in which jen loses her sh*t

Painted on a white wall, graffiti of a person wearing a tank top and mask and holding a bat, under and next to the words: It’s all I can do this morning to keep myself together.

I make black tea for the day, because I’m out of my loose green; Irish breakfast, to go with the soda bread I made last night. All I can do these days is eat. That’s a thing I’m good at: the decisions don’t ruin my life, and I don’t get paralyzed trying to figure out what to eat next. The eating helps me feel just bad enough about myself, but also kills the other awful feelings, the anxiety, the triggeredness.

My editor tells me she wants me to write about this Harvey Weinstein thing. Write about the latest story of a sexual predator that everyone is surprised about. Wait, the guy who promoted Hunting Ground is a sexual super-predator? Are we supposed to act shocked, we who live our lives in the aftermath of manhandling by people like these? Are we supposed to believe all the shock and dismay from various high-powered folks in the entertainment industry? What kind of story can I write about this?

It’s not that I’m cynical — it’s that our country was founded and run by men who believed it was acceptable to own other humans — who believed they ought to have sexual access to whatever they wanted, access to the bodies of other humans they deemed somehow other or less than human — and by the women who stood by their side. And so here we are now, some two-hundred and forty-five years later, wondering why a guy like this can go on assaulting women for thirty years without being stopped. Fox News is sounding the alarm — Hollywood is full of sexual hypocrites! Fox News, ladies and gentlefolks – yes. That’s the world we live in, that the guy who has been accused of sexual predation can point his finger at the last or the latest guy to be accused and somehow we’re supposed to wipe the slate clean, like we can only have rom in our tiny brains for one predatory bastard at a time, like we’re supposed to believe it’s a right-wing or left-wing problem. Of course we’re supposed to believe it’s not a problem on the left — which is why so-called liberal sexual predators like Bill Clinton and Woody Allen and … let’s just not continue the list. It’s too fucking long, too fucking depressing. Why they are allowed to go on doing the work that they love, why people go on lauding them?

I don’t know if I belong here anymore — where is here, Jen? America? the planet? Where can you go, where’s the country where people aren’t excusing acts of sexual predation? Where people aren’t making films with rape at the heart of them and we call them comedies? Where we don’t see rape as sport or simple sexual miscommunication or misunderstanding or an acceptable weapon of war? (As though there’s such a thing as an acceptable weapon of war.) Where we don’t politicize the latest revealed rape so as to advance our political cause?

I am tired today. I don’t want to have discussions about how to end rape culture, what women can do, what the victims are supposed to do.

Do you want to end rape culture? Here how that goes: men, stop raping people.

How about that? Just don’t. Just don’t. Stop believing that the people around you are there to service your sexual or power needs.

How’s that going to work, America? Do you think we can do that?

Parents, stop teaching your masculine-leaning children that they get to do what they want to and with the bodies of others. Stop teaching your feminine-leaning children how to navigate the sexually-predatory expectations of others — teach them self-defense instead. Don’t teach them to bow their heads and walk in shame. Teach them to scream.

Women who are harassed or assaulted by extremely powerful men and then manage to rise in their industry of choice: once you have power, it’s your responsibility to hold that predator accountable. Jane Fonda says she’s ashamed she didn’t say anything about this harassment sooner. Angeline Jolie was assaulted by this man. But they said and did nothing, not even after years and after they rose in stature and power, and so more women, many many more women after them had to suffer, many of them leaving the work they loved.

We are not to blame for the violence done to us. We are not to blame for the actions of others. We are responsible for our own behavior, however. It’s not victim-blaming to believe that people in any community who know that there’s a predator in their midst ought to pass the word to newcomers to the community, if they’re not going to raise the alarm otherwise. (Of course, we see what good it did when folks raised the alarm to the so-called authorities — thank you, NYPD and LAPD).

