Tag Archives: Women’s Rights

Silent No More

“In practice, the standard for what constitutes rape is set not at the level of a women’s experience of violation but just above the level of coercion acceptable to men.”
                                                                     Judith Lewis Herman

It seems I can’t listen to a news broadcast or read a newspaper the last couple of months with seeing another article or story relating to a powerful non-female harassing or abusing women. (Sorry, but I refuse to use the word man when referring to these individuals). Almost everyday there is another woman, or group of women, describing, in detail, the degradation they endured while working or attempting to find employment in the field where these sub humans wielded the power to destroy a career or make their lives so miserable they would suffer humiliation and fear rather than speak up. Children were also part of this disgusting behavior, as evidenced by the more than 100 children, (now women), who were abused during their gymnastics careers by a renowned team physician. Producers, actors, doctors, clergy, journalists, politicians, CEO’s, studio heads; the list of those individuals abusing power for their own satisfaction is endless.

In many cases years have gone by since these incidents took place and yet I don’t question a woman’s reasons for not coming forward sooner. Unless any one of us is in that position, how can we ever try to understand their thought process. Fear and intimidation are powerful weapons being used by powerful people. Circumstance is not ours to judge, especially in a society that continues to view women differently than non-females. A society that has failed to mature and grow up to the standards each of us deserves.

In these cases, the more powerful the abuser is, the greater his ability to define and arrange his arguments. Power is always wielded against the most vulnerable amongst us.

What angers me as much as the abusers are all those who knew about the actions of these individuals and did nothing about it. They share equal responsibility. They swept the complaints under the carpet, created non disclosure agreements, ignored the repeated problems that continued to be voiced and generally maintained the good old boys club be kept intact. They turned away. All these powerful and outwardly respectable sub humans didn’t think the voices that were raised were worth the words that were spoken.

How sad is that?

My guess is we’re in the infancy stage of this story, though I do question whether the press will ever reveal the true extent. Too many friends in high places, too much money to be lost by revealing the truth. But we’ll see,
Equally important is what happens now. How we move forward from this. There are more layers to this problem than what’s been revealed. While where we’ve been should never be forgotten, where were go from here is a question each of us must answer in his or her own way.

The responsibility is ours.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” 
                                                                                              Abraham LIncoln

A Room Of One’s Own

Several years ago I went back to school to take some writing courses and ended up completing my English degree with a minor in creative writing. One of the courses I took during that time was Women’s Prose and I became hooked on reading Virginia Woolf. I loved her voice and stream of consciousness writing but what really hooked me was her strength and how she used the art of writing as her basis of expression and freedom.

Virginia Woolf was one of the foremost modernists writers of the twentieth century, writing at a time when women were typically ignored or dismissed. In one of my favorite books of hers, A Room Of One’s Own, she writes,

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

When Virginia Woolf wrote, simply finding a place to write was difficult; to be taken seriously as a writer was near impossible. Some discriminatory attitudes, as they relate to women, have changed in todays society while some have just become more subtle in the manner in which they are presented.

One of the lines from this book which always stayed with me related to Virginia not being able to visit the library simply because she was a woman. When she was locked out, Woolf wrote, “I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”

To be locked in. The idea and image is suffocating. If you’re locked out you may have the opportunity to turn away and begin again. You can choose another path or find an avenue that may be less constricting or impenetrable but the opportunity to breath remains an available choice. Being locked in removes choices from your life. You become dependent on someone else for the breath of your life; that freedom of expression that helps you find your own room. 

Being locked in continues to be a disturbing way of life for many people. The prison that is created by these thoughts or actions are easy to build and difficult to escape unless you have the strength to survive and the belief of a dream.

So much has changed in the hundred or so years since Virginia Woolf wrote these words.

Unfortunately, too much has remained the same.