I learned to suppress my emotions at an early age. My mother was a master at such suppression and I was determined not to replicate my father’s explosive temperament. For too long, women have been criticized for being “too emotional,” as if passionate feelings are a bad thing. Such criticism continues to be a primary weapon used to maintain women’s oppression. That’s why men in power resort to labeling women protesters as an “angry mob,” then turn around and praise each other’s anger as being “strong and forceful.” Such double standards enrage me.
“Well behaved women seldom make history,” said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Perhaps overcoming our fears and releasing our rage is the best way for us to make history now. Although I wrote this poem in February, it seems particularly relevant today.
Hot steam billowing up
Smashing against lids of self-control
Teary droplets unable to fall
Opening would bring needed release
Afraid of being scalded by her volcanic emotions
Afraid of being burned by others all over again
Sometimes I have trouble finding my voice as a writer–until something really bothers me. It is then, in the midst of frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, disbelief, shock…that words flow almost effortlessly from my pen to paper. Writing is one way I use my voice. Voting is another.
You may have heard that there’s an election coming up in the United States. (And if you haven’t heard, where have you been? I may want to go there some day!) It’s tempting to think our vote doesn’t count, but I know from experience that’s not true. I have witnessed a mayor’s race in a medium-sized city be decided by only 11 votes. Some races have ended in a tie, causing candidates to draw straws or roll a die to determine the winner. Anyone else remember those close Bush v. Gore hanging chad results that had to be resolved by the Supreme Court? Our democracy requires “we the people” to have a voice in deciding who represent our interests. We have a voice in determining what kind of nation America will be through our elected representatives. Our vote is that voice.
The voter registration deadline has already passed in many states (including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas), and will close tomorrow in a few others (New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma). Depending on where you live, it may not be too late to register. In most cases it can be done online. Visit vote.org for a state-by-state directory of deadlines and requirements. The clock is ticking, so don’t wait.
The only time your vote doesn’t count is when you don’t cast it. And you can’t cast it if you aren’t registered.
In April of 2018 I published an essay about a sexual assault I experienced in college and why I stayed silent about it for 40 years. This was long before the topic of sexual assault became so politically charged. I shared my story because I wanted to let other silent survivors know they are not alone, and to point out several factors inherent in our society that make it difficult for women to come forward. In the months since, I was overwhelmed by the love and support shown by both friends and strangers. The response was universally positive. Until yesterday. Continue reading “Only a Survivor”