Outside, it’s a media circus around the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. Here in the country, behind a veil of trees and green pastures dotted with pumpkins, you can choose to stay calm. In fact, it’s tempting to step back a little from these events and not get too riled up. Only I’m riled up.
I don’t have a clue how Christine Blasey Ford will comport herself tomorrow. Regardless of the content of her testimony, too many people are going to check: How calm she is, how stable is she, what she will wear, is she a nut case, a complainer, a blamer, a man-hater? And the most terrible of all—is she angry?
Do you know what I’d like her to do? I’d like her to scream. I’d like her to wail. I’d like her to howl. I’d like her to give out such a cry about all the things that happen in the many places where men and women meet that it will be heard everywhere in this country.
In this country, where we don’t practice genital mutilation, where millions of fetuses are not aborted just because they’re female. Here, where we just have parties where girls get assaulted and where boys can sow their wild oats and act out, not that anyone means badly they just drink too much. And if you’ve been to those parties and things have been done to you, go home and lie low. If you have to talk to someone, find a therapist, but don’t tell your parents and don’t tell your friends. Somebody’s bound to say: How much did you drink? What were you wearing? Don’t you know better? And even: You were not being safe.
Here’s an example of what it is to be safe: In the first decade of this millennium we once sat in a terrific restaurant in Amman, Jordan, having great Middle Eastern food. In the middle I looked up and saw a woman and man come in. She was tall and regal, and covered from head to foot in burqa. Not an inch of her could be seen. In theory, the eyes should be uncovered so she could see where she’s going, but in this case there was even a filmy fabric covering her eyes, so that she had to cling to her husband in order to walk. They went down two steps and I watched as she held tightly to him to make sure she didn’t fall.
We don’t have to do that here to be safe, right? Here we just have to watch our behavior—are we drinking much? How are we dancing? How are we dressed? Is the car parked on some dark street? What do I do if a couple of guys are coming my way? Do I cross the street? Turn right around and go back inside, find another woman to accompany me?
And if something happens despite all these precautions—and believe me, it does—don’t get upset; if you talk about it, it becomes character assassination. You’d think it’s the men who’ve had to worry all these millennia about being safe, not women. Don’t be angry, don’t be anguished, don’t be loud. For how many millennia have women been told that the way to survive is to be quiet, wise, understanding? To never, ever lose their equilibrium?
For how many years have Buddhist teachers said that gender has no place in teachings about no-self? Behind that hid corruption, abuse, and misogyny. So some of us female teachers try to fight this, usually in teachings, writing, in mixing up nouns and pronouns that come to us completely male. In compiling lists and bios of past women teachers whose names were forgotten, in changing transmission documents to reflect the precious influence of those teachers.
But in the past few days none of that feels enough. I want to give vent to thunderous feelings left unexpressed by so many mute, covered-up women. I want to wail and howl on their behalf, give a cry that rips the universe apart. This week, at least, I can’t find refuge in silence.
It hurts so much to be awake, someone said the other night.