On my flight down to Florida, on an unseasonably warm afternoon in Boston, my sister and I were seated next to an older man, in his late fifties, flying down to see his second wife.
After about four small bottles of gin and one can of tonic, the small talk my sister had been fielding turned political.
“I’m guessing you girls didn’t vote for Trump?” He asked, although he clearly already knew the answer.
“No” we both answered quickly.
“I did, but he’s an idiot. Every time he tweets, the stock market plunges. It’s ridiculous” He retorted. I’ve gotten used to hearing these kinds of excuses from the “fiscally conservative” voters. I wasn’t in the slightest surprised than an older white man who owned property and a business, and seemed to have no interest in anyone other than himself, would vote for someone as problematic as Trump. He was in fact the quintessential Trump voter.
After a few more comments of the same ilk, the talk turned to that of Judge Cavanaugh. At this point, I turned back to listen.
“That woman, the one who accused him, what’s her name-“
“Dr. Blasey Ford” I interjected.
“Yeah her. I mean the things she said. She sounded pretty daffy. But what I don’t understand is why it matters. Why didn’t she just say something earlier if that’s true.”
At this point, my ire was immeasurable. It’s this complete lack of empathy, this ignorance, that makes me so frustrated.
With people like this, you can’t use reason. They’re set in their ways, and no amount of arguing on my end will change that. Maybe it’s generational, or maybe it’s something else entirely. They blame the victims and see no problem with the way that Brett Kavanaugh held himself – self righteous and pompous, as if the whole situation was completely ludacris and above him. He is the Brock Turner of an earlier generation, and the definition of toxic masculinity.
And despite all these feelings, this intense anger, I was at loss for words. I said nothing, and instead turned back to look about the window, kicking myself for staying silent. Didn’t I owe Dr Blasey Ford more than that? Didn’t I owe all survivors brave enough to come forward more than my silence?
I was furious with myself. Why wasn’t I able to speak in the face of such blatant disrespect and ignorance?
I’ve been thinking about this over the past few days, and I realized the exact reason I couldn’t speak up was the same reason it takes so much courage for survivors to come forward. I was fighting against a force that felt so much larger and stronger than me. To be submissive in the face of older white men is what women have been taught for hundreds of years. This idea, so deeply ingrained in me, stymied my voice like a hand clasped over my mouth.
Stay silent. Respect authority.
These internalized norms I’ve fought so adamantly against for my adult life stared me right in the face and I was stuck. I could have been an advocate, but when the time came I couldn’t.
I’m still furious, as this exchange swirls through my thoughts days later. But this anger isn’t hurting anyone but myself now. Nor is it helping anyone either. I wanted to share the story to bring awareness to my own shortcomings as an advocate and an ally. I’m not perfect, and no one is. I’m hoping that next time this situation presents itself, as it most certainly will, that I’ll be brave enough to bite the hand that silenced me and speak up. We all owe the Dr Fords of the world that much.
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