As an American woman in her early 40s, I – like every other member of my gender – have endured much. Misogyny, discrimination and unasked for bodily contact come depressingly with the territory. To compound the conventional harassment and depersonalization that is a woman’s background noise birthright, I’ve chosen to make my living as a writer. To be a lady with opinions who deigns to argue them on the boundary-free Internet is a continuous act of courage.
After Hillary Clinton’s devastating 2016 loss in that year’s presidential elections, I took a sabbatical from processing my dark, despondent thoughts in public view. But I regrouped and rebounded, because while women must sometimes adopt a literal and metaphorical defensive crouch as a means of survival, we know two things for certain:
- The human race won’t make it without us, morally or biologically.
- We can’t wait for men to create equal, safe space for us in the world. We have to unify, demand and build it for ourselves.
The strength and stamina required to live in the reality we have, while striving toward the social justice we deserve, typically comes at immense personal cost. Back in 2010, Sara Parkin of The Guardian wrote:
“Instead of Having It All, we’ve ended up Doing It All, because, even armed with legislation, the world around us hasn’t really changed…The culture today in which women strain to succeed is still shaped by men.
With grim humour the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission’s 2008 Sex and Power survey extrapolated the current rate of change to conclude it would take only slightly less time for women to be equally represented in parliament than it would for a snail to creep the whole length of the Great Wall of China (212 years).”
Eight years into the decade, we have some incremental gains to celebrate. Hillary Clinton, the most qualified American to pursue our nation’s highest office, lost to an ignorant, pussy grabbing reality television personality. But there are 21 women in the Senate chamber, and that number is likely to rise after November’s mid-term elections. We’re women. We know that revolution is a marathon rather than a sprint.
This week, the most determinedly optimistic and resolute American woman was forced to tussle with a demoralizing prospect. In the US of A, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we might never have justice, equal opportunity and empowerment. On the most public of stages, the dominant, white male patriarchy heard our collective truths and demands for accountability in the brave, measured voice of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford… and found them lacking. At the very least not compelling enough to interrupt Brett Kavanaugh’s entitled march toward a lifelong appointment to the nation’s highest court.
New York Times Editorial Board Member Mara Gay wrote this of the week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing farce, as collectively experienced by the thinking American woman:
“We sat beside Dr. Blasey in that Senate committee room, staring out at a sea of white-haired men.
We felt the eyes of millions of Americans pore over us, searching to see if what we were saying was the truth.
We watched a federal judge seethe at being accused, his body seeming to grow larger with rage as though he might be able to reach through the television screen and grab us.”
Yes, yes, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a retiring lawmaker who has nothing to lose in opposing governmental and social malpractice, dug deep and found enough waffling conscience to demand a brief FBI investigation of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. I bet he fancies himself quite the knight in shining armor, ducking out of the Senate chamber in full view of the television cameras, look of appropriate consternation affixed, to negotiate the “deal.” An agreement that momentarily retards, rather than prevents, a serial abuser with a binge drinking problem from an appointment that permits decades of decision making regarding the rights of 51 percent of the population.
We should not be at the mercy of Chuck Grassley, Jeff Flake, Brett Kavanaugh this President or any man to screen our stories and evaluate their credibility before they are accepted as worthy of public consideration. I know I did not vote for this method of triage any more than I asked my high school friend’s younger brother to penetrate me with his fingers as a I slept in their parent’s home 21 years ago. Astonished and ashamed (because after all, I’d been drinking that evening and was wearing tight pants), I pretended not to wake up, and I never said a word about until I confided in my husband a year ago.
Why didn’t I speak up? We’ve all tortured ourselves with this question.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, an educated and accomplished woman, has been driven from her family home by collective male anger and the slurs and death threats that come with an interruption of the status quo. Brett Kavanaugh has said in open testimony that he will make us all pay for suggesting that his abuse of women is somehow disqualifying from the Supreme Court elevation that is his white, male destiny.
#WhyIDidntReport is more than a trending hashtag. It’s an accepted method of female survival, reinforced yearly, daily and hourly by our broken political culture.