I wasn’t aware of the crack, the breaking of something inside of me.
I wasn’t surprised to hear of one more man sexually abusing a woman or a teenage girl. Like most women, I expect it. I know it as a truth, as “the way things are“.
It’s such a good thing what’s happening, women (and with some men too) finally feeling safe enough to speak out. Finally being heard and for the most part actually believed.
What I didn’t expect was the anger.
My anger. I didn’t even know what it was when it started to bubble up in me last night. I only knew I was feeling something that I didn’t recognize. Something I didn’t know what to do with.
At that point, what came to my mind were the few pairs of white underpants in my dresser drawer. I never wore them, I don’t like white underwear, but they came in the package with the other colors. Suddenly I was driven to make those underpants mine.
I sat at the dining room table with a couple of black markers and started drawing on my underpants.
I couldn’t tell you why, but there was nothing else I wanted to do at that moment.
Then I had a dream…
I was in a museum or zoo. There was an old Chimpanzee and a deer-like animal sitting on a couch together cuddling, as if they were on display. The Chimpanzee was aggressively massaging the deer and singing a song called “What is Love ?” I knew, in the wild, the Chimpanzee was the predator and the deer the prey, but the Chimpanzee had no teeth and his nails had been removed. So at first what looked like a loving relationship between the two animals turned out to really be a predator trying desperately to kill his prey, but unable to.
Maybe I was creating a shield, claiming my body as my own by drawing on my underpants.
In Sue Monk Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she writes about the myth of the Minotaur. The Minotaur is a creature, half man and half bull. He lives in a labyrinth under the palace of King Minos. The Kings daughter Ariadne, helps Theseus find a way out of the labyrinth after he kills the Minotaur if he promises to marry her and take her away from her father’s kingdom.
Kidd writes: In the female psyche, the Minotaur represents negative, uncivilized (beastly), masculine power, the part the old King had driven underground. …the Minotaur is the bullish, bullying, bulldozing force of the patriarchy internalized in the cellar of a woman’s psyche. It is a presence that works invisibly, hampering, limiting, driving, even destroying a woman’s inner and outer life.
When I read this, I immediately thought of Donald Trump. How with his being elected president, the “old part of the king” (or as in my dream, the true nature of the Chimpanzee) has risen up from the underground, how, now it’s all out in the open.
I’ve been silently cheering each time another woman comes forward and tells her story.
I’ve been allowing myself to feel so good about it, I forgot to let myself feel the pain of it.
And then, last night, the anger.
Slowly seeping through the widening crack, till it broke wide open this morning. It crashed through my body, coming out in curses and tears. A life time of internalized anger. My very own underground…surfacing, spewing hot rocks and fire. “I’m angry”, I yelled through tears, “I’m so fucking angry.”
It came in waves and bursts lasting an hour or so. I let it come, working its way though me. I’ve felt anger before, but not like this. It wasn’t free-flowing, or misdirected.
I knew what the anger is about.
It’s about my personal experience of growing up in a family where my sister and I weren’t seen as equals to my brother, and my mother was subservient to my father. Where I was told that if I walked past a group of men, instead of crossing the street, it was my fault when they made lewd remarks about me. And how that dynamic lead me into an early marriage, that I thought was an escape, but turned out to be another relationship where my feeling and thoughts were dismissed and ignored.
It’s the anger that comes from with living in a society that accepts sexism as if it’s normal. That in so many institutionalized ways tells women and girls that they are subordinate to men. A society whose culture is to silence women through intimidation and fear.
It’s the anger I tucked away, replacing it with fear, shame and confusion. Blaming myself for men’s inappropriate sexual behavior and at the same time wanting a man’s approval at almost any price. And the frustration of not being able to understand or articulate it all.
It’s not one thing, not one incident in my life, but a million little things. Words, images, touches, gestures that over a lifetime have made me feel inferior to men. And I sometimes wonder what my life could have been like if I hadn’t believed that lie for so long.
The anger has subsided now. Maybe I released it all. Although I have a feeling there’s more inside of me. I do feel like there’s some healing going on. And somehow, drawing on my underpants, telling my story that way, is a part of it.