Thursday, May 29, 2014

If I had Twitter #YesAllWomen

I don't have Twitter, but I am following the conversation.  Misogyny is such a huge factor in my life, like so many women...far too many women, all women.  Misogyny was a huge component of the fundamentalist religious practices I was escaping when I started this blog.  It's part of what I fight against every day that I have walked in reclaiming who I am.  It's integral to this blog as an undercurrent, and has been from the beginning. 

Since I don't have twitter, and I'm not going to register on Twitter just for this, I was going to facebook all day today on this hashtag.

Then, I realized, some of my stories will drive a wedge between myself and family members that I love.  Some because I know of at least two family members who will get angry and accuse me of attention seeking.  I know of one family member whose own trauma from rape is so severe that it drove her to alcoholism and some days she barely holds onto her sobriety now, and seeing that in my facebook would be traumatic for her all over again.  Others of my stories involve family members, ones that I genuinely love, but have caused significant pain with misogynistic behaviors themselves.

Instead, I'm going to compile what I would tweet, or post on Facebook here.  Call me a coward.  The reality is that the rape victim who has only seen two years of sobriety, and my father, who did one of the most painful acts, likely unintentionally on his part, are the reasons I will talk but do so anonymously on this blog instead. 

At the end of today, after I've posted all that I can think of, or have the heart to post, then I'll hit publish to this.  Because Yes, ALL WOMEN endure these acts.  We just don't always talk about them. 

#YesAllWomen I began experiencing the world of cat-calls when I was thirteen.  Every day of eighth grade, I had to walk through the litany to get to my schoolbus stop.

#YesAllWomen Two years ago, my grandmother posted a fake picture of a fetus on Facebook and said, "The only choice a woman should have is to spread her legs in the first place."  At least three of the women in her own family who saw that post were victims of rape. (And she knew that before she ever posted it.)

#YesAllWomen After my grandmother's post, I spent days comforting my sister in law, who was barely sober at that point, because of the trauma it retriggered of a rape she has never fully faced and the child my brother raises as his own because the biological father is in prison for her rape.

#YesAllWomen I was apparently a precocious child and liked to play with my own body when I was a toddler.  I have no memory of this, but I know this because the rest of my childhood I was told by my egg donor that I was a slut because of that behavior.  I was less than three when I did this.

#YesAllWomen It was only when I became a mother myself that I realized all toddlers explore their bodies and there was not something inherently evil and dirty about me.

#YesAllWomen Maya Angelou was one of my heroes.  I read I know Why the Caged Bird Sings the year before my own rape, and throughout my time learning to breath again afterward, I thought of her courage to live after her assault and reminded myself that if she could do that as an even younger girl, then I could find strength as well.

#YesAllWomen I am 5'6" and before my mid-20s when my thyroid crashed from too many pregnancies, my heaviest weight was 150lb.  My normal weight was 125-130lb.  Yet, I was told every day how fat I was, and I truly believed that I was.

#YesAllWomen I remember acting out sexually as young as age four, yet rather than trying to find out why such a young child was acting in a manner that SCREAMED she had been assaulted, I was called dirty and a slut, labels that haunted me my entire childhood, screamed at me from my own mother and father for years.

#YesAllWomen I haven't spoken to my own father about my rape in twenty years.  The last time we spoke, he informed me that it didn't matter what I or anyone else said, he would always know that I was at least partially responsible for my rape.  I won't speak to him about it ever again because I honestly don't know if he still feels the same way.

#YesAllWomen This weekend, I was giving my birthdaughter advice on how to navigate women's health issues.  She wants something other than birth control pills and the doctor she sees doesn't believe women should have access to anything such as a shot, implant or IUD.  I had to teach her how to find midwives or use Planned Parenthood because she simply wants an IUD.

#YesAllWomen I was shipped off to Hawaii after my rape and forced to live with my grandparents and then bounced around the homes of strangers.  My father told me not to come home until I was no longer pregnant, and he didn't care how I accomplished that.

#YesAllWomen My beloved grandfather, the only male who showed me what it meant to be an honorable and loving man told me the year before he died that I was just so emotional and difficult to handle when I lived with them in Hawaii.  I was 17, raped, stalked, pregnant and thrown away by my family and fifteen years later my grandfather wanted to talk about how I was difficult to handle?  And this was one of the GOOD guys usually.

#YesAllWomen My college best friend was my roommate.  She distanced herself when she started dating a new guy because she could sense I didn't like him.  I couldn't tell her that he had raped his last girlfriend, who was another friend of mine.  It wasn't my story to tell and the victim believed he was a "good guy" and she must have done something to deserve what he did to her.

