When my brain finished integrating last fall—last stage in healing the mental fractures that nearly killed me, after 25 years of misdiagnosed and untreated PTSD—I came back to myself less than two weeks after an illegitimate election placed an unstable and corrupt would-be dictator in line to be the next US president. In other words, I finally knew myself in the world just as the world I knew tilted on its axis and began slipping away.
The core challenge that posed has taunted me ever since: how do I normalize this overwhelming new sense of self I am experiencing, while at the same not normalizing this overwhelming new world, filled with political chaos targeting every social principle I believe in?
As a human being, feeling at home within my mind and body is everything. Is life itself.
As a citizen, feeling at home within this burgeoning autocracy would mean death.
Do you ever skip around when you are trying to broach a difficult topic? Sidle up beside your point, see if you can spot it in your peripheral vision without being seen in turn?
Oh, do not ask what is it.
I wouldn’t tell you yet anyhow. Instead, I’m going to share with you the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s early modernist poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:
Continue reading “Not With a Bang But a Whisper”
Most days, my morning starts with coffee.
Other days, it begins with finding myself being equated to a Nazi mass-murderer by some random online stranger, who happens to disagree with me about the need and function of public protest in any functioning democracy.
So, yeah. That.
I wondered, as I stared at my computer screen this morning: why am I the one in this exchange feeling trapped and tongue-tied? Why this stab of pain at witnessing the shameful barbarism of another human’s ill-informed—and ill-intended—imagination?
I have been trying to write about shame for days, y’see. The way it clots the throat. The way it steals intent and stillbirths action.
When functioning properly, shame polices the edges of propriety. It’s the tool our social herds use to cull those whose behavior transgresses the untransgressable. But often when we speak of it this way directly—“Have you no shame?”—we are merely evoking the presence of its absence, trying to summon the effects of a boundary on someone who has long since abandoned our thought-to-be-agreed-upon rules.
Shame is a double-edged knife, sharpened even through its hilt. It cuts in unpredictable directions, as often burying itself in the flesh of the sinned-against as in that of the sinner. More often, perhaps.
Still unsure what I’m getting at? Ask any rape survivor.
Ask if they felt shame.
Continue reading “Cunt.”
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.
Continue reading “Writing in a Time of Plague”
I had the dream again.
Eyes too impossibly wide, teeth too impossibly sharp, slavering tongue and hot breath too close against my face and I cannot even scream as the huntsman’s scrabbling claws rip deep into my belly.
Woke up drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets. Panting.
I lay rigid in the dark and waited for the room to stop spinning.
* * *
Joseph Campbell was asked once why he didn’t account for stories about women when developing his archetype of the hero’s quest. “Women don’t need to make the journey,” he replied. “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”
And if she is the place people got to already?
What does she do then?
* * *
Continue reading “Red”
The Pythia, Oracle at Delphi, was (scholars report)
the most powerful woman of the Ancient World,
sought out by royalty and commoner alike to answer their questions
and predict their fates, prognostications she offered them
in dactylic hexameter as elegant and epic as any Homer wrote
though (others footnote) every fortune the Oracle uttered was claimed
to come out as hysterical raving in need of translation by her priestly keepers—
acolytes of Apollo and collectors of the payment each pilgrim brought
in tribute to the God and to his Voice—
the truth lying, as it always does, somewhere between
frenzied gibberish and enigmatic prophecy,
between priestess and priests
between woman and man. Continue reading “Oracle”
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.]
I have no more interest in being “championed and revered” by my government than I have in being crotch-grabbed by it. 
“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. 
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. 
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.
 Thanks but no thanks, Paul Ryan.
 Swing and a miss there, Mitt Romney.
 Awww. The feeling of disdain is mutual, Reince!