My editor wants me to write about this, but I’d avoided reading any of the articles about this story because I didn’t want the fucking details. I didn’t want to know the kinds of things these women were expected to do for decades that no one held H.W. accountable for, that he was given a pass on over and over and over again. But, I think, she thinks I should do it, so let me just skim through the headlines. Let me look at a few of the stories. My breath gets shallow, my body gets tight. I ignore these things because I think this is something that I’m supposed to do. If that’s not triggering, I don’t know what is — well, until I get into one of the stories and in the first paragraph, maybe in the first two lines, read a detail of his assault on one woman that leaves me in a flashback/body memory so strong that it’s all I can do not to throw everything around me — my computer, my monitor, my cup of tea, the lamp, the mirror, everything — against the wall, shattering it all, making as much noise as possible and screaming as loud as I can just to get this shit out of my body again. But it’s there, and I’m a responsible adult who doesn’t do those things, and so I go upstairs as soon as the other people in my house leave for the day, and I eat. I make many pieces of toast, I get a bag of popcorn, I eat until I am full, until the feeling that hurts is in my belly and I am awash in the shame again of eating too much because that is easier for me to deal with than the memory of the predator my mother married doing just the same thing to me.

Patton Oswalt says, in an interview this week, that he can’t imagine how women do it, how they walk around with such rage, how they function. First, I wonder who he’s harming behind closed doors. Then I want to tell him, we eat. We stuff. We shop. We cut. we pretend. We fuck. We act nice and exercise too much, starving ourselves. We do anything and everything we can not to go crazy every fucking time we watch another man treat another women like shit, watch another woman apologize for that man and pretend like what he’s doing is ok. Just to keep from tearing the whole fucking thing down.

It was all I could do yesterday not to lose my shit. This is one of those weeks. I just have to sit here with the adrenaline in my arms and back and jaw, grinding my teeth, trying to decide what to do when someone makes a joke about this guy or calls it “casting couch behavior” or calls the women stupid, or when I read about one woman telling another, this is just the way it’s done here. If you want to get ahead, go ahead and just give him the fucking massage. Because I’m going to guarantee you that women said that to each other. My sister went through this shit in a different segment of the entertainment world in LA — just suck it up, she was told, that’s part of the game. And when she wanted to call foul on the game, went to the authorities, tried hold accountable the man who had been harassing and predatory towards her, not one woman would stand with her. And so she left the industry that she loved

Now I want to throw the machine against the wall again. This is a difficult morning for writing.

How do we do it how do we do it how do we do it on the days we are so angry we could destroy everything around us, we who have been taught to take our anger out on ourselves rather than on the people who have harmed us and harmed those we love? How do we do it when what we know is to stuff, to drink, to cut, to depress, to starve, to run too hard or lift too much, otherwise punish ourselves for this righteous rage?

Of course we have every right to be outraged, to be furious — so very many of us do, for so very many different reasons. But we are supposed to be polite and show that we are assimilated to polite white culture which was designed and cultivated to protect white men and women in power, and so we don’t come into to the room raving. We don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. We don’t want them to question our sanity — because of course, it’s insane to be outraged that a man, one more man (among the how many more, let’s be serious, now we’re talking about Hollywood/politics/spiritual community/military/tech/on and on) has been allowed to continue his fucking disgusting until the winds shift just enough and someone finally feels brave enough to come forward and politics are such that she will be listened to and suddenly the people who’ve been holding his silences for him come forward, too, and pretend like they’re shocked, perform this dance of public shaming.

We should be shaming all of them. The men who do this are only able to continue for as long as they do because of other’s silences. Period. Our silences create the bubble in which they continue to act. We hold their power for them We create it. And we can take it away from them.

We can hold these people accountable. We can say no more. We can say, we’re not going to buy your music or watch your shows or vote for you or go to your movies or read your books or listen to your comedy albums we’re not going to reward you for gaining fame and power on the backs of the people you have assaulted and shamed.

I’ll tell you what, Patton Oswalt — I don’t know how we do it either. I just don’t know. There is not a single fucking place women can go that is safe from predatory male behavior. Not one. Every industry you can name has men who have risen the ranks while smearing their grease and filth and bodily fluids and smarmy bullshit on others along the way, and people turned their heads because they wanted to come along for the ride. We see the same fucking thing happening in Congress, in the US government — all these men who stood up and pretended to be shocked, shocked!, that a man so close to the presidency could so proudly and easily name his entitlement to women’s bodies, and then they turned around, swallowed that outrage, walked over to the corner of the room labeled “locker room talk,”and said, well, it’s not so bad, and anyway, it was such a long time ago, I mean, no more tapes have come forward — which means, of course, that nothing else has happened.

