What are the cumulative effects?

Dear President Trump,

Any day here I’ll be able to step back and write you a succinct summary of my thoughts on the opportunities and motives I think enable men to continue treating women like second-class citizens and allow abusive, misogynistic behavior to continue to flourish and fester but today is not the day. I flew back to Seattle early this morning after not sleeping well at all last night and am too wiped out to manage such a task. Plus, I realize there’s something I’ve been holding back that needs to be said if I am to be able to do this vast topic any sort of justice because as Feminist Theory 102 maintains, truly, the personal is political.

There have been seven or eight different times in my life when boys or men crossed my boundaries in sexualized (spellcheck fail) ways, starting when I was 5. They range from a stranger exposing himself to me and some friends to a neighbor boy raping me, and his sister, whom he regularly raped, helping to restrain me to another stranger exposing himself just to me on my way home from school to an old guy on a bus grabbing my butt to a middle-age guy saying lewd things to me when I was 12 or 13 at a public swimming pool to an older relative telling me at 13 I was being a cock-tease in trying to address a problematic mutual flirtation with another 13 year old to an older co-worker cornering me in isolated places and talking dirty to me, to a superior at work repeatedly bringing me flowers to the point where others joked that he was my boyfriend. I’m not counting all the times random boys and men have called out judgments of my general looks, breasts, butt, etc. as I’ve tried to traverse from one point to another. There are also likely things I’ve forgotten, but I think it’s clear that even in the life of a pretty ordinary girl/woman, this sort of thing is apt to happen many, many times.

[This is Part I. Normally I’m ok with the challenge of editing down my thoughts to fit the 2500 character limit of your “What would you like to say” box, but for this one I am just not willing to constrain myself, so the blessing will come in Part II in a few minutes.]

Part II.

What are the cumulative effects of all this debasing bombardment of my personhood? A partial list of the fall out includes that I have had to wrestle with all sorts of messed up ideas about my culpability, I routinely wonder whether there is any true safety in the world, I frequently find myself questioning whether there are any good boys or men in the world, I often don’t trust my ability to read danger signs. I could go on and on, but at this point, suffice it to say that all of this has culminated in a profound lack of security that is draining and distracting. My new favorite poet, Maggie Smith, who I’ve been quoting lately, has a couple of lines about this in a poem (“Slipper”) that brought me to tears the other night: “Imagine if I could / wear my home and call it my body, /wear my body and call it home.” Indeed.

You probably have no idea what it is like to not feel at home in your body, to not be able to wear your body and call it home, but I would venture that virtually every girl and woman on the planet knows exactly the sense of longing, rage, and deep, deep sadness that is conveyed in those simple lines.

May we all be safe and at home in our bodies.
May we all be happy with our bodies.
May we all take good, good care of our bodies.
May we all respect the sovereignty of our own and each other’s bodies.

Tracy Simpson

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