First, a confession: sometimes I get angry at God for making me a woman.
It is we who are victims. It is we who suffer “violence-against-“. It is we who are told when and where we should walk, and with whom, in order to stay safe from the hovering demons of violence whose eyes peer at us from the shadows.
The eyes. We use them to define ourselves, those eyes from without. Our psyches balance two minds, one struggling for supremacy inside our souls, one processing the perception. How do others see me? As victim, as prey, as inconsequential? As woman?
I know that if I am seen as woman, I am seen as deficient. I am seen as silly, a trifle. I know the look, and I know that no amount of standing in front of someone, waving my arms, screaming “I am me! I have labored! I have something to offer!” will pierce the veil of gender they have lain over my unwilling head.
So I have layered accomplishments on top of my breast like a shield. I have earnestly become who I am to be and in the light of day dared the world to tell me I was anything else. But when the sun goes away that changes, and I know the truth. I am vulnerable, and this is never going away.
You can keep your false outrage over a politician who said something so ignorant that it barely warrants comment. I have outrage enough. And I have rage, a sweet small reservoir of rage I have saved for when I need it, but which I know will never be enough to keep me safe.
We’ve spoken today of “legitimate rape” as if assault comes in categories, and the victim must have met certain criteria to have earned the gold star of legitimacy. It can’t be the act that is not real, it must be the woman.
We look at women everywhere. Their lined eyes smolder out of store-fronts and off of billboards, those women paid to make us think that women are only passive receptacles of men. They are larger than life, they must be real. Those of us here on the ground are the myth, those of us trying so hard to be individuals rather than stereotypes. And even if we succeed at being real, we will never be safe.
This is a burden. It is not the only burden a human can carry, still it is a millstone disguised as a glamorous gemstone. To struggle against its weight is a futile yet noble fight.