On Thursday I did something I’ve never done before: I wore headphones while I picked Lyndon up from school. I couldn’t stop listening to the Kavanaugh hearing. Lyndon got annoyed as he tried to tell me about his first science quiz and realized I was only half paying attention. I apologized.
I told him that 27 years ago a woman came forward stating that a Supreme Court nominee had been sexually inappropriate with her, and it didn’t matter: Clarence Thomas still got confirmed. Now a woman came forward saying that this nominee attacked her. I told Lyndon that many women are tired of being second-class, of not being believed, and so many of us are listening today because we’re desperate for things to change.
I threw in a “And don’t you go hanging around with boys who take advantage of girls or harass them or say cruel or vulgar things about them or humiliate them. You hear me?”
Thursday was excruciating.
During the day a male friend showed me a poem by Kim Addonizio:
This poem, which my friend had presented as simply positive and powerful, I saw as upsetting and complicated. I read it as a response to the eternal, exasperated male and societal question. “What do women want?”
You were wearing that… You were at that party…. Well, what do you expect???
He likened the red dress to his favorite tie. To me, a red dress is nothing like a necktie. Sure, it can be a symbol of power and free choice – celebration even: liberation and vitality. But it can also be a symbol of exposure and unavoidable danger, even if it’s not sleeveless or too tight. To exist as a female is to live in risk, whether as a child or a grown woman. And in that tacit understanding, I feel the author’s – and my – rage.
Does she want someone to rip it off her or does she just expect him to? I wonder if my friend knows that Guerra in Spanish means War.
If you’re a woman you don’t simply picture another woman walking down the street past these gritty images in confidence and defiance. You imagine yourself in that flimsy red dress with no defenses. And you hear the things people have always said to you about your looks or your body, not just on a city street, but at school, at work, wherever and whenever you least expect it. Not to mention the complicated relationships we have with our own bodies.
No wonder many of us are on edge.
These past few days have been emotionally jarring for us, as we relived the painful experiences of our gender, as we faced our own unspeakable. There was a 201% surge in calls to the National Sex Assault Hotline.
Invisibly, wherever we were, we tuned in, listened, and prayed to support Dr. Blasey Ford. Yesterday I watched the video of the two women confronting Senator Flake in the elevator and cried.
And yet not every American woman is having the same experience or holds the same opinion. We’re a diverse group. I think we all want to be safe. I imagine we all want choice and the freedom to boldly express who we are, but I guess I don’t actually know. Some women may never have worn a dress or walked a city block alone. Mercifully, some have never been assaulted.
But too many of us have. And it’s triggered our emotions and our fight.
And so I can’t tell you what every woman wants but I can tell you this about many of us:
We’re not gonna let this happen to a younger generation of females
in our country
on our goddamned watch.