man grab her crotch. While she may not have expected more than a few friends to respond to her invitation to “tweet me you first assaults,” she has now received hundreds of thousands of stories (a million on Saturday night alone), and the tweets are still pouring in, under the hashtag #NotOkay.

I find myself among those unwilling to join this conversation openly. Not because I do not have such memories in my past, but these are encounters that I either have already shared or have reasons to hold private still. So I am thinking instead about the ubiquity of not only sexual violence in girlhood but also the threats of such violence—and how these twin forces shaped the early years of so many women I know, and continue to color our daughters’ experiences today.

With all that in mind (both the said and the unsaid), I decided to revisit and revamp this piece I wrote a few years ago:


parked cars

My Body Is a Car Door

He and I are drinking coffee together, sitting
each in our own maturity and marveling
the kids these days!
when he says:
­    ‏                      ‏ ‎‌‍“I always thought puberty
was so much worse for girls. Breasts, menstruation—
like living inside an alien.
Boys have nothing that compares.”

“Boners,” I retort.

*** Continue reading “#NotOkay”

Brief Political PSA Regarding the Inadequacy of GOP Responses to Most Recent Evidence that their Presidential Candidate Gleefully Engages in Sexual Assault

Quick reminder:

We as a society are no better served by benevolent sexism than by overt misogyny.


[Relevant background, for any who may have missed and wished to view the latest “bombshell” evidence that the Republican candidate for President—a serial adulterer who raped his first wife, stands accused of raping a 13yo girl, and sexually harassed scores of women employees, in addition to those he outright assaulted—is less politician, more rapey, racist, bigoted mass of sexist pond scum. NB: while the video clip released by WaPo does contain “vulgar language,” far more problematic is the sexual violence Tromp (sic) describes and enthuses over.]

***

Yo.

GOP Leadership?

Take note:

I have no more interest in being “championed and revered” by my government than I have in being crotch-grabbed by it. [1]

“Hitting on a married woman” is not on par with sexual assault, not even close—a point easy to miss if your primary concern is with insults to “our wives and daughters” rather than to half the American citizenry. [2]

And when you express your concern as “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner”—then spend the rest of your weekend huddled in presidential debate-prep with the man who so described us—you confirm that window-dressing matters to you more than substance. That you are willing to see me as a p***y to be grabbed, just so long as that p***y-grab is not talked about. [3]

In sum:
Do not revere us.
Do not pretend to own us.
Do not clean up your language in our presence.

Just stop pretending you are not an equal sh!tstain on our polity to your man who would be king.

To borrow the words of Jessica Valenti:

SEE YOU ON NOVEMBER 8th, ASSHOLES.

/PSA


[1] Thanks but no thanks, Paul Ryan.

[2] Swing and a miss there, Mitt Romney.

[3] Awww. The feeling of disdain is mutual, Reince!

Unbearable Weight

Yesterday, another Black American was executed on the streets by police.


9/20/16, Charlotte, NC: Keith Lamont Scott, age 43

I have not looked closely at the details of this latest shooting in North Carolina yet. How a father sat waiting in a car. How a gun book in a poor black man’s hand became life-threatening in other men’s eyes.

How frail my nation, quaking from its birth in fear of the literacy of black voices. When has a book in a black man’s hand not been seen as provocation for violence?

Witness North Carolina’s own penal code, passed in 1830-1:

Therefore,  Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same,

…That if any slave shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave to read or write, the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace, and on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

But that is knowledge for another time. Today all I can picture is Scott’s young child, skipping home from school towards a beloved parent and finding death instead.

I cannot yet endure knowing more.

9/16/16, Tulsa, OK: Terence Crutcher, age 40

I have not read yet all the details out of Tulsa, where a police department with a documented history of planting drug evidence has just planted released drug evidence against their latest victim.

Since I learned that even from the air above, a policeman in a chopper had concluded that the black man having car trouble looked like “a bad dude,” these words from the slain man’s twin sister have played on repeat in a corner of my mind: Continue reading “Unbearable Weight”

The Suspect Has Been Identified. The Suspect Has Been Killed.

It turns out to not be a firearm in the sense that [a firearm] fires real bullets,” Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs to reporters, at a press conference following Wednesday night’s fatal police shooting of Tyre King


According to police witnesses, 13yo Tyre King had a bb gun in his waistband.

According to early reporting, Tyre was a man who had just started 8th grade at Linden STEM Academy.

Children today grow up so much faster.
Black children today grow old so much faster.

*

At 13, I started 8th grade too. Shooting spitwads from the back of Mr. Taylor’s 6th period, were those men? Was Lance Trumble a man the day he drooled into the English teacher’s water glass when she stepped out of the room?

Was I a woman when I laughed?

Adulthood comes unlikely early to those whose fruition is feared.

*

A spitwad is not a bb is not a Glock 9mm.

*

Columbus, Ohio, is the same department that served and protected 12yo Tamir.

Tyre is the second Ohio citizen Bryan Mason has served with a bullet and protected out of life in four years.

According to policy: Office Mason has been placed on paid administrative leave and will be receiving psychological support counseling. According to policy: Officer Mason will be offered leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience.

What support counseling available for the King family.
What trauma recovery offered to Tyre.

Nothing ages a child faster than death.