Pulling the Trigger

It’s every single day now, isn’t it? Each morning brings reports of another powerful man falling from his high chair, a cringing apology-not apology “That’s not how I remembered it, but …” until I am worn out, we are, so very many of us, so very worn out.

 

How to make sense of the relief we feel that our stories are finally being heard and yet we are flooded with anxiety as the tidal wave of trauma washes over us, released by friends and strangers, the famous and the overlooked? #MeToo has given us the voices we have stifled, or simply forgotten how to use, or never knew we had. But the movement is also fraught with triggers as we remember all that we’ve been trained, or simply wish, to forget.

Stillness in solitude. November Dawn. Copyright Julie Christine 2017

 

Until it happens again.

 

A few Friday nights ago. Alone on the dance floor. Fully in my joy. Stone-cold sober (why do I need to mention that? As if it matters. As if I need to assure you I didn’t bring this on, but had I been drinking, I might have been responsible? This is what we do. Footnote lest we are blamed).

 

Unseen hands on my body. I am groped from behind. In the space of a moment, the time it took my brain to register what was happening outside of me and yet fully within my sacredness of my space, my skin, my flesh. I turn to see a stranger’s leering face and I watch as the heel of my hand smashes into his nose, feel the crunch of cartilage, the snap of bone . . . but of course, I don’t. My rage stays tucked away. I wrap my hands around his elbows and push him back, breaking the connection of his hands on my body. And in an instant there is another stranger, stepping in between, dancing me from the scene, putting his body between mine and that twisted leer. I can take care of myself, I think. But at that moment, I don’t want to. I’m so tired. Tired of paying for letting my guard down. This man says, “That was disgusting. I’m sorry I didn’t get there sooner.”

 

I am told later that I should have hit the groper. This fills me with despair. Shame. Guilt. Bewilderment. I’m strong. In the moment, I wasn’t afraid. Disgusted. Repulsed. Ragey. Yes. But not afraid. Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I smash the grin off that mask?

 

The pieces come together when I discover this article, written in 2016.

Our Legal System Punishes Women For Their Neurological Responses To Assault

 

Women aren’t trained to resist their natural instinct to shut down when threatened — and they’re socialized to avoid threats passively rather than aggressively. “[Women] are taught how to politely resist someone making unwanted sexual advances without angering them,” says Hopper. “They learn how to say no without coming out and saying no.” Once that resistance is ignored, the amygdala’s response takes over, and it’s too late. They’re under attack and their brain, controlled by fear and running on instinct, leaves them at the mercy of the perpetrator. “And then they blame themselves for the assault,” says Hopper, “and other people blame them for not reacting more effectively. But would they blame a man who’s been sent to the front line with no combat training?”

And this is to say nothing of the fact that we shouldn’t be blaming victims at all, instead of the perpetrators of assault and abuse.

In the grand scheme of the daily degradation of women, being groped on a dance floor is hardly worth mentioning. This man was nothing. I’d never seen him before and he vanished into the thick of the crowd.

 

But it is the very quotidian nature of this imbecile’s behavior that wears me down. This shit just happens all the time. I can tick off my fingers other small things in recent weeks: the former boss who, in eavesdropping on a conversation between a colleague and me about the dress I was wearing to an event that night, exclaimed, “Why don’t you go NAKED?” The man who lives somewhere in my neighborhood turning his car around to follow me down the block, slowing, leaning out the window to gape at me. That would it occur to anyone to say or do these things boggles my mind. Men with wives and daughters. What is wrong with you? That’s the only thing that occurs to me to ask anymore.

 

Most of us aren’t celebrities violated or demeaned by men in powerful positions. We’re just your sisters, daughters, lovers, friends living with these small and large aggressions, trying to get through our days with grace and dignity. We’ll never make the headlines. Most of us will never speak out. We feel either paralyzed or just so fucking tired; reaction, response seems futile. Having to respond makes us that much more vulnerable. And when we tell our stories, we’re scolded for not having responded appropriately.

 

What is wrong with you?

 

Maybe you’re getting tired of hearing these stories, too. Or of telling them. Just know that for every story you do hear, there are dozens left untold. If you are triggered, step back and take care of yourself. Be gentle with your soul and know that any emotion you feel, any reaction from your heart, mind, body is a valid one. Here’s a good read to help you make sense of the complicated emotions: How to Cope If You’re Feeling Triggered by the #MeToo Movement

 

There is no dénouement here, no redemptive ending. This is a story followed by an ellipses, because most of us are just waiting for the next scene. When it happens again.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Pulling the Trigger

  1. This is so disgusting and infuriating I can’t even think what to write. Honestly I think it’s a matter of believing he has permission – not yours, but societal in general. Yet nothing I read or hear, not one episode, surprises me in the least. I just think, well, yeah, they’re men. This is what they do if they think they can get away with it and it’s always what they want to do. I am jaded enough to suspect the motives of the “rescuer” (sic) as being opportunistic. To close with a quote from a friend, “Men are dangerous.” If men don’t like hearing that, guess whose responsibility it is to fix it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this, Julie. I know hard hard it is to open up about things so degrading and dispiriting, let alone do so with such ferocious eloquence and insight. I hope we soon get beyond the ellipsis to the definitive PERIOD.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Julie. I sense your utter weariness surrounding this issue, which I share. One tiny positive that I’ve experienced lately. My son attends an all boys school and last week they were given a number of talks by women about attitudes towards women, abuse and oppression of women and violence towards women. My son came home absolutely astounded and appalled to have discovered that women get touched up on a regular basis in bars, on buses, the underground etc. He said it was a real eye opener for himself and his friends because they simply had NO IDEA this happened. Suddenly, the #MeToo made sense to him.This is where the change needs to take place – not in women’s behaviour, but in the understanding and education of men and, in particular, of boys and young men. They need to understand how insidious this problem is in order for there to be be a cultural shift amongst men that makes it unacceptable to objectify women in any way.
    Also, yes, I am so sickened by constantly reading/hearing the comment, ‘she should have done something.’ No. No. No!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen to this. Men really do walk through a different world with different aggressions, but that’s our fault, too, if that’s how we’ve raised them. I was in my 20s before I ever heard anyone suggesting that it wasn’t up to women to keep ourselves safe – that it was for men to alter their behavior.

      I’ve been a lot louder ever since. And yet, there are so many men in my life that keep referring to the current spate of powerful men falling like this is a new problem. Have they not been listening (to me/each story’s details) at all? What will it *take*?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh criminy – Julie, I’m so sorry to hear. I can’t imagine. But thank you for putting this in words, for putting it out there for all of us to read. To help those of us who have never been in that position try to understand what it must be like for so many women who have *always* been in that position. Who have to deal with it constantly, always on their radar, always sapping their attention, their strength and sense of security. Who can never just let them be themselves. And are so often told, either directly or by the sideways glances of our society at large, that it is *their* fault if they do.

    Oh, I wish I had the right words, or something better than words, to offer.

    But thank you for the gift of your words, brave and eloquent, and no doubt giving voice to other women who have suffered this injustice in silence.

    Liked by 1 person

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