Rape Culture is its Unlanguageability, and When it calls you a Liar
This blog has been brewing in me, and maybe still is.
This is not a final thought.
And yet, what writing process demonstrates is that process is final, not statements.
There can be no final statement so long as experience and meaning making are continuous.
But that doesn’t mean that truth changes.
The truth about rape culture is that experience outpaces meaning culturally, as it does individually.
The pattern of rape culture is disbelief and honed use of language carefully aimed.
The trauma of rape culture is its unlanguageability, as trauma itself is before language.
That’s how writing this blog has felt, before language.
I’m often staggered by my attunement to patterns, and the frequent denial that there is a point behind the point in our conversations.
This is where I say there is a point behind the point in persisting allegiance to Joe Biden, just as there is an exhausting self interest in painting survivors as unbelievable.
Those rules and those metrics — the ones disclosures are compared against — haven’t truly expanded so much as our elaboration of who can classify as perfect victims has widened.
And yet in 2020 we still insist on arguing over the availability of alternative facts, somehow always ignoring patriarchy’s, capitalism’s, white supremacy’s, purity culture’s, heterosexism’s, fascism’s, neoliberalism’s strangleholds on us.
When I tune to patterns, I first recall that this is not the first time I’ve commented on Joe Biden’s violence.
I remember the tone of his un-apologies against his published letter to the Stanford survivor before the public knew her as Chanel Miller.
I remember the arch in my back,
folded knuckles forming fists,
licked lips coating over aggravation,
furled butterflies batting their wings against my stomach lining.
I remember how bodies show us they can’t trust someone.
I hear my brain rejecting the formula that says “trust the least distrusted when given the choice” — which is what we keep saying right?
This guy is the good guy among bad guys, so that makes him good.
That makes you bad for saying otherwise.
That makes you a liar.
That makes your disclosure a lie.
That makes a pattern of erasing a pattern of disclosures irrelevant.
For absolute transparency, you should know that #IBelieveTaraReade, and that is — without a doubt — relevant. I believe disclosures are inherently relevant to conversations about people’s experiences.
I hear Angela Davis’ words in my ear from less than 48 hours ago.
As her address concluded the celebration to honor the 20th anniversary of INCITE! and twenty years of providing thought leadership on what Abolition Feminism might require of us, she offered a pattern of caution at an old, predictable tempter.
She tells us, “That which demands change is confronted with strategies that appear to enable change, but actually genuflect before the existing order. This has been the path of so many movements initiated by people often genuinely motivated to change the world.”
She goes on to describe the invitation to palatability that blunts the radical edges of social and political change, and presents the path forward as everything less than a revolution to change the world.
That everything less is actually everything but, and by being less than what is required, it is the equivalent of the least distrusted future, but never the one we need or a way forward.
It turns out that less than what is needed is an impractical option, not to mention visionless.
It turns out that a predator who says he isn’t a predator is still more credible, and a disclosure of violence from the person who experienced it, still, somehow, isn’t.
Over the last year and a half since leaving my position working at a rape crisis center, it has been a laborious process to write what I think in public about presented depictions of sexual violence.
That was not my role previously, and the voice of survivor was subverted by the voice of advocate.
Even more truthfully, the voice of advocate was subverted by institution.
Grooming is an arresting reality, whether it’s carried out through survivorship or advocacy, or parenting, or partnership, or activism, or teaching, or any role we bring with us into political and public spaces.
Grooming is the process of testing our responses to having our boundaries violated a little at a time.
Grooming is the personal experience of having our no blunted and hidden from us, and we take those internalizations into our visions of and reactions to collectivism.
Grooming is how we inherit a formula that asks us to choose the lesser of two people we can’t trust, and dispose of the people who can see what’s been hidden.
Dispose first those who offer their experiences forward for us to handle with care and solidarity, so that we can keep choosing to side with harm doers and abandoned movements.
Don’t let the secrets out now that we’ve spent generations swallowing down.
Compromise is a word we go to a lot when two opposing realities are in tension, and yet in none of those situations does compromise preserve either one.
Rape is not resolved through compromise, anymore than climate emergency, or homelessness, or racism, or white nationalism, or ideologies that hinge on politics of erasure and rape apologists.
The compromise is the people sacrificed to spare us the harder work of accountability, and healing, and revolution.
We need to ask ourselves — why is it easier to character assassinate Tara Reade than it is to imagine that we could elect a president that is not a rapist?
Why is it easier to fight to reopen the economy than it is to fight to pay people to stay home?
Why is it easier to deny climate change than it is to accept that the natural world is thriving with industries closed?
Why is it easier to shut off people’s water than to cancel rent?
Why are we invested in escaping hard truths rather than confronting them?
Why, in this moment of extreme clarity, do we refuse to open our eyes?
Perhaps experience has to outpace meaning making so that the perceptive among us can point, and ask, and refuse to wait to change the world.
Tara Reade can’t wait.
Those dying from COVID 19, those without jobs, those without water, those without housing, those housed with their abusers, those incarcerated and in detention centers, those impacted by war, those working without paid sick leave, those without health insurance, those who believed us when we said that we would support them.
Those who are waiting to see if they’re the next compromise.