#YesAllWomen  My college roommate has been married to that man for 15 years and I have never told her what he did.  I hate myself for that, but it's still not my story to tell her.

#YesAllWomen  Another friend from college is an up and coming urban minister in the south.  The friend who was raped by her former boyfriend found healing in her relationship with him.  They loved each other so much, he told her it was as if they were already married and should work on their sex lives as well.

#YesAllWomen  He broke up with that friend because he told her he could never marry any woman who wasn't a virgin.

#YesAllWomen  Another college friend was abandoned by her father at 12 when her step-mother was convinced her father would love her more than his new wife if she stayed.

#YesAllWomen At 15, that friend was raped by the son of the group home director of where she had been dumped (in a series of abandonments over the years).  She was dumped in a homeless shelter in the middle of the night, and told she was a horrible person.  The rapist never had any consequences.

#YesAllWomen Because that friend chose to speak up about the misogyny that had plagued her past, good Christian men in college thought she was fair game to tell all of their dirty little secrets to as well. 

#YesAllWomen She too had the witness boyfriend who loved her so much it was as if they were married and needed to work on their sex lives.  He dumped her because he could never marry a woman who wasn't a virgin too.

#YesAllWomen She married a music minister who was a "great" guy.  He promptly tied her up naked and drove her around the city to satisfy his sex fetish, among other horrific acts she endured with him, all within mere months of getting married.

#YesAllWomen She opted to stay with that man because she truly felt if she left he would sexually prey upon his two daughters, her two step-daughters that she loved.

#YesAllWomen At 19, my good friend's husband came home drunk one night.  She had to leave the house for over an hour at 3am to pick up her sister in law from work, leaving him in the house with their baby and a 13 year old babysitter.  The next day, the babysitter alleged he raped her.  I didn't believe the babysitter because I saw how drunk he was at midnight when I left.  I never was able to find that girl and tell her I am SORRY for doubting her when I realized how stupid I behaved to not believe her.

I'm actually going to stop adding to this list.  I realize no matter how many stories I add, there will simply be more I forget.  The bottom line is that the social conversation happening is REAL.  Every woman in American society (and frankly having been in enough other societies I can say there are places in this world it's even worse than in America but this is where *I* live), has had to face and deal with misogyny.  The deaths this weekend made this glaringly obvious to all of us, but we live with this every single day of our lives.  We don't know when it will crop up.  We don't know when we will be strong enough to say fu when it does.  We don' t know when it will cut to the core and knock us down.

And least a man take offense and cry out, not all men.  Here's the reality.  We are also all guilty of falling into misogynistic patterns as well.  That 13 year old?  I believed her rapist even when the DNA came back he was guilty.  I was just as guilty that day, and I can't make up for that.  My college roommate, I still feel tremendous guilt that she's married to a man who raped someone she to this day considers a good friend.  Yet, I cannot tell someone else's story openly and so still I say NOTHING about that situation.  My own husband was utilizing massage parlors.  Maybe he could tell himself that the prostitutes were free agents and exercising free will, and most likely the ones he used were.  But, he can never tell that to himself about the massage parlors.  My friend who married the sexual sadist?  The only way we can remain friends is that we never talk about that dark secret.  She's a national child advocate and known even on capital hill, and I know her secret and simply keep it, because again it's not MY story to tell.  My friend who helped calm me after my rape?  We ended up in an abusive trainwreck of a relationship when I was 19, one which he has asked me to not blog about because he is a college professor and a women's studies professor at that. 

We are not black and white caricatures.  As women we are not immune from subjecting other women to misogyny and stereotypes either.  We are human.  Each day, we encounter opportunities to make a choice.  We can choose righteousness, or we can fail.  We get that choice each time we encounter it.  Most of us are not fully evil, nor fully pure and good.  It's a daily choice we make. 

If we listen to our stories, we can hear the hurt, we can learn to be aware that it exists, that this bombards women every day, and I cannot even speak to what my LBGT brothers and sisters encounter because it is SO far beyond my comprehension that if I encounter misogyny that can threaten to tear my life apart for being a common variety female, what horror they must endure for being so much different, something that society still refers to as deviant and aberrant (they are NOT, do not confuse my words, but they are referred to in this manner by far too many).  I'm not excluding what they endure in this.  I simply recognize I cannot speak to their experience because I cannot comprehend it.

We must listen.  It is in listening and realizing it permeates us and all around is, only then can we be aware.  Only in realizing that these thoughts, these acts, these experiences are REAL can we learn so that we can change the conversation, and we can choose better for ourselves the next time we come to a crossroad where we have to choose.

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