by Rose Madder
It’s shocking to believe that almost a full year has passed since America’s greatest threat to democracy took office. In that time, I have made and lost hundreds of friendships, took part in countless debates, and developed unbreakable bonds. But despite all the ideals many of us shared, there is one subject where we seem unable to agree. What does feminism mean to you?
The discussions began with the allegations made against Al Franken. Most of my closest friends shared my feelings, which came as a relief. My affinity for him began 2 decades ago, so learning that the supposed advocate for women was nothing more than another perpetrator of assault was a hard pill to swallow. Equally shocking were the personal attacks launched against his first accuser: She is a Republican. She is a plant by Roger Stone sent to torpedo Franken’s possible presidential aspirations. She was photographed groping Robin Williams. All of these were coupled with the implied or verbalized understanding that she was promiscuous and got what she deserved. I shed some friends during these discussions.
Now accusations have been made against Aziz Ansari. It all started again, except it’s much more personal this time around. The account given by his victim rings true to me, as I have experienced a similar assault. As I scanned my FB feed, I learned that many other women had also been through comparable encounters. I put all those forever raw nerves out there to share my own story, to explain why I identify so strongly with her. But the response from some people was disappointing, to say the least.
Feelings about what constitutes as sexual assault or harassment can vary immensely from one person the next. All of those opinions are valid, but not the same. I expressed the sentiment that if someone feels they were violated, they were. But instead of the support and love I was hoping for, my own words were tossed in my face scornfully. I was belittled and informed that regret over a sexual encounter isn’t rape. It was like rape victim Olympics, and apparently my experiences don’t qualify, even though they were emotionally devastating.
So I come back to the query of what feminism means to you. Does it mean we always support women, even if we greatly admire the men accused? Do feminists get to be the people to decide the hierarchy of what is real or imagined assault? Can you be a feminist if you victim blame or slut shame? We all have such different perceptions of feminism, so I can’t be the arbiter of it. I know that I don’t feel that anyone has the right to devalue another person’s feelings, even if we disagree. I hope to soon be in a world where questions of women’s sexual history will become irrelevant in regards to accusations of assault. Consent should be the one mantra we can all live by.
by Rose Madder
Over the past 3 days, social media has been flooded with posts about rape culture in our society. Some women (and a few men) have been brave enough to share their personal experiences. Others have chosen to participate in “me too” to expose the prevalence of harassment and assault. I am inspired by the declarations intended to destigmatize traumatic events, but this social experiment has revealed a giant wound in the psyche of our society.
A few days ago, I was asked why people have become so sensitive and woke. What is the motivation for people who were mostly silent on political issues and matters of social justice to speak up now? In the simplest terms possible, these posts are the answer why. When a man who admitted sexually assaulting women got elected president because of a large voting block of women, there can be no truer reflection of the internalized misogyny many of us inflict upon ourselves. He has waged political and social warfare against many marginalized groups. Our silence breeds violence, and we must use our voices to speak out. He told us who he was during the election, but people supported his message or silently condoned it by ignoring it. The rights of rape and assault victims at colleges were stripped away only a month ago by the person who should have been protecting them. It was another blow to women from an administration headed by a predator in chief.
While I was in college, I experienced assault. By the time my naive teenage
The exposure of a Hollywood mogul’s decades of harassment and abuse of women was major news last week. I was distinctly unimpressed by some supposed liberal actors who weakly denounced him by saying they support women because of their children, significant others, or mothers. That type of thinking is part of the problem. People should not care about rape and abuse because of how it impacts them personally, they should have empathy because it’s the right thing to do. Daughters are not pawns to be played in sad attempts at justifying a now popular opinion against rape culture. I reserve my kudos for all the women who courageously spoke out despite rampant attempts to silence them.
I choose to believe that the events of the past year happened for a reason. However indirectly, he who shall not be named brought a powerful group of people together. This movement is way beyond any political candidate. For the first time in several decades, a large segment of the population is rejecting the president and political establishment. Change is on the horizon, I see a glimmer of it periodically. Messages that brought emotional distress also tightened the bonds of friendship. Me, too.
1. one of a series of stones acting as footrests for crossing streams, marshes, etc
2. a circumstance that assists progress towards some goal
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
It all starts with that first stone.
The one that looks a little too mossy in the water that looks a little too deep for your little-girl legs. You can’t even see the other side of the river right now, so why not just stay where you are? Safe, on the ground where your parents and their parents and their parents before them put you.
The trouble is, you’re not that kind of girl.
Stone No.1 – somewhere between 1979 and 1983
I’m not sure how long it took me to notice but, at some point, I realized that my little brother had all of the good Star Wars toys. I kept having to go into his room to play with them. Now, don’t get me wrong – he loved Star Wars. But I loved it, too. In fact, by virtue of birth order, I loved it first. I did my hair up in braided buns, wore white robes for Halloween and asked for a light saber for Christmas.
I didn’t get a light saber. I had every possible variation of Princess Leia action figure, but he got everything else. Every. thing. else.
