Ever since Dr. Ford gave her testimony earlier this week, I have been in an alternate universe. My body has felt heavy, my head has been fuzzy, and I’ve been more than a little distracted. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos analyzing the testimony, both for and against. I’ve dusted off old books like “The Feminine Mystique” and “Women Who Run With the Wolves.” I even got online and ordered a copy of “The Female Eunuch” since I’d never gotten around to reading it.
I’ve plunged into introspection. Why am I feeling an ache in my heart space? Why do my legs feel like sacks of potatoes? Have I not done enough healing work around my own abuse issues? Am I triggered?
I have friends who have camped out on both sides, all of them vociferously. “He’s guilty!” “He didn’t do it!” They all seem so sure, whether for or against. These are reasonable, kind people-most of them women. When did they suddenly become psychics?
I consider myself to be a reasonable, kind person. I also happen to be weirdly obsessed with the truth. I’m not sure exactly when this started, but I believe it has something to do with being abducted by my father at age three and never truly knowing why he did it. My mother and father had drastically different viewpoints as to what was going on, and both were so damned believable. Mom says Dad was jealous and out for revenge. Dad says Mom wasn’t taking proper care of me. There was never any hard evidence on either side.
During my years as a practicing psychotherapist I learned that nearly every client who sat on my couch did not tell me the whole truth of their situations. I took copious notes and have a sharp memory so I would catch them in lies frequently. Sometimes they were white lies, other times they were whoppers. Mostly, they were lies by omission. It didn’t matter if they were postal workers or brain surgeons-very few people wanted to be completely transparent with me (and themselves). This phenomenon became glaringly obvious when a client brought a spouse into the office and I got to hear a whole different perspective of what was taking place. Clients would neglect to tell me they were drinking a bottle of wine every night, or that they were charging thousands of dollars on the credit card needlessly. The male/female lie ratio was about 50/50. It seemed both sexes were equally talented when it came to painting an inaccurate picture.
During my introspection I concluded the pain I was feeling in my chest was not my own. I recalled something I’ve read in The Power of Now a gazillion times about the “collective female pain body,” which is “accumulated pain suffered by women partly through male subjugation of the female, through slavery, exploitation, rape, childbirth, child loss, and so on, over thousands of years.” I was definitely plugged into this “pain body” and I was feeling the timeless pain of my sisters.
Out of a sense of solidarity I sat and let myself feel this pain. Madonna Badger, one of my heroes, once said that she shared her horrific story of loss in order that we would all shoulder the burden of it just a little, because her heart could not bear the enormity of it all. When I heard her say those words I willingly took on some of her pain- the debilitating pain of losing her three children and her parents in a house fire on Christmas Eve. I did not know this woman and it didn’t matter-what mattered was that she was suffering and I didn’t want her to be alone.
I felt that same ache when I heard Dr. Ford’s testimony. When she spoke I could feel her pain. I could also feel the pain of countless women who endured abuse, assault and much more. Most of us have been there at some point. I know very few women who haven’t been assaulted in some way, shape or form. It’s like a strange club you don’t want to be part of, but once you’re a member you’re always a member.
I have become a member of this club more times than I’d like to count. It started with a creepy uncle when I was around ten. Then it continued with my pediatrician when I was eleven. I became a member again two times in high school, when I experienced my own assaults with drunken boys at my east coast prep school.
I got another free membership card in the mail my sophomore year in college when my pottery teacher cornered me in the clay room and attempted to French kiss me, and again my senior year, when the head of the Psychology department at my little Catholic college made a pass at me.
I’m not going to bore you with the numerous stories of abuse and misconduct I’ve endured as an adult, like when a boy in a club spit on me when I wouldn’t dance with him, or when my old, fat boss demoted me when I wouldn’t go out with him. I didn’t get membership cards for those instances, but I definitely got discount coupons. The truth is, you all have these stories, too. And if you don’t, you’re damned lucky. I hope you never have stories like this to tell.
