The Personal is Political

This is a saying we’ve heard many times and, as a woman, I’ve known it to be intimately true. My body is a political commodity. Bought and sold by big business, argued over by evangelicals, pinned up by the media, degraded by white men who have never met me.

The personal is political works both ways. It’s the stress-eating or drinking-to-numb that ran rampant last night. How’s that feeling today, friends? Really, does your body feel loved and cared for this morning. I’d have loved to pick up a drink on my twenty-first day sober. Or a pipe. Hell, I wouldn’t mind so much to snort something.

But since all such things are currently off the table for me…I want to cut. I want to hurt myself badly, obviously, to show you the pain I’m in. I want to memorialize this moment and hallmark the powerlessness of it. Pain has been done to me by my country, and I want to show you.

I haven’t. I can’t even say I won’t.

The first time I remember being sexually assaulted I was in grade school. I was playing with my friend at our church, which happened to also be a Christian school. A man beckoned us to come to the other side of the building through the windows and we did. When we got there, he had his dick out, stroking it. He asked us if we wanted to see white stuff come out of it. My friend’s older sister stepped in and told us to leave. We ran away. We called the police. I told that story all over church that night. I had no idea what it meant. I had no idea there were words or a larger context for what had happened.

I had no idea.

I got pregnant by my high school boyfriend when I was nineteen. I was sick, home from college to get long overdue eating disorder treatment and constantly on the verge of being hospitalized. I couldn’t have a baby. I wasn’t even sure I could carry it to term. I was blown away at the cost of an abortion and spent a week wondering what cocaine could do for my situation. I miscarried. I miscarried alone in my bedroom one night. I smoked pot and drank NyQuil to dull the pain. I passed out, naked from the waist down, on the laundry room floor at one point. I had an appointment the next day at the local abortion clinic. I went anyway–my treatment team insistence I “make sure” the baby was gone. I was already sure. But I crossed those picket lines. I saw that hate and disdain in those eyes. When I told my parents a few weeks later what had happened, it was the first conversation about sex we’d had. I suppose they’d let the Baptist church do the talking for them. I had no idea how remarkable the access I had to abortion was. I had no idea how hard-fought my rights were.

I had no idea.

I was raped when I was twenty-one. I was at a small house party and I got really sick off of two beers. I went to lie down in a room and the sailor it belonged to came in. He assumed my presence was permission. He didn’t stop when I said No. Over and over. Until I stopped saying No. So I thought the whole thing was kind of my fault. You know, drinking plus not screaming plus not biting that dick off. I had no idea this was an experience too many women have. I had no idea what it would come to mean for me.

I had no idea.

Last night I watched my country elect a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, cheated on multiple wives, and been an overall racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bully and fear-monger. I watched people leave the polls in droves planning to live with themselves and their choices. I watched America be made a terrifying place for many that I love and admire, and all whom I respect and extend basic human dignity to. Yesterday I told my daughters we were going to see the first female president. Yesterday I was full of hope that this all would be over soon. I had no idea America harbored such hate. I had no idea the seething of sexism ran so deep. I had no idea fear and hate had won so handily.

I had no idea.

Now, I have many ideas. I have context for the painful experiences I’ve had in my life. I have my job working in the domestic and sexual violence field to soothe my soul and steady my nerves that startle and say something must be done now. And, I have my words. They are mine alone, whether they’ve been said before, or similarly, or not.

I’d like to share what I posted on my Facebook wall last night as the results rolled in and that damn map lit up red:

Hate is knocking on our doorsteps. It’s begging to be let in. Even when you turn it away, hate finds ways to seep into our homes, our clothes, our bodies, our very bones. Hate for the choices of others. Hate for different beliefs. Hate for ignorance. Hate for hurt.

Hate is not the answer here. Hate only breeds more of the same.

We must find ways to extend grace, to offer understanding and empathy, to show love. We must rise higher, fight harder, and love more fiercely. We must.

Go to bed heartbroken or go to bed hopeful. But whatever happens, keep an eye out for hate sneaking in. It will want to. It will trick you into thinking it is the only way. It is wrong. Hate is a liar and a cheat and a dangerous fucking bastard. Hate has no home here.

Love wins. #lovewarriors

Shout out to Glennon Doyle Melton for the term Love Warrior and all that it encompasses. We can do this. Even now. Especially now. We were born to do this. All the pride and fight and festivity that were stolen from us last night, include an energy that cannot be put away. We can use it. We have to.

I can feel the hate within me, and I know it will visit many times over the next two and four years. Our country has reached a crisis point that we cannot ignore. And we shouldn’t ignore it. We cannot run. We cannot numb. It demands attention. It demands presence. Presence with one another. And presence with ourselves. Our battle will be two-fold: what happens out there, and what happens within.

The political is also deeply personal.

So grieve today. Feel today. Sit today. Breathe. And when the hate comes knocking, send it away. Hate will only harden you to the life you’ve been so amazingly given. Remember: live wins. Even where politics is concerned. Especially where people are concerned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.