Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of listening, thinking, and praying. It has been an overwhelming and emotionally exhausting time for women in 2018. In fact, its been a triggering time since our current President took office.
Yesterday, I was speaking to a co-worker. The normal office talk is what got us started, but we ended by talking about women’s rights. What began as a conversation about work benefits, turned drastically when she said she could remember having to list her last menstrual cycle on job applications. Honestly, that statement made my jaw drop. The amount of personal information that people believe they are entitled to know is astounding to me.
This comment just made me realize how far we have come. However, thinking about that comment, and the last couple of weeks of news, saddens me to think about how much further we have to go.
For those of you who don’t understand why these hearings were a big deal, or why Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is “just now” reporting what happened to her, or why any of it matters since it was so long ago – I need you to hear me: IT MATTERS. When you are the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault, the victim is made to believe they are the problem and what happened to them was their fault. Even if the victim made their preferences known, it is still their fault when the assaulter refuses to respect their wishes.
In the current social culture that America resides in, the white male is the dominant people group. Therefore, any persons that do not belong to that group, think women, children, people of color, and LGBTQ+, are forced to live life as a secondary citizen, adapting to the worldviews and lawmaking preferences of the dominant group. Don’t believe me? Even though our laws have changed to be more inclusive, any persons that fall into the outer categories will tell you that “off the record” treatment remains the same. Women are still discriminated against for jobs if they are pregnant (employers just aren’t allowed to ask when their last cycle was), people of color are still selected for “random” police stops and security checks at airports, LGTBQ+ people still face major discrimination and hate due to who they are attracted to and who they choose to love.
I say all this to help you understand that women have had to adjust the way they live their lives simply to exist peacefully with the dominant people group. The further back into our history you go, the more women are oppressed (don’t get me started on women of color…). You can argue that women should be happy with where they are; they have the most rights and freedoms than ever before; equality is mostly a thing; that women have everything they have been asking for! My question then for you is: would you be happy with a pizza that gave you most of the toppings you ordered? Or if you bought a house that was mostly finished? No, of course not.
And neither are women.
When it comes to sexual abuse, women, and the men that abuse them, the man is rarely faulted for the attack. In our current culture, the woman is expected to take both defensive and offensive actions to combat sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. She is responsible for what she wears; she is responsible for if she drank alcohol at all – even one glass (not to mention watching her glass like a hawk to ensure that she isn’t being drugged); she is responsible for saying no; she is responsible for having a way to protect herself; in the end, she is responsible for what happens to her. Whereas the man (the harasser, the assaulter, the attacker), is not responsible for those things, he is not even responsible for respecting when she says “no”. What he should be responsible for is controlling his urges, for averting his eyes, for not trying to drug a woman. But instead, he rarely is held accountable. The times where he is, he has left a trail of assaulted women who came together to bring down their attacker (examples of this are Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby).
Victims of sexual assault are tired of being shamed for being attacked; we’re tired of carrying the emotional weight of being assaulted and watching our molester walk free. It angers us that an accused sexual assaulter now sits on the Supreme Court. It infuriates us that a self-proclaimed sexual assaulter is our President. We are tired of being governed by the men who have caused so much damage and emotional residue in our lives.
The accusations and hearings matter because women matter.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a pioneer. Just as Margaret Fuller, Rosa Parks, and Anita Hill are pioneers, Dr. Ford decided to risk her job, her reputation, and her own emotional distress, to fight the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. Though her testimony and transparency were not enough to bring down the walls of patriarchy, she has made a dent. Her life and legacy will have chipped away at this long-standing institution.
We will break ’em next time.