You Too.

You too? Of course, you too.

I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed, or treated in a demoralizing way because of her gender.

A little over a week ago, before the “me too” movement took off on social media, I said something to my mom like, “You know how some people are conditioned or programmed to feel suspicious or fearful of entire people groups?”.

Her: “Yeah?”.

Me: “Well, for better or worse, my life experience has conditioned me to be fearful of an entire gender. Men. Not the men I know and love, of course, or the men who have good and decent reputations that proceed them, but every single male stranger”.

This culture has given men a green light to commit all kinds of violence – physical and psychological – against women with little or no consequences. Every woman knows this, which is why so few of us talk about the acts of violence and humiliation perpetrated against us. From our earliest awareness, we are inundated with stories, images, and experiences meant to degrade and disempower us. We cannot hear about a sexual assault without hearing about the reputation of the woman who was assaulted.

The current President of the United States denied the claims of 12 of his accusers last year by focusing on the way one of them looked. “Look at her”, he said. “You tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so”.

An upsetting amount of people accepted that non-answer as a reasonable defense too.

For most of us, we learn – too early – that sexual harassment is a fundamental part of being a woman in this culture. In fact, this phenomena is so normalized that we are likely to count ourselves “fortunate” if we have not been raped, and “only” fondled, cat-called, or intimidated.

I have countless personal stories of sexual harassment, groping, exposing, and bullying. Men have masturbated on the street, in a train car, or across a crowded bar while looking directly at me. I have been groped in over-crowded places, been slapped on the ass, had my swimsuit strings untied at a pubic pool, fielded unwelcome kisses, and once had a stranger run an ice cube up my inner thigh while sitting next to him on a couch at a hotel.

In my early twenties, a man offered to buy me a drink at a bar, and then put something in that drink. Mercifully, I made it out of that moment unharmed because I was paying attention. But, I don’t doubt that this culture would have offered me approximately zero justice if I hadn’t noticed what had happened.

I imagine instead that I would have been blamed for drinking alcohol at all. Maybe my outfit would have been scrutinized. “She should have been more careful”, “What kind of young woman lets a stranger buy her a drink?”, “Where was she?”, “What time was it?”.

FOR THE RECORD: drugging someone is wrong. Having a cocktail in a bar is not wrong.

But here’s what we learn every time suspicion is placed on the woman in that kind of story:

“Being a woman is a liability”.

Or maybe this:

“You are only entitled to safety and respect if you are the right kind of woman”.

(Thank you Christian summer camp for making sure I understood it was my fault if a middle-school aged boy saw my bra strap under my t-shirt, and this caused to him to have “impure thoughts”).

And as unsettling and upsetting as it was to endure many of the things I’ve described above, it never once occurred to me to be angry. Afraid? Sure. Ashamed? Definitely. But angry? Not once.

On an ordinary evening in early December of 2014, however, that all changed.

While walking towards my car in a parking garage at 8:30 pm on a Wednesday night, a man came towards me and said things I will not repeat here. They were explicit and they were terrifying. For those of you who are not intimately familiar with my personal timeline, in December of 2014, I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter.

Something about carrying my precious girl inside the body that this man felt entitled to threaten broke me.

My initial feeling of fear then turned into an overwhelming sensation that I didn’t have time to identify or process before I wound up making a very loud sound that burned the inside of my throat raw.

Maybe it was like roaring. Or scream-growling. It’s a sound I couldn’t repeat now if I tried.

Immediately, this man stopped moving towards me. He looked alarmed. And maybe he should have been. I remember thinking, “I will rip his throat out with my teeth if he comes near my baby”.

And I believe I would have tried if he had tried.

Then I ran to my car. I locked the doors, laid on the horn, and put my phone up to my ear.

He ran away. And I drove away.

After I stopped shaking, I cried. After I cried, I understood.

The feeling that had replaced my fear was rage. Electric, white-hot, focused rage.

There’s a pretty good chance this man backed away from me because he thought I was crazy, or on drugs, or just unpredictable in a way that gave him pause. I don’t know why he didn’t follow through on his threat, and I don’t really care. What I do care about is that this moment taught me something impossible to forget.

We need to be more angry.

FURIOUS, actually.

I understand that we also need to be afraid. Fear helps us run. It helps us avoid unsafe situations in the first place. It is a critical survival emotion for human beings to access in healthy, appropriate doses.

But, MY GOD. We need our anger too. Anger protects us, and it restores us. It gives us our dignity. It sets boundaries. It takes action. It insists on change. It makes a scene. It demands attention. It says:

“FUCK THAT. NO”.

