I Will Not Be Silent

**TW: sexual violence**

When I was around 10 years old, I was raped. I say around, because that time of my life is a largely blank canvas on which few long-term memories were etched, thanks to the way trauma effects a brain. I was chased, and terrorized, and mocked, and assaulted, and after I had been raped, I was promised that if I told anyone, I would be killed–a threat I am still struggling not to buy into, despite the crater of time between then and now. I believed him because I hadn’t been told anything to counter what he said at that point in my life.

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President, he stated that all Mexican immigrants are rapists. He called female reporters “dogs” and “bimbos” and attacked them for their looks. He has talked about his daughter inappropriately and was once heard saying “I’m going to be dating her in 10 years, can you believe it?” while staring at a group of 12 year-old girls. He insinuated that Hillary Clinton could not satisfy her husband, and therefore wouldn’t satisfy the US. He talked explicitly about kissing women and grabbing them by the pussy, as you’re allowed to do that when you’re a star, and “moving on her like a bitch” towards a married women. You know what, here is a list of every terrible thing Trump has openly said to a member of the press about women. I’ll wait here.

Can you imagine what this man says when he is not talking to the press? The words that come out of his mouth when he is speaking to a woman? Worse yet, can you imagine what he does towards women? I can; I know this man’s track record. He has not been shy about his views that women are to be seen and not heard; they are to be thin and young and beautiful, and should stay at home and satisfy their husbands and be punished if they have abortions and expect sexual assault if they serve in the military. We know what he does because he has done it before. Over one dozen women have now come forward to accuse Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual conduct, all of whom Trump states are lying and will be sued, because–look at them–they are not people he would be sexually interested in.

This campaign, for me, has been exhausting. Almost every day of the campaign, he has said something insulting towards women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Muslims. He has spoken in favor of appointing Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality, and has chosen Mike Pence as his running mate; Mike, who for the LGBT community is the face of evil. A man who is in favor of electroshock therapy being used to reverse someone’s sexuality, who has voted against every bill protecting LGBT people, and whose religious freedom bill is one of the most discriminatory towards us. But I had hope, through the 16-month election, that America would at least unite about what a terrible, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, narcissistic bigot Trump was, and work to keep him out of the Oval Office.

I was wrong.

On November 9, I woke up to the realization that we would have an accused rapist as our 45th President. We would have someone with no political acumen, someone who is insulted by any comment that does not favor him and will fire back with insults, someone who has climbed to the top on the backs of the people he religiously beats. As an American people, we have told the young girls who are being abused and scared that the person hurting them could one day be the leader of the free world. This country, where anything is possible but justice. Anything is possible if you are rich enough and loud enough and cruel enough.

My 10 year-old self was told that if I told anyone what happened, I would die. But what if I told and was completely ignored? What if I told and my rapist was congratulated?

I am fighting back against this presidency because I am not allowing little girls to hear that they can be objectified and made small. I am not allowing fellow survivors to hear that their stories have not been heard and there will be no justice. I am not allowing women to continue to be silenced and mocked and turned into looks and told they can be touched that way because the President can touch people that way. This is not about politics, this is about an abuse of power. This is about the worst kind of person being told that what they are doing is something to be praised. This is about the 1 in 4 women, the 1 in 6 men. This is about 10 year-old me. This is personal. And I’m going to fight.

Girls and women reading this, please know that your experiences and stories are valid. What happened to you was not okay. It is not okay to be hurt by someone and then made to feel ashamed. I am here if you need to tell your story. I am here if you need to rage. RAINN has a hotline  (800-656-HOPE) that can put you in touch with crisis centers or support groups or  help you through the reporting process or be a listening ear. There are millions of people in this country who are behind you. I believe you. It’s not your fault

Why Every Young Woman Needs to Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or, How Sci-Fi Changed My Li-Fi)

(This is the re-make of a paper that I wrote in undergrad, so don’t plague me, plagiarizing gods)

Tabula Rasa: Season 6, ep. 8

One of the many hazards of being a human is that of the troublesome process of growing up. One primary spot in which this is almost universally apparent is that of adolescence, and female adolescence in particular. Oh, what a turbulent time! In one fell swoop, young girls are going through physical and physiological changes, their emotions are shifting, and culture begins expecting new, challenging things from them. Girls are expected to grow up rapidly; but instead of just being required to master growing up, they are also expected to turn into divine beauties during some of the most physically awkward years of their lives.

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Adolescence looks about like this for pretty much everyone

In Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls, Mary Pipher (1994) says, “The culture is what causes girls to abandon their true selves and take up false selves.” Feminists are trying to give adolescent girls power to fight societal ideals like this. Some see feminism as a call to allow girls to be humans, individuals, and valued members of society rather than something with which to be bought and played. Ophelia Speaks, a commentary on Reviving Ophelia and a collection of adolescent girls’ writings, author Sara Shandler (1999) dismisses the simplicity of this idea.

