from anita hill to christine blasey ford

dr ford 2

I am watching Christine Blasey Ford give her opening statement.  As women we are all wired differently, but in my humble opinion this this woman is not lying. She is telling and reliving her truth on national television. (CLICK HERE not sure if link will change.)

When as a country do we stop blaming and shaming victims of any form of assault? This woman has been the target of harassment and death threats since she came forward? She and her family have had to MOVE OUT of their home? Her email was hacked this week?

She says “my responsibility is to tell the truth.”

I have watched the emotions run across this poor woman’s face.  I will note that while not consistently a Senator Diane Feinstein fan, I thought she was magnificent this morning.

I also thought Senator Chuck Grassley was a veritable tool in his opening remarks. He has been a tool consistently throughout. Senator Patrick Leahy just made me tear up when he said to Dr. Ford “We owe you a debt of gratitude…bravery is contagious.”

I remember watching what happened to Dr. Anita Hill vividly in 1991.  She has been quoted recently as stating :

“Access to equal justice for all is what was at stake in 1991, and it’s what’s at stake now,” said Hill, now 62 and a professor at Brandeis University.

A friend of mine recently said on Facebook:

For me, the striking thing about the reports of the (alleged) actions and behavior of  Kavanaugh & peers in the 80’s is how utterly unsurprising and familiar the stories are and how much I took such behavior for granted as normal throughout my high school, college, and twenty-something years.

Philadelphia’s Main Line prep schools are not very different from those in the suburbs of DC. In the 80’s …we marinated in a pretty formidable testosterone stew, and the drunken, groping party scene among the schools was the reality I knew. For the most part I stayed out of the fray, but certainly had moments in the heart of it all – it may have been luck that I wasn’t assaulted, but I’m aware of female peers who were and who still feel the impact today, even if they never reported anything. I’m familiar with some of the men I was told were perpetrators, who now are stable, engaged, contributing citizens who may not remember or even be aware of the impact of their actions years ago.

When I arrived at my traditional, predominantly male college, the drunken, groping fraternity party scene didn’t faze me since it corresponded to the social scene I knew, and was one in which I willingly participated. As in high school I mostly avoided assaults that some other women experienced, until the one time that I, dead sober on a weekday night, bumped into a male friend who was wasted, who wasn’t convinced that I didn’t want to hook up with him, who pinned me to the ground until I managed to push him off and run away. It’s just about the most scared I’ve ever been around another person – I can imagine the feelings of fear and panic and lack of control that Christine Blasey Ford may have felt – and avoided him for the next few weeks, yet I never went to campus police and may have only told one or two people at the time. Later the guy apologized to me profusely and sincerely. I believed him that he had scared himself as much as he had scared me. We remain friends and is someone I like, admire, and appreciate to this day. Not every woman at college was so fortunate.

Pledge season involved a lot of male nudity; it wasn’t unusual each spring to find myself on the dance floor with some drunken, naked guys (who by that point may have become so numb and inured to public nudity they didn’t think twice about stripping down). I thought it was adventurous and funny; in retrospect now I can imagine how unsettling or upsetting it may have been for others at the fraternity party. From my perspective at that point, that’s just the way it was – that was normal.

Looking back at this culture through the lens of 30+ years of maturation and experience, I feel a little like the proverbial frog in boiling water – if I had been dropped in, I might have jumped right back out, but having been immersed in it as it slowly heated up, I never noticed that anything might be amiss. For whatever reasons – obliviousness, immaturity, desire for social acceptance, preponderant male power and privilege, entrenched social mores – it rarely occurred to me to question what we then accepted as the norm. Others may have been more mature or enlightened far earlier than I. It’s taken me longer to wake up and recognize it as unhealthy and harmful. Waving your penis drunkenly in someone’s face (it’s surely happened somewhere, whether officially witnessed, reported, and documented at Yale in the 1980’s or not) is not funny or acceptable. It’s boorish and threatening, and also probably really unattractive. (Sorry guys – penises are usually pretty ugly!)

So there’s no real moral to my tale, just an observational outpouring based on my experience as a white, heterosexual, overly-educated woman of privilege who has lived primarily in affluent parts of America. The issues that have been raised by Me Too, Why I Didn’t Report, Time’s Up, and ongoing stories that shed light on the pervasive nature of sexual misconduct, assault, and crimes in our culture are bigger and broader than just my tiny little slice of life.

The stories being told by the women speaking out against Brett Kavanaugh, though, speak to a specific milieu I recognize. He may well be an intelligent, accomplished professional, a man of faith, a pillar of the community, and a devoted husband and father, but he could also have been an asshole as a teenager, especially when drunk, who casually and cavalierly exercised his entitled belief that girls were prey to be conquered or trophies to be won while glorying in his alpha male dominance and sexual prowess.

I don’t know him and I don’t know if that’s the case, but, if true, the actions outlined by his accusers fit a profile that I find fully believable and very likely possible. For this and many other reasons it really chaps my hide that a bunch of desiccated, crotchety, superannuated white guys are trying to force through a vote without some semblance of sensitivity to the nuances of the situation. There is nothing easy here, and it burns me up that the response by some of those elected to lead our country is to say, essentially, “hush now – stop making a fuss over nothing and let us go ahead and do what we want.”  Wonder how a younger generation of men may ever have picked up the notion that they might be entitled to casually and cavalierly conquer, belittle, and suppress women while glorying in their alpha male dominance. It shouldn’t be normal.

I shared my friend’s post because she is right.

As I was a few years ahead of her in high school, don’t think similar thoughts haven’t crossed my mind when it comes to the conversations which persist about Supreme Court nominee Kavanugh as yet another woman comes forward. (Since I wrote this yet another woman has come forward I will note for the record.)

