Monday, 11 July 2016

Can you imagine Walt Whitman being groped on the subway and then continuing his majestic praise of our beautiful world without losing momentum? I can't. And yet, I know powerful women writers who have to go through that scenario in one way or another repeatedly, including then having to listen to the inner demons mocking with insinuations of insignificance, while the sordidness of it all puts a lid on the beauty of the world for us.

Here is what writer and editor Lisa Marie Basile (Luna, Luna and other literary venues) posted on Facebook today, re-posted here with her permission:

I'm on a relatively empty L train from Brooklyn at 11pm wearing a semi "provocative" outfit (not really, if you're a human). Some men come in and stare at me. I put my head down, feel an immediate blend of shame, fear, rage and disgust. After two minutes a man comes and slides his hand up my thigh and sits next to me.
I immediately move and go down the car. The 7 or so other men say nothing, and I don't know if anyone saw. No one reacts. I'm the only girl in the car.
The guy who touched me moved down to me, at the next stop I change cars and he follows. I stand near a group. He gets off.
Every time - every fucking time - I think I should have an editor-of-luna-luna-radical-feminist response.
I think my Italian rage will come out and I will make him pay. But it doesn't, I just shrink and shrink and feel mostly bad that I left the house with my tits on display or my makeup done, internalizing the slut-gets-what-she-asks-for reaction.
There is a lot in this world to feel bad about. The black community is reeling, dying, and the world is a shitstorm of colonialist values and oil-stealing and rape and massacre at the hands of those who should be protecting us.
So I feel bad for even thinking that this issue is a REAL issue and then I feel bad that I feel bad. And I feel bad that, as a person of relative influence and privilege (insofar as education and platform is concerned) I can't get my shit together enough to deal with the feelings of shame and dirtiness that rise when a nasty fucker touches ME without my consent IN A PUBLIC PLACE because they have enough power to do so.
As an educated woman who has a community of educated, compassionate, beautiful and powerful people at my disposal to learn from and talk to, I feel somewhat like a failure - that I can take an entire decade to go from an ignorant humanist to a dedicated feminist with the vocabulary and passion to dialogue with others... And still be reduced to a victim, a mess on a public train platform where I watch other women be handled and watched and followed and where I am a weakling who walks away and has no control over the shithead who thrust his hands up my legs.
Why can't I just come up with the appropriate internal responses to this?
Why, even with this knowledge and understanding of sexism and power dynamic, I am that woman who can't even muster the self-love not to self-blame?
Think of all the others who endure this every day. Think of all the power structures that exist that don't give women the ability to even question the assault they face daily. And here I am complaining (or what is it, really?) and being THAT typical victim.
I hate being a victim. I feel whiny, repetitious. Ugh. I was a victim of sexual assault when I was a young girl. I endured a lengthy psychological trial and legal proceedings that ultimately did not pass in my favor or in the favor of the other girls that were assaulted by the pedophile pervert who took advantage of us.
I don't want to be a statistic. It makes me feel dirty (obviously terrible) but the reality is that they're the dirty ones. They're the sick ones.
But the fact that I wrote this - and that I talk to women very often as an editor and friend - shows that we will win.
We won't be silent -- and everyone who physically asserts themselves when they have no permission, whether it's rape or an ass-grab on the street - will face the sound of us saying "no more." I don't care if it doesn't happen until I'm dead. It will one day.
Even if it takes some internally unhealthy bullshit to get there.