“I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation”
Abigail Adams wrote that in 1776. Her words have never seemed more prescient than they do today.
Surely, this is a time where many ladies wish to foment a rebellion. So many of us, today, want to burn a system to the ground that could put a man like Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of multiple accounts of sexual assault, on the Supreme Court. Especially when there is such a strong sense that justice has not been done. The FBI’s investigation was limited. Mark Judge, an alleged witness, was never subpoenaed and made to testify. Ford’s nuanced, precise testimony seemingly could not hold up to a man shouting about how much he enjoyed beer.
Some (male) people might be concerned that women will foment the rebellion. To them I can say with certainty that the rebellion is already underway.
Like Ford, women “are used to being collegial.” So the rebellion might look more polite and orderly than some people expected.
That does not mean we are not furious.
“Women are so angry,” Trump declared in a rather garbled press conference about Kavanaugh on Tuesday night: “Women are very angry.”
It may be the first time I’ve agreed with Trump. God, are we angry. If we had calendars, like Kavanaugh, for many of us, this week would just be represented by the word “fury” scrawled in all caps.
For years, women’s anger has been dismissed. We have been taught to subsume anything even resembling anger at all costs. Watch a woman speak in a tone that does not convey deference and watch her be called "strident". Watch a woman speaking firmly be accused of "yelling". If she is not smiling, she seems "angry". If woman are openly upset, they will be called "hysterical," a term which implies that the root of their anger is a form of madness.
Mercifully, for the first time in a long time-perhaps the first time ever-women’s rage is being seen as valuable and useful. Soraya Chemaly’s book Rage Becomes Her and Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad are both recent books delving into the way women’s fury have created a more just world. In Chemaly’s book, she remarks that, “Anger has a bad rap, but it’s actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response trespass, violation and moral disorder.”
And women’s anger does create change, even here, even in this age. In an excerpt from Good and Mad published in New York Magazine, Traister cites not only my personal favorite angry American woman, Abigail Adams, but the many times American women’s anger has been the impetus for social movements. Those range from the women at textile mills in Lowell Massachusetts staging walk-outs in the 19th century, in one of the first iterations of a labor movement, to Emmett Till’s mother cracking open her son’s coffin in order to reveal the damage done to him to the world. Doing so, in Traister’s words, “lit a match under a burgeoning social struggle that would help to partially remake the United States and lessen (though hardly obliterate) the legal and political obstacles to racial parity.”
We’ve been angry before. We’ve channeled our anger to remake society, before. We’re good at this.
“Why aren’t women out in the streets then?” Some people are wondering.
Those people are remarkably unobservant. We are. Seventy percent of the membership and almost all of the leadership of local resistance groups are women. We are outside The Hart Senate Office Building chanting “We Care” and “Abolish I.C.E.” We are organizing walk-outs to protest Kavanaugh. We have been out there, in the streets, numbering in the millions since Trump was elected.
And yet, each year, when we march, Republican men wonder why women are even marching.
Honest question: what exactly are these women marching for https://t.co/M1PnadkDiL
- Harrison Barron (@harrison_barron) January 21, 2017
What are these women marching for???
The “right to EXPOSE THEMSELVES”??? https://t.co/8mEP7o5hfP
- Dave Jones (@mdj17) January 21, 2018
I don't get what the fuck all these women are marching for all over the place. Like when did women loose all their rights??
- Dylan (@dylanobney42) January 21, 2017
That is easy to answer this week. When we march, we are marching against your blithe dismissal of the fact that women’s lives have value. We are marching to inform you that we are people, not objects for male pleasure. We are marching to show that our lived experiences of pain will no longer be something you can dismiss with a laugh and a shrug.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, when asked what she remembered most about her assault, replied, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two.”
It’s telling how little Republicans have evolved in 50 years that, during this trial, as a woman described her sexual assault, republicans like Kurt Schlichter were tweeting, “I’m laughing.”
Women are not.
Women aren’t going to keep politely laughing along with you. Even Republican women, who will tie themselves into knots trying to justify bad male behavior, have seemingly reached the end of their rope.
