In 1984, at the age of sixteen, I heard about female genital mutilation. I was horrified and angry, but I had nowhere to share this information or how I felt, no way to make a change. People at home were too busy fighting, and everyone at school was all about everything you can imagine going on in high school. Horrified, angry, and helpless make for flinty bedfellows. I internalized and built me a case for hating men.
In 1991, five years after I graduated from high school, Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas, supreme court nominee, sexually harassed her. I thought she was brave for coming forward, I believed her, and after he was confirmed my hatred for men accelerated. How could anyone let this pig become a judge? (Side note: I didn’t even understand at the time that he would be a judge for a lifetime and what that meant, or how his wife’s politicking everyone ignores.)
Four years later, 1995, I married my best friend. My high school years and many after did nothing to help me learn and grow into becoming the best person I could be. I was a man-hating woman hell-bent ready to punish everyone and everything who brutalized women. I. Won’t. Be. Your. Victim. Anymore!!! Those years were tumultuous, years without a strong support system. I hated men less because my husband was kind, but the lurking vigilante shadow was never far away, and I did little to banish it.
In 1998 my son was an infant, and I was enmeshed in the daily life of being wife and mother. I kept up with the news in a fairly background noise kind of way. I heard that Clinton was being accused and dragged to court and impeached for lying under oath. Well that was stupid, Bill, what the hell were you thinking? I heard the woman he was with was a willing, if not eager, partner, and I gave him a pass. What? Yes. I gave him a pass. He seemed like a charming dude, really good on camera whether it was an address or a spot on a talk show. I mean, how could a dude who seemed so decent (yes, he had a dalliance and he’s all humbled by it) be the predator these other women and politicians made him out to be? I felt like the women coming forward were the unfortunate victims of those who had a political axe to grind. I felt like, if Hillary stood by him, why shouldn’t I? I gave Bill Clinton a Democratic pass because he favored the same things I did, he was charming, and I was not paying attention to the deeper, more relevant, issues.
Twenty-eight years after I graduated high school, 2014, I found myself in the lobby of a hospital waiting to visit my son. I picked up a copy of Vanity Fair which I don’t normally read, but this issue caught my attention. I read about Monica Lewinsky’s life after the scandal. The focus of the article was humiliation and bullying. 2014 was a pivotal time for me in so many ways, and this article was part of it. Ms. Lewinsky describes her life after the scandal and her hopes for what women need to do going forward. Monica had been a throwaway for me. She was a willing participant in an affair, so what, let’s move on. After reading the article I learned how wrong I was.
In October of 2016 I became enraged and sickened by the words of a president-elect caught on tape. I looked forward to his sad-faced confession and withdrawal from the race, but that did not happen. People did not seem to care that he admitted to groping women without their consent, enjoying it without fear of retribution because when you’re famous you can get away with it. The Narcissist-in-Chief is our president, and I mourn every day.
It is November 2017 and I am questioning everything I know about myself as a woman and everything I believed right up until this day. Three women accused Bill Clinton of rape or misconduct. No one cared. Sixteen women came forward to describe being abused by Trump before his inauguration. No one cared. Harvey Weinstein was exposed, a tap was opened and it appears the floodgates are breached. Every day more women and men are coming forward to share stories of their abuse by the famous and the unknown. As I sit back in amazement at the revelations I cannot help but look at myself for being complicit. I gave Bill Clinton a Democratic pass, ignoring the women he abused. Should I give that same treatment to Al Franken because his sins were not that big a deal? Why turn my back on Roy Moore but not Charlie Rose?
The harder we put men’s bad behavior under the microscope, the harder I take a look at myself, the closer I listen to my internal tape recorder. I am shocked by what I find. I read a female journalist’s book and in several places I felt annoyed and frustrated that she was complaining about her hair, or her choice to give up her relationship and comfortable life in exchange for face-time on air covering a presidential candidate. I heard my inner voice saying to the cashier where I buy groceries, “Geez, lady, would it kill you to smile?” I am sexist just like all the rest, but at least now I know it and I am willing to work hard to do better. I no longer want to exercise vigilante justice under the cover of my superpower, invisibility. I know now that knowledge is power, and so is my voice. I have to stand up and speak out equally for what is right, instead of giving a pass to the folks I kinda like because they’re cute or funny on a talk-show. Justice looks so different to me now. I hope my voice will add geometrically and make a real, lasting change. I pray for equal vision, equal treatment, and an open heart and mind always.