Daily last summer, on any of those glorious days, I’d open the front door just to stay closer to green. The sugar maple out front was lush with leaves, and even in the rain I leaned out to drink in that verdant hue. Looking ahead, all I envisioned were more luscious moments, more sweet air, and more bird song.
But we have been through so much since those peaceful moments. From natural disasters involving water and fire to mass murder with malice and groundlessness to the chillingly widespread #metoo. As I scroll through news feeds and twitter feeds and any other feed you might find these days, there is plenty to rant about. The promise of July shattered by autumn’s barrage of newspapers headlining fear and devastation and abuse. One can hardly remember summer’s sweet apple blossoms or brash vibrant lilacs under our current collective universal duress. How quickly our view point can change.
Russia hacked our democracy and put a danger in the White House; citizens in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and even the mainland still need our attention and money and problem solving just to have clean drinking water; Senators remain in the pockets of the NRA paralyzing them in their ineptitude over basic logic regarding gun control; regardless of where we live on this globe we need to do something urgent to preserve it and prevent more climate change disasters; and yes, women are telling ugly stories long hidden within their own shame, finally condemning their abuser, but at what cost? Under such an oppressive avalanche, I struggle to find my footing, to shake numbness off my spine, to stand tall and find meaning.
Out my door leaves yellow, burst into fire flames, and preach change better than scripture. It’s coming, they tell us, as they loosen and flit in the wind, they sing, change comin’ on.
Everywhere we hear stories of pain and degradation. From women who felt their only option was to submit and creep back home in silence. For many of us the abuser lived in our home. Worked in our office. Sat across the church aisle. Were a constant threat. And, even now, decrying their names, are we allowed to release our fury? Speak with force?
“It’s the fact that when the Weinsteins of the world are exposed, we still have to moderate our tone and keep our emotions in check or we’ll be labelled with the female malady of hysteria.
It’s the deafening silence of every man who doesn’t call out another guy for the rape joke, or the office banter about the new girl, or the locker room talk. Because every time you laughed or didn’t call him out or didn’t step in to intervene you became an enabler. Your silence makes you complicit. Do better.
It’s seeing that things don’t change. That these stories echo the stories of your mom getting chased around her desk in 1977. And she couldn’t quit her job because the fridge was already empty and it wasn’t pay day yet so she would survive on cigarettes and adrenaline so you and your sister could eat. It’s seeing that in 40 years the only thing that’s changed is HR has to pretend to care” (Drifting Through).
There is no denying that many women remain on the outside of the power circles. “There are still swaths of women–the poor, the queer, the undocumented–who can’t count on the security that feminism has conferred on its wealthier, whiter, adherents, or trust that their victimization would ever become news” (Tolentino). As we face the darkening days ahead we must look to those who can guide with reason, with science, and with compassion, way beyond the 140 characters that occupy the media distracted, in order to end this cycle.
Brit Marling writes for The Atlantic about the way economics enters into inequity: “The things that happen in hotel rooms and board rooms all over the world (and in every industry) between women seeking employment or trying to keep employment and men holding the power to grant it or take it away exist in a gray zone where words like “consent” cannot fully capture the complexity of the encounter. Because consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it. In many cases women do not have that power because their livelihood is in jeopardy and because they are the gender that is oppressed by a daily, invisible war waged against all that is feminine—women and humans who behave or dress or think or feel or look feminine” (Marling).
Understanding the nature and reasoning of abuse doesn’t stop my belly from knotting. Nor do I expect much to change if indeed, “The world’s eight richest billionaires [all men] control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population” (Elliot). But at the same time, I do spy hope. In my sons who are good men. In my brother’s gentle rearing of his step-son. In the young men who read with care and attention early feminist literature, and even lesbian memoir, in my classroom. In my daughter and her friends who are fierce about speaking the truth. And in my cousin’s daughters, especially one who bravely posted:
#MeToo: Too many times I’ve seen this status. But yeah, me too. I could focus on the bad memories and the pain. I could continue to mourn over the loss of my innocence at too young of an age. I could let the circumstances of what happened define me. I could continue blaming myself for “letting it happen” and not getting help. Instead I choose to be grateful for the people who helped turn my life around and lift me back up. Many of you don’t even recognize the positive impact you had on my life at a time when I needed it most. To my school sisters: thank you for teaching me how to be a kid again. You showed me how to let loose and enjoy so many moments in life. You taught me how to live in the moment and not define myself based on my past. You taught me how to laugh again. You all gave me part of my childhood back and for that I am eternally grateful. More than anyone else, to my best friend, thank you for picking me up off the ground and being there for my lowest lows. Thank you for showing me what a real relationship can look like. Thank you for loving me despite my flaws. I don’t know where I would be now without having had you in my life. I’m lucky to have known you when I did. There are far too many girls and guys saying #metoo right now. I feel that it’s only appropriate to thank the people who have helped make me whole again. There are some sick people in the world, but there are many more good ones out there. For years I have hid this part of my story because of the shame I associate with dark moments in my life. This may be part of my story but I no longer let it define me.
I had to read her post more than once. Her words sprayed over me like salty warm ocean waves, like a summer sunbath, helping me to feel a possibility beyond my own wounds: even if only for a second, there was that. Her moving forward. Her healing. Ah yes, here we all go together. Change coming on.
Just for a moment, close your eyes. Let the light fall across your face, and breathe. Surround yourself with someone who is making a difference today. Looking up. Shouting out. We will be stronger for it.