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Stand Up and Beside: Seeing Women as People

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

 

 

With all of the appalling sexual assault being finally dragged into the light—the abuse of power, the harassment, the general douche-ery of it all—hearing people speak up has been impressive. First and foremost, the victims who had been courageous enough to speak out have blown me away. In particular, a couple of nights ago, this included Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, and Sophia Bush. Chyler Leigh, Emily Bett Richards, Caity Lotz, and Melissa Benoist have stood in solidarity with those speaking out, as have Grant Gustin, Chris Wood, and Stephen Amell. The women are inspiring. The men are thoughtful and articulate.

 

Those three men , although I don’t know them personally, are good people. They’re good allies. There’s nothing disingenuous or performative. Their outrage is grounded is disgust and a seething kind of fury. There’s no cushioned words or soft statements. There’s sharp denouncements and well-worded promises. It fills my heart with hope. It does me good to be reminded that there are men out there who hold authority and choose to stand by and behind women. No excuses and no misdirection. No denials or wishy-washy promises.

 

Although sexual assault and abuse is not relegated to Hollywood, it’s easy to focus there are a clear example of wrongdoings. It has, lately, been an avalanche of gross revelations—but as any woman (or abused man) can tell you, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Like cockroaches, if you see one, there are many. And, like cockroaches, the problem only gets worse if left untreated and unaddressed.

 

This is no witch hunt. Because witches (women) were the persecuted during the Salem Witch Trials. Women were not in a position of power, then, and they were the victims. The onslaught of accusations, right now, are coming from women. That’s not to say that men are not also mistreated and are victims of sexual assault. But I can only speak to being a woman in this world, where I have a practiced polite smile for uncomfortable situations. It never reaches my eyes. It’s an attempt, always, to diffuse a situation until I can extricate myself. Until I can get somewhere I am safe.

 

Here’s the thing, though. A few days ago, I read a statement of outrage from a man who was appalled that another man sexually assaulted an 11 year old girl. We can all agree that’s vile, unacceptable, and criminal. But the genesis of this person’s horror was that he has a daughter. I understand that because of that, his outrage hit close to home. But a woman should be need to be related to you for her to matter.

 

I am a daughter. But that does not define me. If I only matter because I’m someone’s something, it’s dehumanizing. It makes me tantamount to someone’s belonging, not my own person. I matter, because I’m me—not because of how I’m related to somebody. I understand that an issue can become personal, because of personal feelings and relationships. You have a child, and you’re worried for that child. Because the world is, all too often, a raging dumpster fire surrounded by rabid wolves.

 

Don’t get me wrong: outrage over things like this is GOOD. It is necessary. Realizing that something could, or has, affected a woman you love/care about is huge. But that is a starting place. It’s a step in the direction, not the whole journey. There’s more work to be done. In order to fully tackle the root problem, we need to do something revolutionary: see women as people, not associations.

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Gods and Monsters

January 16, 2017 Leave a comment

(I had submitted this to Rattle for their Poet’s Respond section, but they selected something else. I still feel as if this is important, so I’m sharing it here. This was the statement I wrote to go with it: At about 1:30 am, steps were taken to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This has been initiated without a suitable replacement, which will lead to millions of people to die. Among other things, the ACA ensures that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied insurance (pre-existing conditions include common things such as diabetes and pregnancy). You can read more about it here: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/12/509441874/senate-takes-first-step-towards-repeal-of-obamacare.

This poem is directed toward every Congressman/Congresswoman and Senator who looks at this potential repeal favorably.)


 

You have rearranged the bones
of your service,
made a false god
out of every
undignified inch,
not content
to eat your own heart,
you have savaged
everyone else’s,
instructing the future-dead
to thank you
for the gift of pain,
this sacrament of fear.

Holy are the thorns
of the self-righteous,
grateful is the stoned wife,
sinful is the leper—
this is your legacy,
turning wine
into water,
then offering it
to parched lungs.

The hour is late
or early, dark
and noisy,
it should be full of silence,
but yours
is an angry grace,
but
your god
is not my god,
for you have lit
candles
with other people’s lives,
aghast
at their screams
as they are burning,
you tell the poor
to be honored
by the lesson
of hunger
and wanting,
but try as you might,
you cannot make a man
out of nothing,
and when everything is ash
and ruin,
no one will say a prayer
for you, no one
will even speak your name.