Not Being Heard

The drama that unfolded during the last few weeks over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court took many of us on a journey that no one could have predicted, and that became a drama about something much bigger than the Supreme Court. Bigger than party politics, or even right versus left. It became about being heard.

It became, for some of us, about memory, history, and the way we understood our own lives.

As for so many people, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story brought up a specific episode buried deep in my past that I have told very few people about, an episode of being taken advantage of, of being used, and which I think of with shame and, yes, anger. #MeToo. I take responsibility for having been young and trusting and silly enough to have gotten myself into that situation and I never let it happen again. Still, the pain of it is there, always.

But more prosaically the drama became about the everyday pain of not being heard and not being taken seriously.  It has been a long, long road that women have had to make for ourselves, forging ahead, each beating a path to a greater degree of autonomy than was possible for our mothers and grandmothers.

Some women are not feminists. They proudly deny that there is anything or anyone holding them back. This is the rugged individualist position.  I know, I used to be like that and I can still be like that sometimes. But that is only to think of oneself. You can beat them at their own game if you are strong and smart, but doing so keeps the game intact and even validates it. It doesn’t help anyone but yourself. It doesn’t change the game.

This game where we burn up the world competing for the fastest growing economy.  This game where we abuse and exploit the only world we have.  Where no one is allowed to question business, growth, and money.  We have to change the game.

I think we all know what it is like, both women and men, to have our points of view discounted and ignored, rather than considered carefully – because what we say does not fit the game, because it comes from a place of care rather than exploitation, of cooperation rather than competition. To care is seen as weakness. To talk of cooperation is to be naive.

I care more about life than I do about money. I care more about the health of my community and the world than I do about business success. This is what I want to talk about and build our world around. The men in suits cannot hear what I have to say. It does not fit their paradigm. To them it is silly.

And yet it is not silly. It is deadly serious. As the IPCC report that came out yesterday points out, we have 12 years to decrease emissions in order to possibly avoid catastrophic climate change. What could be more serious than that? If the room is getting too hot, we need to turn off the furnace.  It’s not a complicated concept. It is the responsible thing to do. 

We must make ourselves heard, calmly but insistently.  The energy unleashed by returning to that place of pain these last few weeks can serve a greater purpose.

2 Replies to “Not Being Heard”

  1. Michelle,
    I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I too have a story I rarely share. Like so many women we take responsibility for what happened. We try to move past the experience. It no longer surprises me to hear yet another woman talk about an experience of being abused, hit, or sexually assaulted by a man in her past. And you are right, I’m tired of not being heard.

    What bothers me the most about “he said. she said.” situations is that almost universally we side with the man because too often there is not enough evidence to prove a woman’s claims. So why is it we side with men? Why does society act as if the “he said” denial is the truth and go on as if what “she said” isn’t relevant?

    I think I speak for woman across our country when I say that the recent appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court felt like a body blow. Listening to Senators who voted for Kavanaugh say that Blasey Ford was very believable and it was obvious that something bad had happened to her, but he denies it so lets go with innocent until proven guilty. It brought back the very reasons why I didn’t talk about what happened to me. Because I was ashamed and because I didn’t think I would be believed.

    But you are right. We need to change this. We must insist that we be heard.

    1. Thank you, Jody. I think that we didn’t talk about it because we would have had almost no control over what our own stories meant at the time. It would have become a story about how we were to blame, or how our parents had failed to control us. There are still plenty of prominent people that want to twist Dr. Ford’s story and our stories in just that way, but there are enough other kinds of people now, both women and men, who can relate and we can have each other’s backs. !

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