The deadline for the anthology on trauma (more info here) has been extended to February 15. The deadline has been extended to collect more stories relating to “witnessing and/or experiencing a traumatic event or events during genocide, war (including veterans), race/religious-based violence, natural catastrophes, physical and mental health traumas, and more.” However, the editors have already received numerous essays on “sexual violence, domestic violence, and sexual orientation-based violence, so we will not be accepting stories solely about those topics, although we would want the author to feel free to include the ways these different types of trauma intersect with each other. For instance, stories about rape during a genocide would be accepted.”
My father hated feminists. He was actually behind a campaign to stop a women’s studies program from launching at his university in the 1970s. When that didn’t work, he followed up with periodic harassing letters to the head of the program. I know this because 30 years later, she showed them to me.
My father always spoke derisively about feminists!. Among one of the many faults of feminists, I learned at a young age, was that they wear ugly shoes.
I remember clearly when I met the first woman I knew who named herself as a feminist. I was in my late 20s. I couldn’t help myself, I had to look under the table, to check out her shoes.
Yep. They were ugly. “Ugly”, like mine. They were the kind of shoes that you can stand in all day, at a protest, or walk in, at a march. They were the kind of shoes that do not deform your feet or make you walk with your ass popped out. They were the kind of shoes that you can escape a predator in. Or fight him in.
Me and my ugly shoes.
This morning, I had a group of women over for a potluck brunch. It was a “jammies party,” so everyone came in their jammies. It was like a sleep over, without the actual sleeping over. I knew only a few of the women. The other women were new acquaintances, friends of friends of friends.
About half the women left shortly after eating and finishing off their minimum required morning dose of caffeine. That left five of us, who ended up talking for almost five hours. We fell into a very important conversation, and no one realized what time it was until I pointed out that the sun was low on the horizon.
This group of five, loosely associated through social connections, had some profound common experiences. All of us were or had been treated chemically for depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and/or other mental disabilities. At least two of the women had been in abusive relationships with men—one had had her neck broken, one had been married to a porn addict—and both of these women had PTSD. All had struggled with the erasure of emotions and sense of self that was induced by the pharmaceutical drugs. Four women had experienced profound “side” effects from these drugs, including black outs and inability to walk. Three women had had profound experiences of abuse by health “care” professionals (“care” must be put in quotes in relationship to these experiences). For example, one woman was forced to have a pap smear, even though it could not possibly have had any relationship to diagnosing or treating her mental disability. This triggered a major dissociative episode.
Sometimes, this kind of conversation can put me into a funk. However, tonight I feel a renewed energy. Our conversation was not at all like a lethargic support group in which women are dragged through personal disclosure by a professional making a lucrative living off of women’s misery in a violent and abusive society. Instead it involved an almost covert sharing of information. It involved stories of will and resistance. It involved sharing how-tos for navigating the woman-hell that the mental health industry can be. It involved three women sharing how they were now either completely or nearly off of all pharmaceutical drugs.
It is unfortunate, although predictable, that the mental health industry is collusive with women’s oppression. As a major institution under patriarchy, its interests lie with maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging or dismantling it.
But as women, both alone and in groups, we resist.
This video, I HATE being a Girl, hit a strong note. So although I came across it today at gendertrender, I decided to write about it here.
I hated being a girl, too. I still hate having been a girl. I can’t rewrite that. Being a girl was rough. And when as a girl I looked around me at the adult women in my life, I didn’t want to be them either. In the small world in which I grew up, that was primarily my mother, mocked by my father, constantly, for how she spoke, what she thought. My mother cried a lot, privately. I know that because I sometimes stumbled on her, and she would be angry at me and tell me to go away and not talk about it.
By the time I was in high school, I had already been molested, stalked, a victim of an attempted abduction, and sexually harassed (all by different men). By college, I had already fended off two rape attempts, was fondled by a university employee, was again a victim of stalking, and was a victim of sexual abuse by a physician in his exam room.
I hated my girl body. Hated it. It was the nexus of so much pain. The only part of my body I liked was what I called my “boy butt.” Small and unfleshy. I would use a hand mirror to look over my shoulder at a larger mirror to admire it. Everything else, I hated.
Fast forward three decades. I love my woman’s body. My misunderstandings from youth—that the problem was my having a female body—have all eroded through the process of fighting back. Not just fighting back against the rapists or filing charges against the university employee but also through personal, internal fighting back. Although I can identify flashes of fighting back as far back as my memories go, it wasn’t until my thirties that I truly began to understand that “the problem” did not originate in my body. It was something very large and very insidious. It was something that hated that I was a woman, and wanted me to hate that core part of myself, too.
That systemic hatred of women–reinforced over and over in patriarchy through rape, incest, domestic violence, and even the simplicity of media and advertising—absorbs so deeply into our psyches that it makes us turn on ourselves. Some women cut. Some women starve themselves. Some women kill themselves. Some women ask a doctor to take a knife and cut off their breasts and carve out their vaginas.
The beautiful, intelligent young woman in this video wants to be a man because “you wouldn’t have to worry about so many different things.” Yes, women do have to worry about many, many things. But we are women, and that is the place from which to take a stand and fight.