Most of us think of the fight for women’s equality as a steady battle upward; few people realize how often, through the course of human history, women have gained power only to lose it again.
We live in one of those pivotal moments. Reactions to current events, highlighting the misogynistic abuses of men in power, leave us poised with the potential to effect monumental change. For thousands of years, women have prayed for this day. Will we seize our sudden opportunity to consolidate cultural shifts and smash this paradigm of sexual entitlement once and for all? Or will this chance be lost, and our hard-won battles pushed to the side, as we all slide backward once again?
The past and the future rest heavily on our shoulders.
It is time to summon the fury of every woman who has come before us. The searing pain of that very first young girl, pushed to the ground so long ago, is buried deep in our collective memory. She bore the repulsive weight of her violator, but we all carry the cumulative tonnage of the interminable rapes that followed, and the threat of those to come, continuing into the unforeseeable future.
It is time to take on the humiliation of those who were silenced, the ones who guarded their predator’s heinous secrets, and wore the mantle of blame for sins that were not their own.
This abuse will go on forever, unless we stop it.
Those frat boys, who grow up to be suited Cro-Magnon men with creepy smiles, will endlessly pat each other on the back, unless we say, “No more.” Generation after generation will laugh as they celebrate their role in the sustained legacy of our terrorization, unless we act.
It is time to collect all memories of violence living in our bodies… the heart-pounding footsteps approaching behind us, the “accidental” brushing against our breasts, the muttered-under-the breath vulgarities, the cat-called threats, the porn-induced fantasies, the subway erections, the casting couches, the ogling bosses, the lecherous uncles, the pinches, the tweaks, the grabs, the unwanted kisses, the pinning against walls, the reminders that they are stronger (and they could do it, even if they didn’t), the ones-we-thought-were-friends who did not “stop,” the monsters who came out of nowhere to take what they wanted, the ones who laughed at our helplessness as they held us down, the ones who took turns with our bodies, and the ones who killed us, or left us for dead.
These traumas never go away. They only intensify with the slow realization that it is now our daughters’ turn to live through this unending nightmare of male violence.
It’s time to forge these memories of the past and fears for the future into a blade that will slice through the tangled knots of patriarchy, the boys’ club of pasty old men who only listen to other pasty old men. It’s time for our primal scream to echo through the streets and rattle every stone building where the criminals and their enablers hide. Let them witness us again, marching in the millions, fists in the air, throughout every city and every country. Let them know we will not go away this time. As we relentlessly pursue them for their wrongs, let them feel just a tiny sliver of the fear that engulfs our lives. Let your eyes burn holes through theirs, demanding rectitude. Let your mouth roar out, again and again, our infinite, excruciating stories until their psyches buckle under the weight of our aggregate reality.
Step up. Name names. Bear witness. Blame rapists. Believe victims.
They forget that we are half the world. For all the women who came before us and all those who come after, we will oust the perpetrators and those who protect them.
We’ve been waiting all our lives for the momentum of this moment. Our ancestors look down at us, cheering us on. Our fury of today can stop the horrific screams of tomorrow. So swim through that ocean of tears cried by women across the world and across the centuries, and, one last time, wage this battle. Lock arms with our sisters and allies, and summon the fortitude to do what we must do.
Because those in power have made it abundantly clear: the respect we deserve and the justice we seek will not be given to us freely… we must take it.
Rise. Recruit. Resist. Register. Vote.