When Politics Gets Personal: A call to action

kellyoxfordtweet

Tweet your first sexual assault memory.  Easy for her to say— hers didn’t happen until she was 12 on that city bus.  I wonder what it is like to remember a life before.  Being owned by another started before I can even remember.  The thing that has always been a part of me is what it is to not belong to myself.   

As a child, I was owned by another.  Fearing for my safety every waking second, plotting to remain close to others, my only real exemption.  It’s scary.  It seemed it is who I was meant to be.  Being owned by another.  That is the story none of us likes to rehearse, one I am fortunate enough to have reconciled and put away neatly on a shelf.  It comes out now because of you, Donald Trump.  

The more than 9.7 million who have responded to Kelly Oxford, who asked the country to tweet about their first sexual assaults does not include mine— the count is so high with women willing to tweet it, I wonder if there is anyone left once you account for me and all the other me’s out there— who have been so trained to just shut up.  We do it to  protect the powerful, to keep family secrets, or to not rock the boat.  We do it because we were told to, or because you might fire us, or because we are just scared— and so they keep our power.  We shut up and take part in the culture.  

Yes, we are a part of it.  Every moment of silence is part of that culture.  Every minute we do not tell, we do not say “I know, I know, too”  This is the culture that teaches our precious boys that it is ok to touch us whenever the hell it strikes their fancy.  The one where I am your property, your conquest, your "pussy".  My tweet has too many characters.  How do you put a lifetime of fear into 140 characters?  How do you snapshot it and sent it into the universe?  I know what it is to live with a grumbling deep inside— visions of striking back, of taking it back, of revenging the years of my body you took from me.  Each one of us does, but some have found it less disturbing to learn to like it, to seek out the attention and let the culture’s messages sink deep within us.  The messages to get skinnier, pick the one you want to lay eyes on you in that way that strips you bare, and conform to his needs.  The messages to keep quiet, to talk about only the lovely things.

We have this grumbling inside of us— each one of us— because we all know just what its like to be groped, whether with hands or eyes.  We have tolerated it on the streets and in our offices, in classrooms and bedrooms.  We have been your conquests, we have sipped your mickeys and woken in hotel rooms, not remembering what the evidence clearly shows us.  We’ve had your eyes and your hands running across our asses, our breasts, our "pussies" for so long we can’t remember a different way.  

We have known by the way you look at us that men in business suits are no different than the ones in hard hats doing the cat calling.  We can tell who you are, but you have not seen us.  You look beyond, blinded by your locker room group think, you see our easily broken outsides, but if you caught our eye, you would know that inside many of us have had enough.  Our collective grumble is rising.  We can change your comfort in the world just as your’ve changed ours— we can ruin your hard-on by simply letting you know we are human, we are larger than your conquest.  

Whether we are the compliant type or the fighters, we know what it is you do, Donald.  We know your friends in those locker rooms, and we know the difference in the ones who don’t play.  We can feel the dignity creep back into us when they look at our eyes instead of our chests, when they see our hearts rather than our pussies.  They are the men who will stand beside us and learn our stories, stand behind us as we tell them, and they are the men who will be with us at the polls.  They will be with us, but they will also be with you-- behind those closed doors where we have no access, and they will stop your locker room banter with a simple statement of disapproval.  They will speak for the women they love and those they have not even met.  These good men have and will slowly love us back into wholeness, and together, we will rise up in a tide where the world knows it is never ok to own another human.  You have given us a reminder, Donald, that though there are many good men out there, the rape culture persists, and our stories must never be shelved.  That politics is personal, and the many populations you have tried to bully out of your way will rise up and vote you down.  

This is our time to remember the world has not changed as much as we might have liked, and it is our time to continue to change it.  I will do that at the polls.  I will change it at home as I teach my children what real respect looks like.  I will change it within myself with the reminder you have given me, Donald:  what happens behind closed doors needs to stop.  Words do matter.  #notokay