No tape, it didn’t happen. Got a  tape? Who cares. Assaulted by a man in power? Better hope he assaulted fifty other women just the same way he assaulted you, and that those women are willing to stand up with you, because otherwise, there’s not a goddamn thing anybody’s going to do for you. The voice of one woman telling the truth? Muriel Rukeyser is weeping — it doesn’t do a fucking thing in this particular America. We’re too worried that the perpetrator’s rights might get trampled on. We don’t want to obstruct their right to assault with freedom, Their right to assault over decades, their right to assert their manhood. We don’t want emasculated men in this country, do we? We want our men to be men! We want cowboys! We want soldiers! We want rapists!

But were going to turn around and pretend like the rapists are coming in to the country from the outside, as though we don’t grow our own right here,

I’m tired today, my friends. I’m so fucking angry and tired. It’s not a difficult problem, rape culture, it’s simply that this behavior has been entrenched in our definition of manhood for maybe as long as we’ve understood there to be such a thing as a man. And I’m tired of women bending over backwards trying to figure how to explain it, how to make sense of it for the assailants and their apologists. The assailants know exactly what they’re doing. No one needs to be educated — they know what they are doing, they are doing it because they can, and will continue doing it as long as they can. We have not made it painful enough to be called rapist, to be called sexual predator.

When do we say Enough? With our sons? With our son’s sons? When will there be enough good men that they turn the tide? That they set down this male/masculine privilege to beat and punch and shame and shit on and put hands on and and rape and discard? When do we stop shaking our heads and saying, well, boys will be boys — when? How much longer?

How can I read the news? How can I see it over and over again, this one, that one, violating student, daughter, infant, choir boy, soldier, new employee, intern, coworker, partner, wife…? I’m so tired of having to walk through the world like this is all acceptable somehow, like every woman, every man, every person of any gender whatsoever shouldn’t be screaming in the middle of the street, just fucking stop. Just stop acting like the bodies of other people are those to use and dispose of as you wish. I’m talking about rape culture and I’m talking about misogynist culture and I’m talking about white supremacist culture.

I wrote, in a piece that was published earlier this month, that I would love it if, for just a  moment, every survivor of sexual violence was illuminated by a bright glow — so we could all see each other, so we could see how many of us there are, so we could revel and grieve in our numbers, and our power. Then would we smash the church and smash the state?

But what if, then, for a moment, the same was done for the perpetrators, those who believed, at any point and in any way over the course of their lives, that it was ok to sexually touch or grab or speak to or assault another being. How much overlap would there be? Would we be surprised at their numbers, at the “good” men who stood there awash in the sickly greenish light, at the numbers of women, at the numbers of queers? What would we do with them, if we knew who they were?

How hard is it to decide to stop harming other people? Just ask the white folks who run the country, the folks in the police departments, the folks who run the prisons, just ask capitalism. We love money and power more than we love our families, more than we love our fellow human or any other animal, more than we love the planet that is just about done, it seems these days, sustaining us. And those with the money and power just only want to keep it.

Just stop. It would be so easy to stop. But these people are raised to be addicts — they are addicted to the privilege and the blinders and bodies that come along with it. They don’t want to take the blinders off and they don’t want to have to put the privilege down. When do we who are or have been harmed by them say Enough?

I’m grateful for your rage today, and the ways you make room for the righteous rage of others. Be easy with you — think about turning the rage out of your body in ways that don’t harm others, and don’t harm you. Shout, scream, write, paint, draw, tear up pillows, smash plates, scream again. Just for one minute, don’t turn it back inside yourself, the way you were trained to. I stand with you in your rage. And I am grateful for your words.

 

 

4 thoughts on “in which jen loses her sh*t

  1. Barbara says:

    Ditto what Dana said. You have a way of saying ALL of the things, and often, after reading, I am able to breathe again, as if I have just said them myself.

  2. Dana Champion says:

    Thank you for sharing your soul with us. I am quite frankly struck wordless.
    The rage and fear come back so easily.
    Everytime I read your words I have hope. Please do not ever stop writing.

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