Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Sexual Harassment

I’ve told you so much already, revisited

This post from December 2017 popped up yesterday. It’s as true today as it was back then. Not just about me, but about citizens, immigrants and strangers of all ages who know what it’s like to be on the other end of abusive sexual behavior.

I’ve told you so much already
And still it isn’t enough
To assuage the pain
Or grieve the sister and brother-losses
Of this cruel world

When did it begin and where
Will it end?

We haven’t even begun
You and I
To face the depths and height and reach
Of just one sorrow multiplied
Into a thousand permutations
Now dismissed as though
None of it meant a thing

I don’t have to dig up
The bones
Or display the misshapen ligaments
Of my body-soul
They’re on display daily
Don’t you see them?

Or are you lost
In your denial-desire for just
One more touch
One more self-righteous smirk
One more body-soul
To humiliate and throw
On the trash heap
Of been there done that

I don’t even know where
To begin
Or where this will end
It doesn’t feel safe
Or bode well
Given the contours
Of confessional history
That by sleight of hand
Turn the aggrieved
Into the aggressor
Dangerous and deceptive
Not to be believed
Just in it for publicity
Or attention or some other
Self-serving dream

We know not what we do
Was never so true
As it is today and tomorrow

I’ve told you so much already
And still it isn’t enough…..

My dear Friends,
This is where I’ve been in the last weeks and months. Fiercely angry about the cost being exacted from victims of sexual violence. Especially those who dare name it and describe it as experienced by them, and as it has played out for them over the years.

We must invite–not simply ‘allow’–victims’ personal and collective grief, shame, horror and anger to be heard. And felt. As often as necessary, before it’s too late. Our personal and collective humanity is at stake.

As for me, it’s time to step up and speak out yet again. This time not on my behalf, but standing with sisters and brothers I don’t know, may never meet, may not like personally, but identify with to such a degree that remaining silent or ‘moving on’ is not an option.

What does this look like for my blogging? The poem above is one example, though I know I can’t survive living in this hellish place every day. So I’m thinking about the coming year, and how I might begin taking apart pieces I can manage. From time to time. Nothing scholarly or scientific. Just the ravings of an articulate, educated woman fed up with the self-serving nonsense spewed out by those who want this to go away so we can get back to business as usual.

Thank you for visiting, reading, and listening with all your heart.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 December 2017, reposted 3 August 2021
Image found at stock.adobe.com

Thank you, Anita Hill

I’m reposting this in honor of women who stand up to power today,
and in light of news about the Harvey Weinstein case.
 

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017, reposted 25 February 2020
Photo found at gq.com

What I can’t take with me

My electric toothbrush died this morning. After more than 20 years. Burnt out. Busted. Going nowhere.

Which got me thinking about something else I can’t take with me. Not because it’s tangible, but because it’s intangible. Irreplaceable. Even valuable.

I struggle with giving it up because it’s valuable. Which is another way of saying two things.

  1. It isn’t valuable unless I give it away. Hoarding it does nothing for me.
  2. If I hesitate, the opportunity will be lost. Whether it helps anyone or not isn’t the point. I don’t want to live in fear mode. Especially about things that relate to me personally.

So what is it? It’s the opportunity to speak now, in this present moment, on behalf of all women everywhere who, with me, carry scars piled on scars. I don’t omit men and their scars. This time, though, I’m focusing on women.

Women are yet again (in my lifetime) pushing beyond the ‘normal’ cycle of news reporting. Insisting on being heard not once or twice, but over and over. Relentlessly.

Sadly, this has set in motion growing push back, with calls for ‘time out’ to slice and dice various permutations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Why? Because the men being talked about may be unfairly lumped together with all men. Which suggests we have generations of men and women who don’t yet get it.

Sexism, like racism, is in the air. The air we breathe, consciously and unconsciously from cradle to grave. No amount of slicing and dicing will ever capture the reality of what sexism does to the embodied soul of one woman or one little girl. Or the reality that no one is safe from sexism’s fallout.

It will take all of us—women and men alike—to begin turning the tide. We desperately need safe spaces for women to breathe, stand up and speak their minds. Telling their stories, often for the first time. Without fear of being judged, questioned as though on trial, or turned into side shows.

I’m tired of hearing subtle and not-subtle calls for women to Shut Up and Sit Down. It’s time to move on and try Listening for a change. Asking how we got here, and what we already know in our hearts needs to change, and what each of us can do about it.

Last night, just before I went to bed, I wrote these words in my journal as a kind of prayer:

I crave the companionship of women and men who carry scars like mine. Perhaps by naming my scars yet again I’ll find them, or they will find me. And then what will we say to each other and to the world?

Thanks again for listening, and for considering what part you might play in your neighborhood, or wherever you have a voice.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 January 2018
Quote found at squarespace.com

yesterday’s ghosts

yesterday’s ghosts
stir in their graves
dismembered

They want to shame and blame me. Turn me into the problem I am not. Make it my fault. Or the fault of my overactive emotions or hormones run wild.

And the tears. If I would just stop getting all emotional about it. It’s over and done with, Sister. Get used to it. This is the way of the world. If you don’t like the heat, don’t stand so close to the fire.

I’m proud to be a thriving survivor. Like other women and men, I’ve been sexually harassed, humiliated and punished physically, verbally and emotionally. Sadly, the patterns of my childhood and youth didn’t stop when I became an adult woman — a supposedly mature, thoughtful, educated, gifted, responsible, compassionate, dependable, reliable woman, true to her word.

My recent nightmare with its scoffer’s row of men intent on intimidating me brought it all back. As did my recent review of private journal entries from my years as a seminary professor and dean. To say nothing of public figures coming forward to talk about their experiences.

Where will this lead? Is it simply the media event of the year? I pray it is not.

My father set the stage early in my life. He was the boss. I was not. He wore his medals proudly: Male, Ordained, Father, The Boss.

Instead of learning to stand on my own two feet without apology, I was subjected to formation in unquestioning submission to men (unless they were obviously ‘bad’ men), submission to my teachers, submission to my employers, submission to the governing powers, and submission to God as a disobedient, rebellious, stubborn and angry little girl.

My father also formed me in the sick opposites of these submissions. These included lack of respect for my female body, female voice, thoughts, instincts, intuitions, emotions, and my identity as God’s beloved daughter child. They also included formation in going along to get along.

  • Smiling whether I wanted to or not
  • Being polite instead of truthful
  • Not hurting other people’s feelings
  • Not embarrassing myself or others in public
  • Doing as I was told, without asking questions or grimacing

Today I’m holding out for women and men who won’t allow their ghosts to rest in peace until justice is done. Not for us, but for all the children of this world, especially those without safe allies. Otherwise, this will indeed become a passing fad–for all but the powerful few.

I’m in this  for the long haul. How about you?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 December 2017
Image found at raisingintuitivechildren.com

Thank you, Anita Hill

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017
Photo found at gq.com

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