“It is not for lack of understanding or intelligence that my circle of friends is plagued by drug abuse, eating disorders, and depression. We have all been told to love ourselves. We are all intelligent. We are all aware that we have been raised in culture that cradles double standards, impossible ideals of beauty, and asks us to listen. But we are caught in the crossfire between where we have been told we should be and where we really are. Self-directed girls are sometimes lost.”

Her argument is that girls have heard all of the self-affirming speeches and know they are supposed to attack the world’s philosophies and presuppositions; but there is a wide gap between knowing something and finding how it applies to one’s own life. Sometimes even the most stable, self-reliant girl cannot help but listen to the media and agree with what it says about her appearance, behavior, and demeanor. Adolescence is both confusing to navigate and hard to know whose advice to take regarding who to be and what to do. Even secure girls fall prey to this on occasion. As Shandler says, “self-directed girls are sometimes lost.”

Fortunately for us, others have gone before us on this rocky path and are doing what they can to help us get through. One such person: Buffy Summers, high school graduate and resident Sunnydale vampire slayer.

Faith, Hope, and Trick: Season 3, ep. 3

Yes, I am turning to a fictional character for post-adolescents to look to as an example. You’re welcome.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show that ran for seven seasons, beginning in 1997 and ending in 2003. It centered around a girl in high school who discovered that she was “the Chosen One,” whose mission it was to “fight vampires, to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.” While she has extraordinary strength and is the coolest superhero, she also has to deal with the daily donkey work of high school, homework, and family problems. In Reason Magazine online, Victoria Postrel writes, “The show…began as a reification of the horrors of high school.” All of the horrors of high school combined in one show, plus some real monsters thrown on top. One of the points the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, wanted to get across was that sometimes the real life stuff was scarier than the vampires or other monsters that came into the picture (and there were some scary ones).

The Gentlemen, from Hush: season 4, ep. 10

After Season Three, the main characters graduated from high school (an incredibly strenuous day for all of them, due to monsters and the threat of not getting their diplomas), and the show turned to life outside of high school. They dealt with issues like starting college, feeling like an outsider, struggling with addictions, questioning personal goals and morals, death of loved ones, and lots of relationship issues. Normal life with monsters (or normal life as monsters). And unlike most shows, the issues that the characters struggled with were not neatly packaged and wrapped up by the end of the show (Seventh Heaven, I’m looking at  you). Buffy illustrated that there is no quick fix to the difficulties of life, and that is still okay. Postrel continues:

“The mere existence of Buffy proves the declinists wrong about one thing: Hollywood commercialism can produce great art. Complex and evolving characters. Playful language. Joy and sorrow, pathos and elation…Big themes and terrible choices…Buffy assumes and enacts the consensus moral understanding of contemporary American culture… This understanding depends on no particular religious tradition. It’s informed not by revelation but by experience. It is inclusive and humane, without denying distinctions or the tough facts of life. There are lots of jokes in Buffy — humor itself is a moral imperative — but no psychobabble and no excuses.”

I have never cared so much about a television show’s characters the way that I cared about Buffy’s. I rooted for, cried with, laughed with, and looked up to Buffy. She drove me crazy sometimes, but she would always redeem herself. She always put those she loved first; the only thing that kept her grounded in such chaos. I felt elation with her first love, heartbreak at her first rejection. Fear, sadness, timid new beginnings. I kept rooting for Willow the nerd-turned super-powerful chick, sometimes even cheering out loud, and crying with her as each new heartbreak occurred. I respected Xander for being such a faithful big brother to “his girls,” commended him for his personal sacrifices, and smiled as he used his optimistic sarcasm to lift everyone’s spirits. I understood Cordelia more than I expected to and found myself unnaturally proud of her as she tuned her empathy strings, and I mourned with her as her heart broke and all she knew was to make it hard again. I resonated deeply with Faith: her pain, her isolation, her longing for Buffy’s beautiful world, her self-loathing, her falling in with the power of evil, her struggle, her fear, her strength to fight her way back.

Welcome to the Hellmouth, Season 1, ep. 1

While I willingly admit that this sounds a touch ridiculous, being so close to fictional characters, I am not ashamed in the least. If I could sit every woman on the verge of adulthood down and ask them to watch 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I would; not for them to become obsessed with the show or immersed in the back stories of the characters, but to see that growing up is tricky and messy and every bit worth fighting for. The show was about life, with all of its mess and joy. It was about giving power to a generation of young women who feel completely powerless. It was about permission to be confused and strong at the same time. Friendship. Love. Pain. Redemption. Kicking demon ass. Learning how to be comfortable in your own skin and how to keep fighting when it feels like there is nothing left.

Girls (and guys who also feel like they don’t know exactly who they are yet), I write this to you to whet your appetite for a show; to name characters that are brilliantly complex, and to give you a small bit of evidence that this show is worth every bit of its seven seasons. I can only explain so much, though (and by so much, I mean so much; I could talk about Buffy for hours). Now it is your turn to act: go watch, cry, laugh, and discover a new piece of yourself, or discover that you are not alone for thinking that growing up feels like hell sometimes. All of us self-directed girls are sometimes lost, and we are lost together. You are not alone. Welcome to the party!

Chosen: Season 7, ep. 22