Thinking about all the parties from high school forward and thinking about times even as a young adult in my early 20s having to dodge this total tool who tried to trap me in someone’s parents’ bedroom coming out of the bathroom at a party I completely agree.

Being slammed up against a wall of a bedroom like that was not sexy or fun, it was terrifying.

All I remember about that were thoughts racing through my head that I had to get out of there and telling myself I couldn’t afford to panic. I was able to knee the guy in the crotch to get away. I can still see the draperies, the coverlet and canopy of this now long gone proper Main Line master bedroom. I can tell you the bathroom I used was the interior master en suite bathroom in the back of the bedroom.

Most of us have stories like this from our single days. The funny thing is I don’t actually know many women who don’t have at least one of these stories, if not more. Most of us, myself included, have multiple stories. Suffice it to say, it was an experience I had as a teenager which propelled me in my twenties to just get out of that room.

Being raised by mothers who just expected us to be good and proper girls, did not actually prepare us for the reality of it all growing up. And how many of us had mothers we felt we could truthfully discuss these issues with? I love my mother but I know I couldn’t discuss it with her. I still couldn’t.

Back then, women/girls were blamed first. It was always “what did you do?” not “Oh my God, what can we do to make this right?” Even today, the initial knee-jerk reaction is to blame the women/girls first instead of listening.

Not all of us want to talk about these incidents. Because back then if you talked about them it was also whispered that you were “fast” or “easy”. The guys in this equation were just sort of patted on the back and sent on their way. It was expected, and almost condoned behavior. Just “boys being boys” only it never felt that way if you were on the receiving end.

I also remember the stories of college girls when I was a freshman who were supposedly “trained” by fraternity brothers when I was in college. “Riding the Train” of course today would be called gang rape. Back then it meant they all lined up and took turns. They would ruin a girl’s reputation but what they in fact did was commit gang rape. These things were whispered about, not reported.  We learned whom to avoid and what parties we probably should avoid. But the “boys” persisted.

Stories range from attempted assault to rape. And then there are all the women who won’t talk about what happened to them. Ever. Or not for decades.  Some women deal with it in therapy or somehow push through it.  And there are those who never dealt with these issues and what happened to them has continued to play a part in their now adult lives. Because as a society we don’t deal with these patterns of behavior, they persist to future generations. Maybe you will disagree with me, but those are personal observations.

And I don’t think as a society we can judge people for waiting however many years before they come forward. These were traumatic events and they have triggers. People can bury these things in their subconscious for years, until there comes a point in time or something triggers a memory and they all come flooding forward. And then it’s like these women have to live it all over again because they didn’t deal with it in the first place. And a lot of the times they didn’t deal with it in the first place because as a society we’ve only just started becoming supportive. As a society, we did not used to be so supportive.

Jessica Knolls’ book Luckiest Girl Alive comes to mind. It is kind of the way it was, although factionalized. Here is a New York Times article discussing the impetus:

 Jessica Knoll Reveals the Rape Behind Her Novel, ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’  

By Alexandra Alter
March 29, 2016

….She is no longer dodging those questions. On Tuesday, Ms. Knoll published a raw and chilling essay describing how the gang rape depicted in her novel was drawn from her own experience in high school, when she was sexually assaulted by three boys at a party, and then tormented by classmates who labeled her a slut.

“I was so conditioned to not talk about it that it didn’t even occur to me to be forthcoming,” Ms. Knoll said during a recent interview at her publisher’s office in Midtown Manhattan. “I want to make people feel like they can talk about it, like they don’t have to be ashamed of it.”

Anyway, I think these women deserve to be heard. I also think they should not be judged about how long it took them to come forward.

Societally, this is something that women are NOT supposed to talk about in public.(Just Google #WhyIDidntTell And while there are a lot of people who have used the #MeToo movement for personal gain, and there are plenty of women who were not truthful and cried wolf, it has also given a lot of women a voice that is long overdue.

I will also note I have a problem with women who cry wolf. Women who fake it in this category are reprehensible. They make it more difficult for actual victims of abuse to come forward and even be heard.  Sadly, my gut reaction to this whole scenario now unfolding on a national and international stage is still that I believe these women.

If you ever experienced anything like what these women are recounting, sorry not sorry, you know. You know because you experienced what has been pshawed off for far too long in this country as if not acceptable but almost expected as a rite of passage.

Anita HillThere is a recent Huffington Post piece that I think should be checked out:

Huffington Post U.S. NEWS 09/21/2018 02:26 pm ET
Rape Survivors Share Why They Stayed Quiet In Powerful #WhyIDidntReport Tweets
President Donald Trump tried to bolster Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by challenging sexual assault survivors who didn’t immediately call the police.
headshot
By Ryan Grenoble

I also read this piece on The Cut:

THE BODY POLITIC SEPT. 24, 2018
When the Muzzle Comes Off
By Rebecca Traister

Watching these proceedings as they unfold today I am struck by the two lines of questioning: legal questioning by the legal expert Rachel Mitchell constantly interrupted by some absurd five-minute rule by I can’t desacribe as other than politics.

Dr. Ford was asked one of the things she remembers most, remembers vividly.  She responded the laughing.  Sorry, I remember being a teenage girl and right or wrong, and while boys might block it out, or compartmentailze it away, girls remember the laughter.

Being laughed at or about is something you do not really forget. You grow up, you move on (or should if you can), but you do remember. We learn from our own personal histories just like we learn from actual history. However this shakes out, we need to be different in this country.  It’s not about the political correctness police running amok, it’s a question of respect.

Whatever happens today, I hope it’s not another Anita Hill scenario.  For both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, put the politics down and get to the truth. Waht an ugly time we live in.

prosecutor

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