Holy crap what a ride. I have never been worn down by an election the way this one wore me down. The thing that really got me was when I re-posted the Pre-Election Roundup over at SOAM’s Facebook page early this week and there was drama. It wasn’t much. From what I gather from my Facebook friends, their personal news feeds sounded worse than what we had to endure at SOAM’s page. But it was more than what I usually have to deal with, and it was painful to be involved in. The part that really got me is that people get so tied up in the abortion debate, they can’t even see that this is about rape culture, which is far more ambiguous and vague an issue.
A couple of weeks ago a teacher was arrested at my former high school for having had a sexual relationship with one (or more) of his students. A group of kids stood together and staged a protest in front of the school the following morning. He wound up being released, but his case is not over. What really struck me, though, was how similar it was to a case several years ago (like, back in the days of MySpace). Another teacher was arrested (and eventually convicted), this time for having molested his stepdaughter, and my former classmates were outraged. They claimed they “knew” he was innocent because he was “nice”. The thing is? Molesters are nice. Most of them aren’t creepy guys hanging out in the back of an unmarked van asking for help finding puppies (although some of them are). Most of them are people you know who are incredibly charming. That’s how they operate.
These students who decided to take a stand for their teacher are acting out the same scenario these men in government are – were – trying to. Blaming the victim, supporting the one who victimized her. I don’t blame the kids for coming together for something they believe in and being vocal about it. Those are the qualities I love about teenagers, and exactly what we need in the next generation. Rather, society has failed them by not teaching them to A) identify rape culture and B) keep themselves and their friends safe from it. So these kids were out there with good intentions but missing the mark.
That’s what the debate on SOAM’s page felt like. Where I saw the links I shared as being important to protecting all women’s rights, others saw it as being pro- (or in one case requiring) abortions. I get that the two are intertwined. And I understand how hard it is to have a discussion of one without the other. But I, personally, think it’s ridiculously important to get this rape culture shit nailed down before we can talk about any other aspect. Without being on that common solid ground of knowing when we are and are not being manipulated or inadvertently manipulating each other, we cannot possibly begin to come to a consensus about the more difficult issues.
I’ll admit, I was in a dark place before the election. With so much being said against women this year, and so much of it violent, I was frankly terrified about what the next few years might begin to look like. And, yet, this morning I woke up to a better, stronger world. Now we know these men for who they really are and we told them exactly what we thought of them. As Thomas Jefferson apparently did not say, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Whoever did say that is right on the money. And I hope that today the government knows that we are a force to be reckoned with.
And guess what? There were so many women elected last night. Today I am proud to be an American. Proud enough to wear my Stars & Stripes Chucks. ‘Merrica!