Remember last week when, for 25 minutes, America listened and believed a sexual assault victim? And then the accuser got his say and started crying and shouting at us and everyone was like, “Gee, okay, if you’re that upset about it she must be lying.” ?
The thing about Dr.Ford’s testimony that was so difficult and moving was when she described being laughed at during her assault. Victimized, held down and then, the shaming cherry on top, getting laughed at by her perpetrators. She was a funny joke to them.
Then the actual jokes and teasing began in present time. First it was well, maybe something happened to her but she’s so stupid and crazy that she doesn’t know who did it. Then, after Kavanaugh sputtered and shouted and cried to all the old white male senators, and after the initial polling came out that a bunch of Republicans were like, “Who cares?” about the whole thing, all the old white guys suddenly felt comfortable to unleash their true feelings, and it lasted for days.
The purposely worded joke by Lindsey Graham saying that, referring to the Salem Witch Trials, the Democrats will “check to see if Kavanaugh can float”, was exceptionally offensive to me. Comparing the investigation of an alleged sex offender, a man, trying to get one of the most powerful positions in the country to another time in our history when powerful, out spoken and creative women were put on trial in order to be removed from society by way of brutal killings was just the epitome of where we’re at right now.
But what I noticed and what really bugged me is that it seemed like some sort of Pandora’s Box of misogyny had been opened and unleashed on all women. The daily barrage of disbelief of our experiences and life stories was very PTSD for almost all of us, I think. But it was the laughing at us, just like Dr. Ford talked about in her hearing, that most affected me.
A few days after the hearing Trump was having a press conference with more of his old white men standing around him, I guess they made up his cabinet or something. He called on a woman reporter, a famous, very accomplished woman reporter. The image is burned in my mind. She stood up out of the crowd. Her pretty, sleeveless, red blouse exuded power and femininity all at once. I pictured her trying it on in front of the mirror that morning, exhaling approvingly before she marched out the door to be a powerful TV reporter.
The press was on folding chairs on the lawn, 4 or 5 feet below the president’s stage. She was not expecting to be called on and so, as she stood up a beat too late, she said, “I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t thinking.”
The President replied, “I know, that’s all right you never do, do you?”
She froze. A petite woman in a bright blouse, standing all alone in a crowd was being made fun of by the most powerful man in the world. Everyone went silent, “Excuse me?” She said.
And then, he laughed. And all his goons behind him laughed, making eye contact with each other. They were laughing at her expense, just like Brett Kavanaugh and Mike Judge laughed between themselves at Dr. Ford’s expense.
The next day at a rally, the president began actively attacking Dr. Ford, retelling her experience from his perspective and the crowd laughed, but not all of them. I studied that crowd. The white guys in their fifties that were clustered behind him got a real kick out of it. But then I saw the older white lady to his right, a stunned expression on her face. I pressed pause and looked at each person. There was a lady standing with her young, smiling son, frozen, expressionless. I picked out three or four more women, standing quietly with blank faces, because they knew what was happening. They have, like all us women, experienced this before. The teasing, the discounting of our experiences, the patronizing little comments that we have to laugh at or risk being cast out …or worse, being unlikable, a bitch. And so, like all women have learned that they must, they stood still, with tight, frozen smiles on their faces, waiting for the experience of being laughed at to end.
What I learned this week though, is that it will never end. No matter how many college degrees we get, how many languages we learn, how successful, thin, beautiful, accomplished, nurturing, big boobed, small boobed, bad ass, brave, weak or whatever else we’re supposed to be to please the world, it will never be enough to be an equal, to be taken seriously, to be believed and to not be laughed at.
A few days ago, as I was composing this in my head, I went down to the beach for a surf. There was an older guy, maybe in his fifties, sitting in his truck next to mine, watching the ocean. I changed into my wetsuit on the driver side of my truck, he didn’t notice that it had even happened. I walked around to my passenger side and he looked at me startled and said, “Oh, let me get out of your way, give you some privacy to change.” I realized he must have thought I had just come out of the water.
“Oh you’re fine.” I told him. “I already changed and you didn’t even notice!”
“Oh, okay. I mean, I have daughters.” He told me, trailing off, not knowing what else to say.
I thanked him.
“Have a good day!” He said as I walked passed him. “Go catch some waves!”
I looked back at him and smiled and waved. I paddled out into the middle of the ocean, sat on my board, and in the privacy of nature, I cried.