All women have things to tell you. They are ugly things, not easy to read or think of. We don’t necessarily want to say them out loud. But we’ve carried them with us for a very long time, long before the specter of Brett Kavanaugh rose to remind women that we have never really mattered. That we are our bodies and nothing more, always available for the taking to any man who feels an impulse. Be it catcalling, grazing, grabbing, fondling, forcing, raping, or murdering. We will accept it, because there is no other choice. The men in power have made that abundantly, powerfully clear.
But first, let me share some news items with you. Gathered over the past week as my insides grew darker and grosser and emotions became so unnameable that I started grabbing whatever appeared before me, trying to make sense of how inconsequential I and my fellow women are to the world—our souls at least. Our bodies, they are of utmost importance.
- Responding to a tweet from Trump about Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Rep. Joe Kennedy cited that, for every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free.
- In a news item summarizing the case of Senator Charles Schwertner, a Texas Republican who sent dick pics to a student who wanted to work for him, the writer captured the absence of consequence perfectly: “If the allegation is deemed true, the senator could be banned from campus.”
- An Alaska man who pleaded guilty to kidnapping, strangling, and masturbating on a woman got “a pass” from the judge, who said that the man losing his job had been punishment enough.
- A man who, at the very least, witnessed gang rapes while in high school, is about to be appointed to the only lifelong government office in our country.
And of course there is the shining star, Donald Trump. Not only do we forgive men their assaults, every now and then we reward them handsomely for it.
There will be more of these tomorrow and the day after and the day after that. If I start keeping a log, would that make a difference? Is a constantly growing pile of carnage what’s needed to make the men in power acknowledge that we are worthy of safety, license, and freedom? Would it suffice to ensure that, when women are catcalled, grazed, grabbed, fondled, forced, raped, or murdered, the appropriate consequence will be applied?
Very likely not. But maybe I will try.
Now, to things.
I was a partier in college, so the fact that I recall so much detail about one particular night tells you something. I don’t remember why I was there without my girlfriends – they were probably studying like I should have been – but I do remember constantly seeing him as I circulated around the back yard. It seemed like every time I looked up, he was watching me. I knew him – everybody knows everybody at a college of 1,100 – but barely. Our friend groups overlapped slightly at one edge.
Looking back, it was clear as Christmas what he was doing: hanging back, watching from a distance, measuring my inebriation. I heard from other women in the months after, and his method was consistent. He was a predator, pure and simple. He didn’t actually approach me until we were the last dregs of the party, and it was clear I was drunk. Conversation wasn’t bothered with. “You ready to get out of here?” And he slung his arm around me and started walking.
Yes, I was drunk. Yes, I went willingly to his room – as willing as one can be in that condition. I think, in fact, I was even wearing a skirt.
I said no. A lot. Does that count?
Does it also count that as I type this, I am back in that tiny dark suffocating room and my heart is racing and I am nauseous? It should.
I told few people. Only close friends. Until it became necessary to speak louder. And when it did, when I did tell people, they stood behind me, almost as an army. There was no question of the incident’s veracity, at least not in my presence. They showed up for me and continue to, to this day.
I can’t describe what that feels like as an assault survivor, and how vital it is to recovery.
Of course, he faced no real consequence in the long run. While writing this, I googled him and he’s the head of psychology (HA) at a university now. He’s doing just fine.
There are more things to tell, but I’m so very tired. We’re all very tired these days and very sad and feeling very much like a commodity to be traded—every woman you know, I guarantee. Watching the reaction, the lack of horror, the blatant nonchalance at the allegations against Kavanaugh brings up every Thing that has happened to us. And there are thousands of Things. Incidents so traumatizing that labels don’t work, so we just call them Things. I hold the Things of all my girlfriends. We share them haltingly and at opportune moments, even with each other.
We also call them that because we don’t dare name the men. Naming brings consequence, but only to us. Amber Wyatt is but one proof. As I write this, Christine Blasey Ford is sitting before the United States Senate – and her assailant – to retell an assault that I have no doubt she would rather bury deep inside her. Where all women bury these things. These Things. That we carry with us forever but no one else seems to.
I write this to exorcise a demon. To express solidarity with Kavanaugh’s victims. To hold a place for Christine Blasey Ford as she does the unbearable in an attempt to save nothing less than the soul of our country.
I write this to put the absence of consequence at your feet.