I had to hear it for myself. So I youtubed “Donald Trump hot mic” and pressed play. My reaction was both shocking and sobering. I thought, “He’s bragging, probably exaggerating. It’s not that big a deal. Everybody take a breath. This is just…normal.” I rolled my eyes at the media.
And then something in me said, “Take a look at what you just thought.”
I woke up to how I was reacting. I replayed that reaction, and watched myself minimize, excuse and even deny the behavior that perpetuates our silence, shame and suffering, I saw my whole life through another lens…and I wept. For myself, and for all women who have ever stood in my shoes.
When I was twelve, my father ran his hand up my leg at the dinner table, saying his favorite rhyme, “Candy’s dandy, liquor’s quicker, but incest is best.” My mother saw this, finished chewing, said in a playfully chiding voice, “Oh Dad…” I batted his hand away half flirtatiously, practiced at the art of navigating this confusing territory.
Did you catch that?
I was twelve. By age twelve, I had enough familiarity with it to be practiced at navigating this territory. And although I didn’t know the following terms, I didn’t think of his actions as ‘objectification’ or ‘boundary violation’—it was just boys being boys. Hell, at that time it was a sign that I was valuable, desirable. It was just…normal. My sister, ten years older than me, would get all prickly about this stuff, and I thought she was a prude.
It’s fifty years later and, sadly, I’ve suffered maybe more than the ‘normal’ amount of unacceptable behavior from men. There are too many to share in this blogpost—but suffice it to say it’s an impressive list. And now, I’ve just said to myself, “It’s no big deal. It’s just normal.”
I’m here to tell you it is a big deal. It’s maybe one of the biggest deals we’re facing today. The hatred and subjugation of half the humans on this planet is way more normal, and a way bigger deal, than the world wants us to admit. We are three and a half billion strong. We have been belittled, groped, molested, maligned, discredited, raped, tortured, and killed. We need to wake up, immediately, all of us, men and women. Enough is enough.
I’ve made it from unconsciousness to outrage; but outrage is only a doorway to the greater grief we need to countenance before we can all move forward. This is heartbreaking, messy work. Most of us are too afraid to do it, so we stay in our anger—somewhere that lets us point our fingers away from our own terrifying feelings. We just don’t wanna go there. But nothing will change until will do. We must call it by name, and weep for ourselves, our mothers and grandmothers, all women going back millennia—for the “normal” ways in which our lives have been held hostage by a devastating mindset that sees us, still, as someone to be feared, vilified, kept down.
Young women, hell, all women, everywhere: know your own worth. And I’m not talking about the worth corporations invoke to sell you their product—I’m talking about your actual worth, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Go to a forest, or a good therapist. Go to to the 12-step meeting of your choice. Whatever you do, just interrupt this ridiculous pattern of loving people who treat you like shit. And stop normalizing this cancer on our gender. If we don’t do it, it’s only going to get worse.
Let’s lock arms NOW and show up for each other. From the strength of outrage, let us have the strength to face and move through our grief to a new freedom and personal dignity; and let’s make this world the world we want our daughters and sons to grow up in.