It would have been more

comfortable to remain silent.

Anita Hill

Hello, men.

It feels different, doesn’t it?  There’s an uneasiness in the air right now.  You’re thinking about your behavior in a way you’ve not been required to before.  You’re afraid to do the wrong thing lest it be interpreted the wrong way by the opposite gender with possibly catastrophic consequences.

Awful, isn’t it?

Welcome to our Tuesday.

It’s interesting to watch men try and navigate the waters of not wanting to appear to be part of the problem while very much being actively a part of the problem.  It requires some pretty deft footwork.  Bless their hearts, though, they’re giving Fred Astaire a run for his money.

“I don’t want to seem insensitive, but…”  “We need to be careful not to…”  “Not all men…”

I read a couple of comments on social media yesterday which I found interesting.  I saw, “bandwagon” bandied about.  “Vendettas.”  “Mob mentality.”  I saw the words “witch hunt” thrown around more than once.

And then, of course, my all-time favorite: a “hysterical reaction.”

Oh, we lady-folk love that one.

Do you know what the word hysterical means?  I mean, actually means?

If you consult a dictionary, it’ll tell you this:

  1. deriving from or affected by uncontrolled emotion.
  2. (psychiatry) relating to, associated with, or suffering from hysteria.

Do you know what hysteria is?  Do you know what that diagnosis means?  The term dates back to the 5th century BC- Hippocrates, in fact.  He believed the cause of this “disease” had its roots in the movement of the uterus.  It was purely a feminine phenomenon. Through the ages, it was treated as both a physical and a spiritual malady- one that had many different “cures” some of which are laughable and some of which are now banned by the Geneva Convention.

It’s being tossed around now with alacrity.  That makes sense.  Women are angry and this is a world that prefers to diagnose women’s anger rather than reckon with it.  If we’re angry, the world is quick to try and decide what’s wrong with us so we can be fixed.

Let me make this efficient for you.  Nothing.  There is not a goddamned thing wrong with us.

We are not having a hysterical reaction.

Anger is an appropriate thing to feel when opening up our newsfeeds every day and bearing witness for more and more of our sisters stepping forward, speaking the truth of what this world is like to move through as a woman.  It is fitting to feel rage when we read account after account of women being treated in degrading, hateful, violent ways.

I love when men throw the term witch hunt around in circumstances like these- when they bring up Abigail Williams, Betty Parrish, and Mary Warren,  All of that mayhem and false accusation caused by THOSE GIRLS.

I wonder if the real horror of those trials for the people invoking them is that THOSE GIRLS were believed. Because here’s the thing, those girls had no power. Women had no power in 1692. No female judges.  No female juries. Women couldn’t vote.  Wives and children were essentially property.  Those girls could have levied accusations and been ignored like eons of women before and since then.  They weren’t.  They instigated irreparable harm, death, destruction.  They accused, but men convicted the accused.  Men hung Bridget Bishop.  Men imprisoned their fellow villagers.  Men pressed Giles Corey to death.  But even so, when the word hysteria is used about that era it is almost always used about the girls- those girls had absolutely no agency to get any of that done on their own. Imagine, all that happening on the mere words of a girl.  Imagine believing a girl.  What a crazy time. I guess believing girls sure does have some terrible consequences.  Thank God we do it so seldom.

What those girls did was horrible- and you could unpack the psychological and societal impetuses for their behavior until the end of time.  It’s fascinating, actually.  It just doesn’t have one single thing to do with what is happening right now that has men so uneasy.  Not one.

What we are witnessing right now is not a witch-hunt- women have just had it.  We are done.

We are not sitting down, we are standing up.  We are not going back, we are stepping forward.  We are not shutting up or shutting down, we are raising our voices and claiming our space.

There has been so much talk about inappropriate behavior and men have been lamenting about how HARD it can be to know what appropriate even IS anymore.  Poor dears. Change is hard.  If men are uncomfortable, that is appropriate.  Being uncomfortable in the face of so much misogyny and sexism and criminal behavior is absolutely appropriate. Good job.

But then, men, you could worry less about what’s appropriate and more about what’s criminal.  That’s a good place to start.  I get it, though.  Things have been one way, let’s be honest- your way– for, well, always.  And that feels like it’s shifting.  I heard a man say on tv yesterday, “The rules are changing.”  We-ell… I think it’s probably been against the rules to whip your penis out at work for at least a little while.  I feel like sexual assault statutes have been on the books for more than a minute.  The rules against having sex with children aren’t, like, NEW.

Things are changing and change is never comfortable.  It’s not as uncomfortable as, say, being pinned up against a wall by someone who holds your career in his sweaty hand, though.  It’s not as awkward as the dance so many women do to try and walk the line between safeguarding their bodies and not angering the men in power by APPEARING to safeguard their bodies.  Change is tiring, but not as tiring as going to a job every day wondering how many unwanted advances you’ll have to ward off.  Not as wearying as having your professional or financial destiny controlled by someone who views having access to your body as a job perk.

There are no “good people on both sides” of this issue.  There is the one at the desk trying to do her job and the one trying to pin her up against it.  Period.  This is not nuanced.  And if you are trying to nimbly do the dance of, “he didn’t do it, but if he did he didn’t realize it wasn’t wrong and she’s not credible anyway and if it did happen these other women are just jumping on the bandwagon…?”  Well, no wonder you fellas are tired.

That has been a fact of women’s lives for a very long time.  Just a FACT.  A wildly uncomfortable, sometimes terrifying, unavoidable fact.  I don’t know a single woman, not ONE, who has not endured some version of harassment, abuse, or assault in her life.  And the pain of those things is compounded by what we face when we come forward.  You want to talk about uncomfortable?  Try attempting to explain every circumstance and reaction surrounding the crime perpetrated against you to a power system looking to make you culpable for your own trauma.  Name another crime where we do that.

We do not want that for future generations of girls.  We are not a mob, and that is not a torch we want to pass.

Because fellas, that shit is EXHAUSTING.

This is not a hysterical reaction, though I understand why that would be more comfortable for you guys.  As it turns out, this is not a time for comfort.

You know why it feels this way?  The uneasiness?  The fear?  Like something’s brewing?

Because it is not hysterical, it’s historical- and it is not a reaction, it’s a reckoning.


One Comment on “Torches

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