My gymnastics teacher grabbed me by the pussy. I was five. He put his hand between my legs, cupped my crotch, said “squeeze.” Seventh-grade social studies teacher, kept me after class, held my hand, told me I could “always talk to” him. “Any time,” he said, stroking my hand in the empty classroom, “any time.” At 22 or 3, a man exposed himself to me in an elevator, touched himself, said “don’t be scared.” I pressed a button, ran away. A man I dated when I was 29 casually told me, “If you ever suck another man’s cock and kiss me with that mouth, I’ll cut your head off.” Less than a year ago, at a party in the woods, out in a field, a drunk stranger lay down on top of me, I said no, he tried to kiss me, I said no, he took his pants down, held me down, pulled at mine. I kneed him, got out from under. Five days ago, a man broke into my home. (That was not sexual assault, just attempted burglary.) And I feel lucky. So very, very lucky. Because so many women have endured so much worse.
I finally understand what triggering is. It is the sound of a major party presidential candidate making these threats as casually as he pops a Tic-Tac. As he casually pops a Tic-Tac. That’s triggering.
But it’s also healing. Because now we are sharing our stories, and saying it is #notokay.
Trump has initiated what in the alternative health knowledge system is called a “detox reaction.” When the body eliminates long-buried toxins, it can be ugly on the surface. Skin breaks out. Skin flakes off. You can run a fever. But when it’s over, you are cleansed.
After the home invasion, my friend the shaman-in-training came over with a tote bag and assembled me an altar. We did a ritual to cleanse and protect my space. She speaks of the divine feminine, the divine masculine—and the toxic. Trump, she says, is the toxic masculine, but the feminine is rising.
Why did that happen? No real reason. (Well, systemic poverty has something to do with robbery. And a door without a deadbolt breaks, in.) But, my friend said, she thinks it resulted in the awakening of a warrior goddess in me. The very morning of the home invasion was the beginning of the Durga Puja festival in Hindu culture, the ten-day celebration of an eight-armed goddess who slays demons and rides a tiger.
There was something divine in me when I rose naked and roaring from my bed to fight. A cocktail of neurotransmitters. A hormonal response. Divine Providence. Divine Durga. Divine Adrenalin.
That chemical our mortal bodies make makes us mortals more like gods. And there is something divine in the way we are bringing these stories, these ugly stories, these shameful stories, these universal stories into the light. Though that same chemical cocktail can imprint trauma in our bodies, make us suffer, make us sick, make us freeze instead of fight or flee.
“Why is this happening?” I have fretted and lamented about the trauma of the Trump candidacy, since it began. There are reasons why. And there also is no why. There is no reason for anything. There is only what we make of it, and how we respond.
We are responding to this ugliness with the beauty of truth. Trump triggers. Trump is toxic. But–and this is how we win–the sicker he reveals himself and our society to be, the more we heal.
Something toxic in the body of our nation is coming to the surface. We are talking now, not only about the toxicity of Trump, but the other forms of sexism so endemic to our government and discourse that it took perverted Trump, perversely, to bring them out.
“Which is worse,” asks Rebecca Traitster in New York magazine, “Threatening to grab someone by the pussy or forcing someone to carry and give birth to a baby that is the result of rape? Which is worse: Popping a Tic Tac in preparation for forced extramarital kissing with a stranger or actively discouraging women’s full participation in the workforce? The answer is: None of these is worse; they are all of a kind.”
We are finally talking more openly about violence against women and sexual assault, and the equally violent and more insidious sexism of all the other Republicans. When they responded to Trump with their attempts to talk about their “wives and daughters,” women Tweeted right back the obvious. We are not “theirs,” we are not “yours,” we are not properly defined by being “wives and daughters.” We are people.
We the People are talking about how the Republicans’ legislative misogyny is as abhorrent as this so-called “locker room talk,” which is not talk at all, but also action, “twenty minutes of action,” as the rapist’s father obfuscated, a lifetime of action, a set of actions that are a culture, a culture of rape, which we have finally named: rape culture.
We are talking about rape culture. Louder and louder. We are telling. We are screaming.
Defending myself in the home invasion, I screamed so loud I lost my voice. So I unearthed the whistle from my biggest backpack, from the pocket with the waterproof matches and the compass I don’t know how to adjust for declination. It is sold at REI as a “safety whistle,” but as I clipped it to my keychain, it became its cruder, truer name—rape whistle.
We’re blowing the whistle on you now, Donald. And all the rest of you. He is not the only one, Paul, Mitch, Mitt, Justice John. The Donald is not the only rapist in the Party.
Bernie may have been the better man, but it means something to me now to see Hillary on the stage, wearing the pantsuits in this dysfunctional and abusive national family. When we were in the seventh grade and the social studies teacher was holding our hands (it wasn’t just me) and the science teacher was feeling girls up in his private office (it’s never just you) and the male school aide who worked in the special ed class was molesting the developmentally disabled kids in the elevator, Hillary was wearing her headband and still using her maiden name.
She is no maiden now. She is an elder stateswoman, and a warmongering one. Her hair is a neat helmet. And I get it now. It had to be her.
She has blood on her hands. Anybody who digs will find more dirt. But the way you get bloody and dirty is to fight. No one can say she doesn’t know how to fight.
The goddess celebrated by the Durga Puja festival still underway has eight arms. She carries a chakra, which is a throwing weapon, a bow and arrow, a sword, a spear, a club, a thunderbolt, and a trident. That leaves just two more arms for the conch shell and the lotus flower. In Western imagery, the female love goddesses have been, quite literally, disarmed. Botticelli’s Venus stands demurely in her half shell, as if offered up on a platter to be eaten alive, using both her arms to cover what Trump would call her tits, her pussy. A few pretty pink flowers blow around. Where are her other six arms? Where is her arsenal?
I’m sleeping in my own bed again. I lay out my arsenal each night. Glasses, though I’m still too scared to take my contacts out. Phone, connected to power, charging. Rape whistle. A chunk of rose quartz from the Black Hills I pocketed for love vibes but now weaponize for war. A two by four. A pocketknife, unsheathed. Headlamp, holy water. Amazon Prime informs me that “your order of pepper spray has shipped.”
Maybe the eight-armed goddess doesn’t only live in myth. Maybe she lives in my house, sleeps in my bed. Maybe she lives in me. What rose, roaring, from my bed in the night wasn’t just me. It was more powerful than that.
These words, these stories we are telling, they are more powerful than Tweets. Little birds tweet. We are roaring like lions. We are legion like warriors.
In descending to this not unprecedented low, American politics has ascended to the level of myth. We turn to myth when we require stories to explain our bloody, dirty, earthbound experiences, to explain the things we cannot explain. Myths are our collective stories, distilled out of generations. They endure because they are universally true. But our individual stories, themselves near universal—they are true.
Get him, Hillary. Rise up. Take him down. Don’t just stand there. Do something. Or just stand there. It does something. Open your mouth. Use your voice. Bitch that Trump like a rabid dog, like a pussy that grabs back. If you stole the primary, well, finders, keepers now. We’ve lost and wept enough. Get him, Hillary. Or we all will. Not or. And. Trigger warning, Donald. The trigger we are pulling is the lever in the election booth.
Originally published as a Facebook post.