I am not a Hollywood starlet. I am not a celebrated actress. And I stand with my sisters strong saying NO MORE. Whatever that man’s name is who sex-abused and assaulted women – he is not an anomaly. And let’s not make him the only one (take a look inside the “white” house or inside the universities or the walls of the late Hugh Hefner’s house ) I have experienced sex abuse and inappropriateness. In my family. In my neighborhood growing up. At age 10, paddling a canoe on the lake when I sighted a man masturbating on shore. Just barely 15, on a blind date with a “nice” Jewish boy. And that wasn’t the only nice guy date I experienced. In NY, the men on the street with disgusting tongues aimed at me. A gauntlet. Followed home and grabbed at. Catcalls. A clergy, too. On the subway, how many times, experiencing that creepy feeling: “Is that person’s leg or hand or whatever really trying to touch me or is it just crowded?” Oh, how many times did I make myself think I was the wrong one! I apologize to me for knowing the truth and doubting it! Accosted outside the Old City. Walking down the streets of Jerusalem. Age 22, told that part of the job will include sleeping with the boss.
I have been ashamed for much of my life for being seen. Been so incredibly self conscious of people “seeing” me. Even though by all accounts I was, and still am, a beautiful woman. Thinking somehow something was “wrong” with me. When the truth is. NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ME! How I betrayed myself to make sense of it all. Something is wrong in our culture. Something is wrong in our families. Something is rotten and stinking in our institutions. It’s time to make the change. The change is now. It’s time.
We are living in a trance. We are living Emperor Has No Clothes. We are living in a distress pattern. We are coping and calling it living.
If the cost of success is the cost of your soul–NO to that. If the cost of living in this culture is lying to yourself, NO to that. I’m coming out. Strong. Standing up. I will tolerate sexism and abuse no more! No more well-meaning doctors calling my 89-year-old mother “dear.” I will stop the “young lady” when it tumbles without thought from the mouths of men at me. Stranger man, or acquaintance man who barely knows me, if you lay your arm on my back to gently guide me, you’re going to get a surprise. NO! Hands off! HANDS OFF! HANDS OFF US ALL! I will not back down because you feel uncomfortable. Nor will I explain that “I’m sorry for making a boundary.”
AND I will not use my empathy to attend to the fact that others might not be comfortable hearing what I’m saying and therefore shut myself up to be accepted. That is not living. That is not what I will distort a life around anymore. My soul and my body cannot take even one more second of that! I don’t have enough years left in my life to pretend anymore that all is well when it is not. Maybe down the road, I’ll have more empathy, but right now, this is about me saying no and standing up for my self, my dignity, my worthiness as a human being.
And as for the men and women who “do not know” or get what white male privilege is, or to the people who are frustrated and don’t understand why it’s important to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter (my sign has been stolen out of my yard twice now, suburban St. Louis Park) and I could go on but this is good enough–ask someone about their experience who does not look like you. And keep on asking until you feel an inkling of understanding. Be brave and have courage where it counts. We need you to step up!
And as for every single person who pushes me away because what I say, or how I look, or how my socio-economic background isn’t the same as yours, or because I don’t talk like you or have the same focus, or something about me is not comfortable for you, stop it! That’s not about me. I won’t take ownership of your feelings anymore. I won’t pretend or pull back so I can be palatable and make things comfortable for the people round me. I am not wrong! I am not bad. Nor am I crazy. NOT AT ALL. But I may sound just a teensy weensy bit strident!
Years of experiencing marginalization and abuse has left me a little bit raw.
That’s just the remaining abuse internalized, that’s working its ways out of my whole system, body, mind, spirit, soul. of a family, of an ancestry, of a culture, of the, well, many varied diseased institutions. The distresses are surfacing . . . coming up for air. And I’m feeling and releasing them (a catch and release fisherwoman, let’s say), setting them down, because I’m done with them, they have no more hold over me, I hold me.
We’re all in this together. The dead man who made a life celebrating sexism putting women in costumes that contained rabbit ears, who hijacked the sexual imaginations of countless young men, the men brought forward now who have abused and are now being made examples of in the press. But don’t make scapegoats of these. They are as I said, not an anomaly! The system must change . . . inside and outside — inside of me, inside of you.
I know that to heal, for us, humans to heal, I must love my neighbor as myself. As you know, I don’t need to like my neighbor, but I choose to love and work out the places where I feel revulsion. Because I do feel revulsion at least in one instance. What part of me am I disowning and revolted by? I’m looking here, rather than projecting on someone else. The late, profound explorer of the psyche Carl Gustav Jung said it so well (any mistakes are my own paraphrase): “The child lives in the parent’s unconscious. Let’s allow the light to shine on our shadows. Unearth the darkness the monsters from the deep — after all, Creation came out of, according to the Jewish Testament, from the depths of the deep . . . – something good can come of this. I promise.
Right now I too am very angry and having a hard time connecting, but I know, in the very depths of my heart, and being, that connection is the most precious commodity on this planet, and maybe on this whole wide universe. It’s the only thing that will save us. Don’t judge me by my body. Don’t judge me by my age. Don’t judge me by my parental status. Don’t judge me by my intelligence. Don’t judge me at all. And I commit to stop judging you. And maybe I’ll stop judging myself. Signed, a human being just like you.