We gotta do something…different. That much we seem to agree on. But…what?
Last night I found myself in an incredibly frustrating discussion with a man who asserted, on the one hand, that women needed to come forward more boldly and in a more timely fashion for their claims to be received by perfect strangers as having merit, while also asserting that collectively we needed “new standards” to be put in place for dealing with rape accusations so that we don’t trample upon the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”
When I pressed him as to WHAT, exactly, those new standards might be—because we women would LOVE to know what men expect from us in order for us to be believed, supported, and protected by our own society—he couldn’t, or wouldn’t say.
That’s the problem, right there in a nutshell. The emotional after-attacks on women occur when we are coming forward immediately AND for not coming forward “sooner.” For telling on our assailants and getting them “in trouble” AND for suppressing the pain and sliding into secrecy and shame. For going about life in an ordinary way that involves occasionally getting drunk, or meeting strangers, or trusting a person who later proves untrustworthy (because apparently we are supposed to be perfect) AND for being overly paranoid, fearful and resentful about “typical male hijinks.” For wearing pink hats and marching in protest (because that’s too emasculating and angry) AND for capitulating in frustration to the realities of a society that discounts us as a matter of course. For creating the #metoomovement, AND for not standing up strongly enough in support of one another.
Nobody seems able to say clearly what we women can do “better” to get real justice in this country once we’ve been assaulted. Only that how we deal with our own assaults is, apparently, mostly wrong…no matter what we do.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of completed rape test kits lie rotting in countless police storage facilities, abandoned and unprocessed by an uncaring, overworked justice system that knows all too well the near impossibility of securing an actual conviction, even as the victims try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and somehow find a way to carry on without much, if any, social support for their healing.
So. I would love for those vocal critics of Dr. Ford, the Cosby accusers, the Weinstein accusers, the Trump accusers, the Ailes accusers, etc. to please tell us women what it is YOU need from us in order to get behind us or stand up for us. Because we may not be YOUR wife, or sister, or mother, or daughter. But we are each somebody. Somebody in our own right. Not merely somebody’s wife, sister, mother, and daughter—but every bit as much of a somebody as the men who injured us. And we hurt. And we feel fear. And the idea of being re-victimized by a brutal social system that seeks to drive us back underground at every turn is too much to face for too many.
Surely—even in a nation as torn apart by rage, hatred, and fear as ours is at the moment—that counts for something. That matters…assuming we matter. Unless what we are really being told is, “Shut up. Sit down. Just take it. Just stuff it. Because you really aren’t somebody at all. Just an object to be used and discarded at the whims of the actual somebodies.”
Is that the lesson of this particular moment?