Sunday, September 30, 2018

Message to women watching the Kavanaugh hearings - you can't get even unless you get mad

This is a follow-up piece to the other post this morning, Message to GOP Senators - commit to learning the truth about Kavanaugh because women are watching. The rest of the message might be phrased as “watching is not enough.”

Rebecca Traister, a writer at large for New York magazine, says that Fury Is a Political Weapon. And Women Need to Wield It. What the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh showed us about who gets to be angry in public. Following are snippets from her essay.

Talk about indelible memories. Who can forget this picture:

Brett Kavanaugh bellowed; he snarled; he pouted and wept furiously at the injustice of having his ascendance to power interrupted by accusations of sexual assault. He challenged his questioners, turned their queries back on them. He was backed up by Lindsey Graham, who appeared to be having some sort of fit of rage over people having the audacity to listen to a woman speak about her life and consider that she might be telling an ugly truth about a powerful man. And, as soon as he was finished, it certainly felt as if the white men’s anger had been rhetorically effective, that we had reflexively understood it as righteous and correct.

Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.

What happened inside the room was an exceptionally clear distillation of who has historically been allowed to be angry on their own behalf, and who has not.

And outside the room was a hint of how it might be changing.

On Friday morning, two sexual assault survivors, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, confronted Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona as he got into an elevator after announcing that he would vote to send Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. “You have children in your family!” Ms. Archila shouted at him, pointing her finger in his face in vivid wrath. “I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”

Ms. Gallagher, weeping but also shouting, told him, “You’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them!”

“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” she added. “Don’t look away from me!”

Later, Ms. Archila told a reporter: “I wanted him to feel my rage.” Shortly afterward, Mr. Flake demanded that the F.B.I. investigate the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh before a floor vote.

Many of the women shouting now are women who have not previously yelled publicly before, many of them white middle-class women newly awakened to political fury and protest. Part of the process of becoming mad must be recognizing that they are not the first to be furious, and that there is much to learn from the stories and histories of the livid women — many of them not white or middle class — who have never had reason not to be mad.

If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while, and you’re wondering whether you’re allowed to be as angry as you feel, let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.

If you’ve been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country, and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world, then I have something incredibly important to say: Don’t forget how this feels.

Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember. And don’t let anyone persuade you it wasn’t right, or it was weird, or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political — remember that, honey, that year you went crazy? No. No. Don’t let it ever become that. Because people will try.

The future will come, we hope. If we survive this, if we make it better — even just a little bit better — the urgency will fade, perhaps the ire will subside, the relief may take you, briefly. And that’s good, that’s O.K.

But then the world will come and tell you that you shouldn’t get mad again, because you were kind of nuts and you never cooked dinner and you yelled at the TV and weren’t so pretty and life will be easier when you get fun again. And it will be awfully tempting to put away the pictures of yourself in your pussy hat, to stuff your protest signs in the attic, and to slink back, away from the raw bite of fury, to ease back into whatever new reality is made, and maybe you’ll still cry angry tears at your desk and laugh with sharp satisfaction in front of late-night television, but you won’t yell anymore.

What you’re angry about now — injustice — will still exist, even if you yourself are not experiencing it, or are tempted to stop thinking about how you experience it, and how you contribute to it. Others are still experiencing it, still mad; some of them are mad at you. Don’t forget them; don’t write off their anger. Stay mad for them, alongside them, let them lead you in anger.

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