It also doesn’t apologize for using swear words sometimes. Because if the only thing in this essay that has upset you so far is the F-word, you are missing the fucking point.

A roar, a scream-growl, and a curse word are not violent. They do not cause bodily harm to anyone. Phone calls to congressmen and women are not violent. Signing petitions, telling our stories, standing up for one another, calling the police, donating to organizations that help victims of sexual assault is not violent. Protesting the sentencing outcome for Brock Turner, and insisting that the President of the United States bragged about sexual assault on that horrifying Access Hollywood tape – that it was not indeed “locker room talk” – is not violent.

It’s true. It’s protective. It’s courageous. It connects us. And it just might be able to change us.

Yet, for me, all of these actions are enabled by my capacity to feel situationally appropriate anger.

It took me a long time to unlearn all the lies about how anger is “unnecessary”, “unattractive”, “uncalled for”, “unsafe”, or “unfeminine”. And, it took an even longer amount of time for me to appreciate how these unflattering depictions of anger are intended to keep us from accessing a critical inner conviction about our own shared dignity, and start challenging the status quo.

For the last week, I have been reading these “Me Too” stories on the internet, and every time I read a new one I keep feeling a sizzle of that focused anger I felt that night in the parking garage. And while my daughter now lives in the world outside of my body, I am under no illusion that this world has ceased being a hostile place for her to become a woman.

Nor has it stopped being dangerous for you, or for me.

So.

I will keeping honoring the anger I know we need to feel in order to make the changes I know we need to make, and I am going to continue to give that anger to the world in the most productive ways I can manage until things are different.

And. I think you should too.

 

Furiously,
Whitney

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Ears to hear.

I have been silent on this page for months now.

Here’s why: I got completely swallowed up by the US election, and my fears about it. I prayed – although probably not enough. I organized – but probably not enough. I tried to share information in the face of misinformation – it didn’t penetrate, even if it was enough.

Naively, I thought that Christians – people onto whom I project courage and conviction and clear-sightedness – would save us from a Donald Trump presidency. I forgot that politics has taken over churches all across the country, and that in many places – and in many hearts – the gospel has become Republican.

Hear this: I don’t think the gospel is a Democratic one either. It belongs to no political party or government. My concern is that there’s an enormous amount of human beings out there, with enormous cultural influence, who believe otherwise. There’s a Facebook page called the Christian Left, and even if they share information which I find palatable and accurate more often than not, they are making a mistake by trying to balance out the Religious Right by claiming that God is on the Left.

Over the weekend, I decided to stop talking and writing and emoting at all of the human beings that were willing to listen to me, and do a bit more listening. So, it just so happens that the only people I know – personally – who voted for Trump identify as Christians. Consequently, I’ve been listening to a lot of self-identified Christians over the last 48 hours. I’ve also been reading all the social media comments and articles and blog posts. All the things.

And, it has been a discouraging and confusing exercise for me. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to hear someone quote the Bible accurately, nor contextually, re: their religious imperative to vote for Trump.

Hear this: I’m not suggesting that I know the Bible better than anyone else that has devoted their time and energy to knowing it well. However, I am suggesting that I know it well enough to be able to “smell a rat”, and I’ve run into an overwhelming amount of rat smells out there parading around as the “sweet fragrance of God” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

This makes me feel ill, and also makes me want to mobilize.

One of the biggest road-blocks for me in all of my writing endeavors has been about wanting to have a clear, unpolluted, unassailable message. I did not want to mix Jesus up with politics, and I did not want to mix Jesus up with personal opinions. I still don’t, actually…. BUT, it seems the time has come to start unpacking all the noise in my brain no matter how messy, because I feel convicted to do so.

Hear this: it will not be perfect.

I am confident that I will regret some of the things that I say or do or write or believe, but I am going to keep going anyways. And then I will apologize for the things I said or did or wrote or believed if my future-self discovers that they were reactive or uniformed. Yet, I think I will also pledge to leave them out there – unedited by my future self – so the process is honest, and the room for accountability is real.

Feel free to graciously part ways with me now, or later, or never. But here I go….

An open letter to “Evangelical Christians”:

Written on November 9th, 2016, on the morning after the US election:

Dear “evangelical Christians”:

Here’s a brief Bible refresher for you, because based on the way many of you voted yesterday, I assume you haven’t been reading it.

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49).

“”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25: 34-40).

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 37-40).

HELP ME UNDERSTAND.

— Whitney Roberts Logan’s personal Facebook page.