Recent media craze over Trump’s “locker room” trash opened my Pandora’s Box of sexual abuse. It’s a drag to look inside, but there is a piece of feminist history I want to share.
There are many boys and young men today who are feminists. There will be many more. They have rejected the sexism that had women like me take a long break out of heterosexuality.
Pointing out Trump as if his behavior is some anomaly in the world of “powerful men” of his generation misses the point. Donald has a lot of company.
Bill Clinton got away with his abusive use of power to get his blow jobs, he has the personality, the warmth Donald Trump lacks.
I would have been a Monica Lewinsky if I was her at her age in the Oval Office. Of course I would. Luckily, I wasn’t.
In the early seventies many women like me found out we had enough bi(sexuality) available in us to escape. Lesbian Feminism was a response to rampant sexism. Radical lesbian feminists led the way on campuses with a powerful message: “Feminism is the Theory, Lesbianism is the Action.”
Embracing Lesbian Feminism, and the array of writers from Shulamith Firestone to Jill Johnston was the most exciting, sanest option in a world of “male chauvinist pigs.”
Especially for a Middle Eastern girl like me who had so much cultural and sexist baggage weighing her down.
The combination of a feminist theory and lesbian feminist women more interested in gaining confidence than by being acceptable to men and caving to sexist demands to be second class citizens was a dream come true. Even for those of us more sexually attracted to Richard Gere than Julia Roberts, in Pretty Woman, forged our way out of old scenes.
For a girl like me born in India to Middle-Eastern and North African parents and raised stateless in Japan, undiluted Feminism/Radical Lesbian Feminism, moved me through genderized and objectified identification as a second class human to imagine actually being an independent woman.
I grew up watching Japanese women walk several steps behind their husbands, their “dana-san (master).” Although my father was a feminist before his time, and my mother was definitely the master in the relationship, I grew up in a community that consoled women who gave birth to a baby girl with “Inshallah, next one will be a boy.”
I whole-heartedly joined the movement and eventually fell in love with a stunning all grown up nice Jewish girl who knew as a child she was sexually attracted to girls. She knew she was always gay, I wasn’t. Judy wanted to look like Elvis and be a baseball player. I wanted to marry Elvis and be Natalie Wood.
So I “came out” to my parents who took one look at her and gasped,” she looks like Eddie!”
At least she was a member of the tribe. I thought they should embrace that. Eventually they did. By then her short hair was long and she no longer looked like my boy cousin.
My parents were traumatized for the first few years. Didn’t they suffer enough as despised second class citizens in their native lands? We were finally, after waiting 20 years for immigration, in America to be free, and here I was choosing to be marginalized? They fled dhimmitude in Muslim lands and here I was going gay in a straight world? It was “worse than the Farhud,” Mom said, worse than the horror she witnessed in 1941 Baghdad when mobs rampaged, raped, and decimated the Jewish quarter.
It was impossible to explain how I was choosing freedom by leaving men and being with women. It was impossible to know in 1978 that Judy and I would be able to be legally married thirty years later, in a synagogue.
My Pandora’s Box is not pretty.
Grampa was my first sexual predator. I was eight when he seduced me and convinced me that it was my fault and should my mom find out, she would disown me. I believed him.
After praying to God during the daily three-minute silent prayer at the end of each school day for two years in my missionary school, I found the courage and a neighbor to help me to end it once and for all.
Keiko, my first feminist ally, didn’t understand English. She waited for me outside the shoji screen doors, waiting for me to survive Grampa’s rage. Knowing she was there was the support I needed, and knowing she was too polite to ask what it was all about made it safe.
I was in Japan. There was no Oprah sexual abuse talk in those days.
Even today, when incest is no longer unbelievable, when sexism is confronted the way it never was in the past, girls and women are still afraid of being blamed. Still afraid and ashamed to speak out when assaulted, raped, abused. We have a long history to undo.
It takes time and courage to change the environment. Feminism has influenced how boys are raised, how more and more men are with us instead of believing we “asked for it.” And there will be more. This is not rolling back.
After Grampa, there were other incidents. It was “natural” for boys and men to take liberties with girls and women in ways they cannot do as easily today. For me, it was a “love it or leave it” proposition. I left. It was another chapter in my trajectory of exile.
Abusers do what they do as long as they can. We are seeing a change in the Western world — Sexual predators are no longer poster boys for masculinity. Feminism works.