The Ford/Kavanaugh situation has heightened my exploration of what it will take to end the destructive, unjust, white male-dominated systems that have been in place for thousands of years.
On the day of the hearing, I cried as I listened to Dr. Ford give her account of being sexually assaulted, and screamed at my computer as Kavanaugh spewed out his rage. When all was said and done, I felt depressed because it seemed that very little has changed in our country’s power structures since 1991, when Anita Hill faced yet another committee of angry white men who fuck with women’s lives. Exhausted, depleted, and angry, I fell into bed at 8:00 PM.
Unfortunately, I was awake for hours that night, hearing the aggressive, indignant voices of Kavanaugh and his band of angry white men in my head, triggering thoughts and images of all the boys and men who assaulted me when I was a teenager and young woman. The next day my staff and I shared our experiences, and discussed the varying levels of assault, aggression, and manipulation we—and most girls and women—are subjected to, and how it has harmed the lives of so many. Community helped, but the residue of my past, combined with the current events, left me disconnected from the tools I have developed over the years that sustain and heal me.
"The quality of kindness is absolutely essential if we are ever to get out from under patriarchy."
Breathing deeply, in and out, over and over, I allow myself to relax into this present moment, as just writing about this topic is extremely triggering.
It felt so good to yell at my computer screen the day of the hearing. Did expressing my outrage help? At the time, it sure seemed so. But the end result was that my body and psyche hurt, oh how they hurt.
That day I was unconscious of the tension building in my body. Today, I was fully aware of the pain expanding in my right shoulder as I read that the senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. I couldn’t stop my muscles from going rigid. I am still in pain, but my awareness of what is happening reminds me that pain is just energy, and that consciousness is what allows it to transform.
I don’t have a definitive answer (is that even possible?), but what I do know is that I keep coming back to the idea that the quality of kindness is absolutely essential if we are ever to get out from under patriarchy. Kindness. Such a simple concept, but so very hard for humans to master, especially in situations of injustice. Why would I want to be kind to my oppressors? Because that is the only way I know not to become like them.
I have always been someone who speaks truth to power. And I will continue to stand up to the dominant culture that oppresses marginalized people and wants full control over women’s bodies. An activist I will be until the day I leave my body. But what I am learning as I grow older is that I do not want, in any way, shape, or form, to hurt myself or others, for that is what will make me just like the power-grabbing, rage-filled, entitled people who rape (in every sense of the word) the earth and its inhabitants.
My commitment now is to being kind—to myself as well as to others. This doesn’t mean I won’t speak my truth with conviction, and it doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to change the systems that cause harm. And it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t get angry ever again. A fully enlightened being I am not! But holding kindness as my intention towards myself and others keeps me breathing deeply, nourishing every cell in my body, keeping me capable of lasting as an activist, which is essential if I am to continue doing my part in making positive change in the world until I leave it.
Today I am sad. My body hurts. I ache knowing how much more destruction will happen in the coming years due to the events of these past weeks. But I remember that no one has “won” today, as patriarchy hurts all people, even those who hold privilege and are blind to its damaging effects. Will I see the world become a loving, just place before I die? Unlikely. But I will do my part in making it so in my sphere of influence by being extra kind to myself, and to those with whom I come into contact. I can’t say it will be easy, but this is my commitment to nonviolent communication, which I believe is the only hope we have for the world right now.
I'd love to hear the ways you practice nonviolent communication. Until we get our comments section activated, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll respond—with kindness—no matter what you say :)
Header photo by Ty Williams