A few years ago when a dear high school friend died, I took out my yearbook to reminisce a bit. One of the things that surprised me was how many times I saw a variation on this theme in what my classmates wrote:
“To a girl who was at all the parties … ”
It made me laugh. Like most, I did a lot of experimenting with alcohol in those days and it was easy to get into clubs because the legal drinking age was 18. So not only did we have house parties, we were sneaking into bars.
In the context of the current national conversation around the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, those days keep coming back to me in a variety of ways and have me thinking:
- If I had been sexually assaulted back then (I wasn’t), would it now be assumed that I had been asking for it because I’d been drinking?
- I didn’t gather friends and gang up on anyone unsuspecting and violate their bodies or their dignity using my tipsy state as an excuse for bad behavior. And I certainly wasn’t a member of any club that encouraged the denigration of others as part of its code and/or admittance.
- While I certainly couldn’t recall dates and locations for every party I went to, I can tell you exactly where I was when a male classmate made remarks about my body in front of others that left me feeling cheap. In no way am I putting this in the same breath as sexual assault and I’m aware this is part of growing up. But my point is that because it was humiliating to have a guy ogling my breasts and singing “Push, push in the bush … ” I recall it like it was yesterday.
And speaking of recalling something like it was yesterday, for those old enough to have lived through the Clarence Thomas confirmation process and seeing Anita Hill being grilled by those doddering fools and then ultimately watching him come out victorious, how about some further context? You know what happened less than two months later? William Kennedy Smith’s rape acquittal. For both of those, I was watching a television set in a newsroom, my female colleagues and I waiting, wondering if this time maybe it would go our way.
But no. The rich guy related to a President and two Senators was pronounced not guilty and the three additional women who had come forward with accusations to show his pattern were never heard during the trial. Defeat. Again. We are not to be believed. Again.
But then there was what has become known as The Year of the Woman. According to the United States House of Representatives archives, “On Election Tuesday 1992, American voters elected more new women to Congress than in any previous decade, which began a period of unparalleled advances for women in Congress.”
Then, four years later, O.J. Simpson, a proven wife beater – not guilty.
When I think of the 1990s in the context of what was playing out on our television sets, it is easier to understand why we didn’t get behind the women accusing Bill Clinton back then. We were so giddy to have more women in Congress and a President who valued our rights, we all but closed our ears to the possibility that he was behaving badly in his private life.
Some will call that an excuse. I call it an accurate read on history. And I do have some regrets about it.
But now, this moment, this feels more powerful. Undoubtedly social media is playing a big part in that. We can mobilize. Be inspired by the stranger, the neighbor, the film star. We can be heard.
We are so fucking done with this shit. So done.
I’ve said this to a lesser degree before, but now I am starting to see the snowball coming down the mountain picking up speed and breadth and force. The election of Donald Trump has helped put this in motion. Not just Trump himself, mind you, but the mentality of people that put him in a position he is in no way equipped to handle. And the mindset of a self-serving Congress that looks the other way at the expense of the country they are supposed to represent.
Do you think the younger generation of women (and men, for that matter) are going to stand for having their birth control threatened? Their voices marginalized? Their rights lesser than?
Our so-called leaders (hello, Mitch McConnell) can keep showing us who they are and treating women who come forward with difficult stories like pesky flies that need to be batted away as they ascend and get acquitted and confirmed and elected. But we’re not going away. And you’re going to start paying the price.
And wait until you see the party then.