Monday, November 13, 2017

#MeToo and I will fight for you



It was when I was talking with someone today, a friend who had come for bodywork. This friend has been hurt. A lot. She's been hurt by family members, by men, by queers. She is well known and well loved and most people have no idea she has been hurt. Most people have no idea of the space between her outside self and the inside self that she keeps protected far inside.

There are so many people I know and love like that; people experiencing not just a subtle but an extreme gap between the person they show and the person they protect.

We were talking about a couple of different situations she is in; situations that wander the line from fucked up to abusive. As we were talking, I suddenly felt very fierce. I leaned in towards her and said, "You have to know this, right now. What has happened to you in the past is never going to happen to you again. Not on my watch." She got soft and quiet, looking at me from the other side of the wall that she keeps well built. Careful. Cautious. "If you get into a situation that feels unsafe or you are not sure that it's safe, call or text me. If that isn't enough, then I will pick up my keys and come get you. I will stay connected to you until we are both sure that you are safe enough to be alone." I was feeling this really fiercely. Nothing I was saying to her isn't something I haven't said or felt before and still, it was there, and it felt wild and rageful, protective and fierce.

She and I had just been talking about the most recent round of white cismen being called out and called up for their past and present sexual violence. We were talking, as we have in the past, about the power in watching individual white men no longer able to hide, losing their jobs, losing some of the celebrity respect they have gathered.  At the same time, we reflected that what is happening, this allowance and normalization of constant gender-based terror, is much bigger than any individual white man's accountability - or obvious lack of accountability - can touch. We reflected on how grateful we were that some of the articles coming out name the widespread and sometimes nuanced truth of sexual violence, how it is more than what any individual white cisman does. That articles are coming out that are also naming women as complicit, calling out all of the times when women turn on other women.  This sexual violence is about the air that we breathe, something so constant and ever-present that many of us no longer recognize it as violence.  We shared our frustration that in all of the conversation about this moment, rarely are white ciswomen, no matter how hurt they have been, holding the complexity of race and white supremacy in this moment.  We know that sexual violence combined with racial violence is another deeper story entirely and that white women have sometimes condoned it as a way of getting the attention off their own backs. 

Sexual violence did not exist on this land before colonization. Sexual violence has culture and history. In the US it is lifted up, supported and pruned by histories of Christianity and European class histories which then, depending on the cultures and histories of your family and kin, mixes with what your people knew as "normal" before settling here. Sexual violence did not exist on this land before colonization, before immigration, before Christian missionaries carried with them the idea of women (and land and sex and children) as being subservient and in need of control. 

This is what we were talking about before I asked my friend how she sits within this moment when her own tissues carry memories that have largely never been voiced. This is when she shut down. This is what propelled me to fight for her. In that moment and into the future.

I have seen women fight for other women. Ciswomen. Transwomen. Poor women, Native, Black and Brown women. I have witnessed it and experienced it. It's usually something that happens on the streets or in someone's home or together, in a private room, as women in movement work are figuring out how to have each other's backs against the sexual violence from those they are supposed to be standing with as they fight against white supremacy, ableism, deportations.  I have seen women fight for and on behalf of other women, fighting as an intimate thing, a personal thing, not the work of policies and nonprofits. I have seen it. But not enough.

As my friend and I talked, we noticed that this is the connective tissue. This is the piece that wants to be added to this work of calling out and naming the perpetrators and then calling out and naming how we have passed our ways of survival on to our daughters, how we have separated ourselves from others experiencing sexual violence because of how they dressed, because of their class, because of their race, because they were not straight or cisgender or the billion other ways that you who are reading this, like me, sometimes opt out of stopping sexual violence. We noticed how often sexual violence can bring out the predator in everyone, even those who have long been victimized themselves. And we noticed the many times when it doesn't.

As healers and healing justice practitioners, we know that in order to get past survival, we have to be able to fight for our own lives. And that in order to fight for our own lives, we have to believe, in the deepest part of our beings, that our life is worth fighting for. This is the core belly truth that oppression works to unsettle. 

What happens if every single one of us who experiences or has experienced sexual violence on the basis of our gender turns to two or three or five or ten others in our lives and tells them: Never again on my watch. I will fight for you. And then explains, concretely and with detail, exactly what that means. Here is my number. Here is how I have seen you get hurt. Here is the threat I know you live under every day. No longer on my watch. Call me and tell me what it was like and I will believe you, even if you think it was small. And more than that, I will come and find you. I will put my body between yours and his (or sometimes hers or theirs) and I will not let this happen to you again. 

Sexual violence mixes with every other form of violence and it is messy and hard. Not all of us are impacted by it in the same way. Not all of us experience the same level of threat. And at the same time, no women, no fem-presenting person, should ever, no matter what their life is like and what they are aware and not aware of,  be the victim of sexual violence. Not on our watch. What happens if we tell each other: I will take a self defense class with you. I will sleep over if you feel unsafe. I will remember that no matter what he (or she or they) say or do, that I am fierce about your safety as you are about mine. I will do this as an everyday thing and I will remind you, as you will remind me, that never again on our watch, never again, will you be the victim to someone else's predator.

We all have the right to a fight response. To our fight response. To our right to fight.

Someone recently told me the story (and she might have heard it from Adrienne Maree Brown but I now can't remember) of how swallow murmurations happen. Each bird flies as closely as possible to the one next to it, keeping track of that bird, keeping eyes on that single bird, who is doing the same to the next to it and the one next to it and so on.  By doing this, the birds fly together and move forward, making stunning visual effects as they weave and shift together. They move forward. They move forward together. They each keep watch on the other.

Go ahead. If you are reading this, make a list of 2 or 3 or 5 or 10 women, fem-presenting people, and tell them, concretely and with as much detail as you can, not on my watch, never again. And then watch us fly.

#MMIW 



2 comments:

Amy Micek said...

Powerful. I have my list.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.