My quest for the truth has led me to several conclusions. I’m going to share them, but please keep in mind, I don’t know if they’re accurate. I don’t have hard evidence, even though I have paid as close attention as someone could pay to these recent events. If you disagree with me you could be right, too, and I respect that. These are my armchair assessments. Here goes…
*Did Kavanaugh do it? In my opinion, I believe he did some version of what Dr. Ford described. It was over 35 years ago and she was fuzzy on some facts, but I believe that overall she is telling the truth. When I wrote about my two instances of high school sexual assault I was also fuzzy on some of the details. For instance, one of them took place at a party and I couldn’t tell you who was there other than me, a friend, and the boy who jumped me.
*Is Kavanaugh lying? Sort-of. I don’t think he is lying about the night in question because I don’t think he remembers it. There’s no doubt he was drinking a lot in those days, which would most certainly impair a person’s memory. I believe he thinks he is telling the truth. What I think he is misrepresenting is how much he drank in high school and college. Is it our business? Normally I would say no, however in this case it IS our business because of his alleged conduct under the influence.
*Is Kavanaugh a sexual predator? In my opinion…no. If he were predatory he would have a string of these instances, and women would be coming out of the woodwork at this point sharing assault stories. This is the only one. I believe this is a result of bad “frat boy” behavior versus sexual deviancy. Make no mistake, I am NOT excusing this abhorrent behavior.
*Is he Supreme Court material? No, not in my opinion. This doesn’t mean he couldn’t potentially do a great job as a SCOTUS member. For people who like his policies he might be revered as an amazing choice. Me, personally? Politics aside, I’d like our SCOTUS to have a cleaner reputation. It is one of the highest positions a person can hold. I’m not sure a reformed frat boy is the best we can do.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m keeping this non-partisan on purpose. I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican and to be honest I’m sick to death of our lame, two-party system. I’m ready for a new party who might bridge some serious gaps between the two parties. But let’s face it: even if a new party emerged it wouldn’t be long before they’d be bought off by the PACs, or Big Pharma, or Big Agra. Our system is NOT for the people.
One question I asked myself during this whole process was, “Am I squeaky enough to be in club SCOTUS?” The answer was a resounding NO. If the FBI probed into my past Lord knows what would pop up. What would people say about me in high school? I was definitely a partier. I had a lot of boyfriends. I’ve been divorced more than once. Four years ago I went to a concert with my now ex and after only two glasses of wine (and a hot dog and some candy) I got sick in the car on the way home. Instead of trying to help me he took pictures of me. Why would someone take a picture of me vomiting out the window? After a while it dawned on me. He had told me he left his last wife (after only a few years of marriage) because she was an alcoholic. He left me after only a few years, too. He was a shady man. God only knows what he’s saying about me…AND he would have pictures to back up his story.
UPDATE: Kavanaugh was voted in. He is now a lifelong member of SCOTUS. His membership card is a lot nicer than mine, as is his club’s lounge (I’ve heard they serve shrimp cocktail).
It’s tempting to get angry like many of my fellow sisters. Part of me would like to jump on Twitter and rant. Ten years ago I probably would. But as I’ve gotten older I realize that is not where my power is. I’m leaving the emotion, anger, tears, and rants to the younger generation. My role now is to let them have the stage and to work diligently and consistently toward change in a different way. It takes discipline to listen more than to speak, to stay focused instead of unraveling, to stop and see the bigger picture: that the Women’s Rights Movement is making advances every day. Are we there yet? Not even close. But I still celebrate the success. Not long ago when Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick came forward women turned their backs on them. They didn’t have an ounce of the support that is flowing freely for Dr. Ford. During these times I can’t help but think of them. How did they feel then? How are they feeling now? Women want to blame men and the system (which is decidedly broken), but we need to hold ourselves accountable, too.
Never in my life have I seen women so polarized in our nation and vicious toward one another. We can’t let other women have an opinion different than our own. We tear each other down, bully one another on social media, and believe everyone should see the world the way we do.
I’m calling for ALL women to unite and to do so civilly. Let’s sit down and have conversations with women who think differently than we do. Let’s remember we are a sisterhood. If we can’t love and accept members of our own sisterhood, how can we ever expect to tackle the big issues and forward our liberation movement?
Asking for a sister…