My friend is filing charges against her assaulter. The same friend for whom I wrote my previous post, is finally finding her voice, and I could not be more proud of her. I wish that I could find mine, beyond a webpage.
I know that it’s too late for me to do anything about my own situation. Something that happened over the summer, that has already been forgotten, couldn’t be brought up now. It would seem, what? Petty? Irrelevant? It would cause too many problems, and it would be awkward. He stays with the woman who used to babysit me. He’s on a football career track. I don’t even know if it would mess up his life, but I do know that it would be an annoying complication, one that would be too stressful for me to even begin.
“You know what’s weird?” I told my friend, after she told me that she was going to go ahead with charges. “You have so much power, you almost seem powerless.”
It’s true. It seems like women have a history of hiding their powers, knowing that for them to be exposed would only cause more problems. If you’ve been assaulted, you should have all the power. With the right litigation and timely action, you could make your perpetrator’s life hell. You could mess up his record, his scholarships, his schooling, his work, you could do damage. Damage that he would deserve. The only problem is that you’re generally too nice to do all these things that wrongly come off as “mean.” Who really wants to seriously complicate someone else’s life, especially if that someone else is a friend? It probably isn’t you, and he probably knows that it isn’t you, which is why he chose you in the first place. So you’ll let him get away with it, and blame yourself, and he’ll either keep doing it to you or move on to do it to someone else.
Then you’ll be left feeling like your body isn’t even yours, like you don’t own it. And it’s not as if anyone else owns it, either, but rather as if it’s just out there for the public to use at will. I think about this a lot, especially if I’m at a party and forced to dance with a guy with whom I don’t want to dance. Whoever came up with the “bitch” idea was a genius, because running away from that label has chased me into a number of unpleasant situations.
“Bitch” isn’t the only label that seems to keep power in check, and it doesn’t only apply in cases of assault or harassment. There are the “shrew”s, “bossy”s, and “ice queen”s, and the dreaded future label of “old maid”. In addition to not wanting negative labels, we’re also afraid of being alone, and have come up with a whole set of behavioral rules to avoid this.
I was at a bachelorette party that had a segment set aside for “advice”.
“We get married to stay married,” was the idea behind it, and there were rules for the bride to follow in order to ensure that this happened. One was, “You must never tell your man ‘no’ — even if you are angry, or upset, or tired.”
I was not feeling that rule. I knew better than to voice my opinion on the matter, but also that I would never want to follow this piece of advice. If I want to say ‘no’, I will, I told myself.
But will I? I don’t know. I’d like to think so. I’ve gotten better about sticking up for myself recently but I can’t forget the summer, and I know that a husband would be harder to deny. Of course you want a marriage to last, don’t you? And given the culture of surrender with which I’ve grown up, I haven’t seen many expectations for men to make sacrifices when it comes to preserving relationships. I think that’s partly why I’ve chosen to stay single for so long, and why I’m not crazy about the idea of getting married in the future. I don’t want to be alone forever, but the way I see things, women always have more power until they end up with a partner. I’m not sure if I’m ready to sacrifice what power I do have yet, even if by social standards I’m only allowed to tap into a minimal amount of it.
Yet here comes my friend, about to kick hers up a notch. I hope the guy gets fried. He deserves it. I hope he gets fried, and I hope she inspires a wave of empowered women. Examples, like ideas, like flames, are catching.