In 1991, I was ten years old. I lived in a tiny, picturesque mountain town on the north shore of Lake Tahoe—the kind of place with a definable “tourist season,” the kind of place where “nothing” ever happened. I hated it for that reason, and often schemed with my friends about how we would make it out of the smallness and the silence. It was June when the snow was finally melted. School was nearly over, and I could smell summer on the pines, in the mule ears baking in the high altitude sun. M...
It was the cover that first piqued my interest in Natalie Singer’s debut memoir, California Calling: A Self-Interrogation. The wide, bright, concentric, circles in rainbow colors, the sans serif typography, and the subtitle promising “a self-interrogation.” But the first line hooked me, and I found myself tucking the book into my purse each morning before leaving for my commute, and carrying it to my bedside each night. I finished the book full of questions of my own.
I know women who have asked their rapists to use a condom, even offering one of their own. I know women who have said yes after being worn down all night, over and over. You can only push a man off you so many times. You can only say “not now, no thanks, I don’t want to” so many ways. I, too, have had sex I didn’t want because sex was the least bad option. Sex was a known variable. Think of it as a harm reduction tactic. Fighting and screaming and kicking and yelling at a man? Unknown outcomes. Would he hit me back? Would he let me go? Would I fight and lose?
I enter the courtyard and my eyes go up. Rusting bicycles and extra wheels hang from the ceiling. Roped together with Christmas lights, white chain link, twine. The gears and the chains like obelisks, a lighting fixture made of odds and ends, collected over time, strung together, hoisted high above me. Above that, glass bottles with their necks sunk into concrete. Pieces of mirror cut and pasted to the wall. Every single surface mosaicked with something. Bits of shattered pottery, letters Sha...
Like many readers, I held my breath as Kelly Sundberg recounted one of the most painful moments of her life in her essay, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” named after the healing process she was told to expect for the bruises her ex-husband left on her body. The popularity of her essay landed her an agent and a book deal. The result, Goodbye Sweet Girl (HarperCollins), follows the trajectory of Sundberg’s early relationship and marriage to the man who became her abuser.
Intimate partner violence...
In the old days,
the myths were the stories we used to explain ourselves
but how can we explain
the way we hate ourselves?1
It started with simple directives. You’ll need a coat. Those shoes are too slippery. That’s not enough food; that’s too much. When I was a very young child, I imagine, I listened. My mother was the wisest, my only mother. But by the time I was ten, my mother had become sick of my constant resistance to her well-meaning (and often correct) advice. She nicknamed me Sassafr...
I first heard Janelle Hanchett as a guest on the One Bad Mother podcast, speaking about her four children and her blog, Renegade Mothering. At the time, I was losing my mind trying to take care of my one baby. I could not imagine going through this four times, let alone with other children underfoot. And I hadn’t written a word in over a year. I was impressed at her multitasking, her energy, and her creativity. Like so many others, I fell in love with her writing voice—
In the beginning, He was the word. The word of the house, the word of vocation, the word of study, of thought, of art. When Western writers wrote an everyman, of course, they wrote about themselves:
Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said.1
He is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.2
He created man in his own image.3
He made the world and he made the word, as if there is a difference, if one can be separated from the other.
A red lip. A bared leg. A slinky black dress with a very long slit. A high heel. Higher. A voice that sounds like sex. A smoky eye.
She wants, but what she wants is ulterior. Indirect. She gets there by playing on his weakness. Coy. Curling. She is deception, steel inside softness, a lie.
She is not real.
Women have always had rage, but we’ve sublimated, and presented it differently. We direct rage toward ourselves: too fat, too loud, too cellulite-ridden, too wrinkly, too fake, too plastic-looking, too tall, too short. We direct rage toward other women: she shouldn’t wear that, who does she think she is, why her, why not me. We are endlessly sad. We have complicated eating disorders. We swallow our rage like good women, cut our arms, take too many pills. It’s easier, it’s more comfortable for you when I take my rage and swallow it with a glass of water.
Rapunzel has been haunting me.
Rapunzel, one of the few Grimm’s fairy tales that has an active, living mother as a main character. More commonly, most of the mothers, all of the good ones, are dead. Of course, Rapunzel’s “mother,” Gothel, is actually a witch who took Rapunzel as an infant, but Rapunzel doesn’t know that. She is raised by her mother, isolated in a tower; their familial relationship creates a mother/daughter text, although it is founded on a lie. The story’s dark warnings for m...
The young woman’s account of her date with Aziz Ansari, especially in light of this #MeToo moment, has brought a stickier situation to the fore. Coercive sex or sexual contact is difficult to define. It is precisely because these sort of encounters are so common that we need to start talking about them. We need to do a better job, as a culture, of defining what decent sex looks like, and how it’s different from coercive sex.
“That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me. I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip.”
Once you hear the truth, the image unwinds before your eyes. His left arm is headlocking her. His right arm has a tight grip on her waist. Her chin is tucked back, pulling away. Her hand, in one of the less iconic frames, balled into a first against his chest. Her body says no. His body says mine.
This is America.