Sitting at my desk in my first year of graduate school, I heard a prominent male professor come in and give some life advice to a male graduate student the next bay over. It was a pearl of wisdom passed down to him from his adviser. “A father bull and a son bull stand on top of a hill overlooking beautiful cows. The son says, ‘Let’s run down the hill and fuck a cow.’ The father says, ‘No, son, let’s walk down the hill and fuck all the cows.’”
Up until this point in time, we have been those cows.
I’ve heard a number of times in the past week from men about how they are shocked women are willing to turn on men they have known for so long from a ‘simple accusation’ from another woman. They cannot believe women will side with another woman, of whom they know nothing, over the word of a man they know much more about. This bafflement is at the crux of the issue. We, as women, are not surprised. We have been harboring our own stories for years, or decades, awaiting this reckoning over the pervasive abuse of women. We believe the women because we have been waiting to hear from them. We have seen the bulls on the hill.
“Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” — POTUS
One of the moments that motivated me to uproot my life to run for Congress was the national excusing of Donald Trump’s abhorrent bragging about sexual assault on Access Hollywood. After the brushing off of such repugnant behavior and subsequent election of such a repugnant man, women like myself silently mobilized. We knew we could not tolerate our daughters growing up in a culture that excuses such behavior.
The contributions of white women to the election of Donald Trump was disheartening. A large portion of our demographic was responsible for our own oppression. This has always been true, but was more crisply apparent in 2016. Here, I think it is important to remember that while many women perpetuate the patriarchy, they are not the ultimate beneficiaries. Many women have been operating under belief in the essential lie women and minorities are fed: we must play by the rules of the powerful to get ahead, and only then can we make things better for the next generation.But here, in the election of Donald Trump, on the cusp of the election of a known child predator to the US Senate, the lie is clear.
Potential US Senator, Judge Moore, accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl.
Without the lie, there is only one option for ascension: solidarity. We can no longer be fragmented by D’s and R’s, old and young. We must believe in the stories of others. We must firmly call for the fall of powerful abusers. We are 51% of the population and we deserve to feel safe in our own country. We deserve to claim positions of power without suffering abuse. We deserve to stop watching men who have treated us as disposable pawns in their careers ascend to the highest levels.
It’s time we rise in women’s solidarity. It’s about time we stop tearing other women down as though there is only so much room for women at the top. It’s about time we lift each other up, so we can occupy higher ranks. It’s about time we take one another’s sides. It’s time we set a standard that prevents the election, and demands the resignation, of anybody who has committed sexual abuse. We are 56% of votes, we can claim both parties to be pro-women.
Al Franken photo, pretending to grope a sleeping woman.
We can only tolerate abuses by our elected leaders that we are comfortable propagating in society. We should only excuse an abuse that we would tolerate being done to our own children. With respect to Al Franken, I will never be willing to look my daughter in the eyes and tell her that I would allow a man to sexually humiliate her for a cheap joke. The standard of never having sexually abused another person is an incredibly low bar for the privilege of serving as a US Senator. Thus, I want him to resign. He will never be able to be the former strong Senator we once held him to be. He will never be able to take the moral high ground again. I want him to be replaced by a progressive woman for whom Franken works to fundraise in order to keep the seat strongly Democratic.
I am far more upset by the Conyers allegations. The suppression of sexual harassment and signing of non-disclosure agreements settled with hush money paid by the American taxpayer is intolerable. The system Congress currently has to deal with such accusations is the very definition of institutional sanctioning of sexual abuse. Settling such personal abuses with government funds should be considered fraud. I am glad to see a real discussion occurring on Capitol Hill about how to prevent such shielding of powerful men from necessary consequences and ensure victims find justice. I hope Conyers and the other two instances Speier has reported undergo thorough ethics investigations and, if they did commit sexual harassment, resign immediately.
Neither Conyers nor any of these men are irreplaceable. There are lots of strong fighters who have not sexually exploited women, many of whom are women. The idea that we need flawed men to fight for our rights is part of the essential lie of our oppression. It is what keeps us docile cows, letting the bulls stay in charge. But, if we learn one thing from the #MeToo movement, it should be that it is time for women to occupy the hills.
A male friend remarked about the recent revelations, “It’s dark times we are living in.” But it is not a dark time, there has been a giant light shined upon the darkness we have inhabited. I look forward to my daughter growing up in this light, where she has no secrets and can live a life without fear. I look forward to a light that clears away the shadows inside which we and our children are sexually abused. I bask in the light under which women unify.