Our Voices Matter

I stopped writing after the election. I didn’t write my morning pages. I only wrote poetry when I had to, which was once every other Friday for work. I didn’t touch my book.  I couldn’t even look at my blog. I mean, no one else was looking at my blog, either, so I didn’t feel too bad about that last bit. But still. My creativity was gone.

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It was all too much. For me, the election validated every single negative thought I’ve had about my life as a woman and as a writer.

I am not worthy.
I am an object.
I do not matter.
I have no voice.

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I always knew Boromir was a feminist.

I went to my gym the next day and I asked the trainer for a hug and I tried not to cry when he gave it to me. I tried not to cry when I high-fived the five or six other women that made it to that class. I tried, and I mostly succeeded. Partially because of the endorphins running through my system and the self-esteem boost I get from checking out my muscles in the mirror, but mostly because of my community. They held me up that day, and every day after.

It was like the bro in me had withered and died and was replaced instead by the girl I’ve fought so hard not to be: a victim of sexual assault.

That’s a badge I don’t wear proudly but is sewn on the inside of every shirt I wear. Some days, I don’t notice it. But other days, it’s like one of those tags at your neck that itches but is somehow impossible to cut or rip out because God hates that shirt on you so you will pay for the sin of wearing it. Or something. And after the election, it was like I was stuck in that shirt… Man, that’s a weird metaphor. Clearly I’m slow to getting back into this “writing thing.”

The first weeks or so after the election, I couldn’t listen to the news, because his consistent gaslighting of issues reminds me too much of those whose hands have claimed territory on my body without my permission. Those who deflected blame when I spoke up and somehow managed to make me feel like the bad guy. Those who refused to acknowledge that they had done anything wrong. Those who tried, and kept trying, long after it was appropriate, to regain control of the situation.

I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and he told me I couldn’t let the election stop me from living my life.

I knew what he meant, but I started crying. I said, “I’m scared to be around people I don’t know now. I’m scared because what if I say something they don’t like, or what if they’re emboldened by the words of the President-Elect, or what if they get drunk and handsy and I can’t protect myself?”

I am still afraid. My anxiety has given me a near-constant level of bile in the back of my throat, which turns the taste of most foods but adds nicely to things lacking in vinegar.

But I refuse to let my fear allow further injustices and the perpetuation of my own victimhood. I have decided to stand with and speak to those who need my support. I will not sit quietly or idly by in the face of fascism or racism or sexism–not on a local or national or international stage. Even when I’m too scared to leave my house or respond to that email or ask someone for a hug, I will keep using my voice.

That is partially why I have re-upped my commitment to write here. It is also why I have decided to attend the Women’s March on Washington: I will not go silently into that good night, etc. etc.

So tell that radioactive circus peanut that’s about to take the oath of office that I will not be cowed.

5 Comments

As someone else who has dealt with sexual assault in her life, it breaks my heart to admit that sexual assault is an incredibly sad reality that many, if not most, women have dealt with at least once in their lives. I remember the first time this realization came to me — I was in gym class in high school about six months or so after I had been raped (something I never reported or told anyone, by the way), and some of my friends and I were walking around the track and sharing stories. Somehow we got on the topic of sexual assault, and I was shocked to discover that every girl in that group had experienced an unwanted sexual experience of some sort or another in their lives (and we were only fifteen fucking years old!). As shocked as I was, I was simultaneously comforted and very disturbed to know that I was not alone.

As I have gotten older, I am finding that it is actually more rare for me to meet women who have NOT had some sort of unwanted sexual experience happen to them at some point in their lives. People think that this problem happens to others far away from them, but I guarantee that someone close to them has been affected by this. The problem is that we aren’t speaking up. The problem is that those affected feel ashamed, embarrassed, and scared to say anything about their experiences, so others think it simply doesn’t exist or isn’t that big of a problem.

So with that said, I am happy to read this: “But I refuse to let my fear allow further injustices and the perpetuation of my own victimhood. I have decided to stand with and speak to those who need my support.”

The more we tell our stories — the more we make our voices heard — the less we identify as “victims” and the more we actually create awareness and facilitate change.

I am not a victim of sexual assault yet the election made me undergo similar emotions… and I’m Canadian.

You have a voice. Now, when our right to speak appears at risk is when you MUST use your voice. Blog, write, march, cry… but do not stay silent.

Xox.

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