He got the Luke Skywalkers, the Han Solos, the Darth Vaders, etc etc. He got the battery powered land rovers that said lines from Return of the Jedi when you pushed buttons. He had a Millennium Falcon – I had 6 different Leias.
This is the part in a real essay where I’m supposed to tell you why this happened and how it made me feel. To examine 1980’s children’s toys through a 2017 feminist world view. But we all know why it happened. You know how it probably made me feel. And this isn’t a proper essay. These are stepping stones.
Stone No.2 – November 1995
I was eleven when “The Goonies” came out. The perfect age, really. And it is such a perfect movie. It’s a treasure hunt and a mystery, a group of kids just about my age having an adventure in a world without adult supervision. I identified so strongly with Mikey that, at the time, it didn’t even bother me that the girls were basically accessories to the story. They were 16, anyway, and too old for me. By age eleven, I’d already learned that if I wanted to have a vicarious adventure, I’d probably have to have it through the eyes of a boy.
Ten years later (I’ll do the math for you) I was twenty-one and theoretically too old for kids’ movies, but I never really grew out of wanting a good adventure story. I spent a lot of time in the movie theater, so it’s really no shock that I went to see “Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain.” You probably haven’t. You’ve probably never even heard of it. It was a little movie starring Anna Chlumsky and Christina Ricci as a country tomboy and the new-girl-from-the-big-city. Together, they formed a friendship, found a map, and followed it into Bear Mountain. There were rock slides, there was danger, there were (you guessed it) bears! There was even a hidden lake and a boat involved. And, at the end, there was GOLD.
It was not a very good movie. In fact, it was pretty terrible. But as Beth and Jody piloted that homemade boat down the river and out of the mountain towards home – I cried a little in the dark theater. Because I realized, just then in that very moment, that I would have given anything to have had a movie like this when I was eleven.
Stone No.3 – April 3, 2004
I grew up on the myth that a woman is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married over the age of forty. I came of age in the golden era of the Rom-Com – you could say my late teens/early twenties were thoroughly Ephronized. Therefore, I knew that by age thirty I should be married. I should be on a good career path. I should at least be pregnant since I wanted three or four kids.
Thirty was a measuring point for how well your life was going to turn out, especially if you were a woman – that pesky biological clock and all – and by all counts I was coming up way short.
No marriage, no career, no babies. Just an overeducated temp with lots of debt, no engagement ring, and no likely prospects of getting pregnant. I felt like a failure. And everywhere I looked, the world was telling me that it agreed.
Yep, that’s it. No wise life lesson, no epiphany about how societal expectations harm women, no “but it all ended happily!” This is the unexpectedly wobbly middle stone off of which I almost slipped.
Stone No. 4 – April 3, 2014
If thirty was hard, I expected forty to be brutal. I was married, and that was nice at least. I was about to start a “real” job – also nice. No kids. Not everything works out for everyone and that’s a whole other story. Heck, it’s probably at least three stories. Maybe you’ll come back and read them someday.
What actually happened was not just surprising, it was shocking. Forty wasn’t a death sentence, it was liberating. All of those life goals put on me by “thirty” told me that “forty” was the ultimate deadline. That if I hadn’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish as a woman by the time I was forty, it would be all over. That was it. My last chance.
Well, here it was. The big 4-0. The finish line. And I hadn’t accomplished much of anything. I spent the last two years of my thirties so weighed down by expectations I almost couldn’t breathe. I honestly thought my fortieth birthday might kill me.
Instead? It just … didn’t. In fact, I felt relieved. Like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I realized that I had crossed the “finish line” with no career and no kids and the world hadn’t ended. That epiphany about the unfair societal expectations on women appeared this time. I still couldn’t see the whole way across the river, but at least I had a better idea of where I was going now.
Stone No. 5 – November 9, 2016
This one’s pretty obvious, I know. But that date is what led most of us to the place we are now – me writing this and you reading it. I say the 9th instead of the 8th because the 9th was the day after. And sometimes the Day After is when everything begins.
When I was in college, I came very close to killing myself. I had the sleeping pills collected and lined up on the windowsill. I was an angry, angry young woman. We won’t go into that right now. But I was too angry to keep on living. I realized I had a choice – I could let go of the anger, or I could die. I chose to let go. It wasn’t easy. It was a process, long and sometimes exhausting. But it’s what I chose.
11/9 felt very much the same. I didn’t get out of bed all day. I cried off and on all week. Again, though, I realized I had a choice. I could metaphorically stay in bed for the next four or more years – or I could get up and be stronger than I was before. I could fight. So I chose to get up and go battle.
While Resisting, I also learned. I learned that Intersectional Feminism wasn’t just a buzzword, and that being a good ally meant more than saying you believe everyone should be equal. It means doing a lot of shutting up and listening, especially when what’s being said makes me uncomfortable. It means showing up, really showing up, when and where my privilege can do the most good. It means that when I say I want to make a website to give women a voice, I do my best to make sure that all women are represented.
Ignoring what was going to happen to our country, to the women of our country, would be akin to dying. So I chose again. And I choose every day since then. I choose to fight.
I invite you to fight, too. If you’re a woman and you have something to say, if you believe your unique voice needs to be represented, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.