They are fleeing the Republican party in droves. In 2002, 36 percent of young women identified as Republican. In 2018, 23 percent do. Steve Bannon (has said “The Republican college-educated woman is done. They’re gone. They were going anyway at some point in time. Trump triggers them.” I would suggest that it’s the entire GOP’s dismissal and mockery of issues like the #MeToo movement that “triggers” them, but okay. This, all by itself should be a message to men on the Right to stop laughing, and start taking women seriously.
But they’re refusing to. If anything, they’re leaning in to misogyny.
In Kavanaugh’s confirmation they have revealed their true colors completely.
The GOP has made it clear that confirming a man accused by multiple people of sexual assault, who responded to accusations by bemoaning what a hard time he’d had as a result, was not only tolerable to them, it was desirable. Many onlookers saw Kavanaugh presenting as angry and entitled - he alternated between crying, yelling, lashing out at Senator Amy Klobuchar and expressing his fondness for beer.
Christina Cauterucci at Slatewrote an article called, “Brett Kavanaugh’s Testimony Made It Easier Than Ever to Picture Him as an Aggressive, Entitled Teen.” New York Times writer Mara Gay said on MSNBC “You hear a lot of entitlement coming from him.” Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post quipped on Twitter, “is this how people get to talk if they don't spend their entire lives being scrutinized for tone?”
is this how people get to talk if they don't spend their entire lives being scrutinized for tone
- Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) September 27, 2018
It’s fair to say that, among women, Kavanaugh’s speech did not go over too well.
But Donald Trump Jr. loved it. During the Trial, Trump Jr. tweeted, “I love Kavanaugh’s tone… others in the GOP should take notice!” Trump himself was similarly enthusiastic, tweeting, “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting.”
I love Kavanaugh’s tone. It’s nice to see a conservative man fight for his honor and his family against a 35 year old claim with ZERO evidence and lots of holes that amounts to nothing more than a political hit job by the Dems.
Others in the GOP should take notice!
- Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 27, 2018
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
The GOP has given women an incredibly good reason to vote against them during the midterms. They’ve presented us with the image of a man screaming about how he’s the real victim in sexual assault accusations to rebel against.
And women across the world are already rising to stand against the powerful men like him. And not just “perfect” women anymore. For a long time, our imperfection, the fact that we might be revealed not to have perfectly walked the tightrope of female respectability, has been an impetus for women to remain silent. Rise up and call out men and you’ll be told it’s because you’re a slut. Or ugly. Or dirty, in some way that means you deserved your poor treatment.
This still happens, but it seems as though this year women just stopped caring. Women like Stormy Daniels are coming forward to fight against Trump and the GOP. Jill Filipovic wrote of how Rudy Giuliani remarked “I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman, or a woman of substance, or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman, and as a person. So, Stormy, you want to bring a case? Let me cross-examine you.” Seemingly, he did this with the intention of shaming her, as women have often been shamed in the past. Except-and this was unusual-it did not seem to bother her. She did not flinch. Stormy remained, as Filipovic wrote, “an imperfect, entirely self-possessed woman telling her story with clarity and without shame. And here we are, actually listening to her.”
The day is coming where, when men make statements intended to remind us of how imperfect we are, they will be met not with fear, but with an eye-roll. Our imperfections do not negate our truths. There is such great power in the fact that we will no longer be shamed.
And this rebellion, in its large and small manifestations, will go on. Women are not going anywhere. We are going to keep existing, and more and more, we are going to share our truths. “Bravery”, as Senator Leahy told Dr. Ford, “is contagious.” This week has been horrible, but it is one battle lost, not a war. Women are running for office in unprecedented numbers. We may suffer under the leadership of old white men who have little regard for women. It seems increasingly unlikely that the next generation will.
So, don’t let anyone tell you that the rebellion has yet to begin. The events of this week only mean that it must not yet end.
Our rage burns so brightly. I look out, and I see a nation of women incandescent with rage. We will burn patriarchal institutions to the ground. And I pray that, for our daughters, the blaze will light the way forward.
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