CD6: “No woman came up to me.”

For those playing along at home, Cycle Day 6 ultrasound and blood work updates/results will be posted at the very bottom of this post just as soon as I hear back from my clinic.

I grew up watching Blossom. I had my own Blossom hat. In fact, here’s proof:

Keiko's Blossom Faze

And yes, those are two Lisa Frank buttons pinned to the front.

(That pic, FYI, is from the Marriage Survival Handbook my bridesmaids and family made for Larry and I for my bridal shower.)

So it’s no surprise that at 30 years old, I’m still a fan of Mayim Bialik, the actress who portrayed Blossom, and her new blog over at Kveller.com. She’s Jewish, she’s feminist, she has her degree in neuroscience – what’s not to love about Ms. Bialik?

A couple of weeks ago, she was in a pretty serious car accident and finally wrote about the experience on her blog. Of all the little vignettes she shared, this part stuck out for me, emphasis mine:

“Last Woman on Earth: At the scene of the accident, I’m certain there were women standing around. For whatever reason, not judging, no woman came up to me to comfort me or console me at the accident site. As a modest woman and a feminist woman, I craved a woman to hold. Just as in labor, I believe women can give women special support and I missed out on that. I know it’s not for every woman but if you ever see a woman at the scene of an accident, please know that your presence might be helpful.” (Source: Kveller.com.)

There’s a lot to unpack in that paragraph. Mel over at Stirrup Queens does a great job of that here. For me, reading that quote was the tipping point I needed to get some very heavy stuff off my chest about women, womanhood and women doing right by other women.

And, to be completely candid, so you can take the last exit before the toll, this car is about to drive through Abortion Rights and Legitimate Rape Town. Want to bail? Click here for some lighter reading material.

I’m going to confess something here on this blog, something that perhaps even my family doesn’t know about.

I was not raped. I was not sexually assaulted. However, I did have an encounter that could be classified as “sexual coercion.” Nearly 15 years later, my memory of what happened is hazy, but I can say with certainty that I did not give consent to what took place; in fact, I very clearly said both “no” and “stop it” – and it would be another 15 minutes before he did. And yes, it was with someone I knew. I haven’t really spoken to him since that took place.

You can see how I might have trouble classifying this as sexual assault. (I can say with certainty it was not rape by legal definitions.) I use the term coercion because it more accurately reflects what I remember about the event.

You might say I have trouble calling it “legitimate.”

I have, however, lost count – as in, I literally cannot keep track of how many people I know who have been “legitimately” raped. The kind you read about in the news. The kind you see in movies and on TV. I know women who have been raped by strangers, boyfriends, family members. I know men who have been raped by other men.

To deny that rape culture exists in this country is to be blind to 25% of the population – and that’s just the women who report.

Was I shocked about Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about women’s inability to get pregnant in cases of “legitimate” rape? Totally. (What’s more shocking? This is a dangerous rhetoric that goes back YEARS.)

Was I shocked they were made by a white, male Republican? Nope, not in the least. As far as I’m concerned, statements like this tend to come from the same groups of people.

But knock me over with a feather when I read this last week from Missouri GOP Committeewoman Sharon Barnes:

Ms. Barnes echoed Mr. Akin’s statement that very few rapes resulted in pregnancy, adding that “at that point, if God has chosen to bless this person with a life, you don’t kill it.” (Source: The NY Times.)

Yes, because if it’s one thing a woman who’s been raped has been, it’s blessed.

And then there was this mind-fuck made by Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch when commenting on Rep. Akin’s statements:

Did you catch that? It was quick:

Kleefisch: “Rape is a rape. I don’t know how you can categorize it, and it’s disgusting that Todd Akin would have tried to categorize it.”

Reporter: “But Paul Ryan did cosponsor a bill that categorized ‘forcible rape.’

Kleefisch: “Well, I think there is a way to have a more forcible rape, the same way there are different types of assault.”

Lt. Governor Kleefisch said that all rapes are equal, but some rapes are more equal than others. Perhaps what some might characterize as “legitimate” even?

Okay, let’s move away from this talk of rape and diverge into Abortion Rights territory for a few minutes.

Personhood legislation: it’s apparently the new reproductive choice hotness of the moment. And it hurts everyone, especially the infertility community. We have become its often unintended victims.

So, again, it’s troubling when you realize it’s not just men proposing this legislation, but women too. Take Iowa Rep. Kim Pearson’s failed personhood legislation from 2011. Not only did it seek to criminalize/ban all instances of abortion, but to criminalize the destruction of a fertilized egg or embryo. Yanno, like is S.O.P. as part of the IVF process.

And then there’s the entire state of Arizona, which I’m convinced is just fucked beyond repair. First, there’s Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, who is just an incompetent nutjob. But she helped enable State Rep. Kimberly Yee to sign her extreme abortion bill into law.

The Daily Beast breaks it down quite simply:

Did you catch what the real big issue is here? Not that abortions have been banned after 20 weeks in Arizona, but that the Arizona legislature just rewrote science by declaring – legally – that pregnancy begins on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, as opposed to fertilization, which, yanno, ALL OF SCIENCE AGREES is when pregnancy occurs. So in Arizona, you’d be considered pregnant two weeks before conception. Which means that access to medication abortion (what’s commonly known as the “abortion pill”) is effectively shut down in the state of Arizona.

The law “disregards women’s health in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Center for Reproductive Rights’ state advocacy counsel, Jordan Goldberg. “The women of Arizona can’t access medical treatment that other women can.” (Source: The Daily Beast.)

No matter your stance on abortion, I just can’t get behind anything that would deny a woman – or man, for that matter – access to necessary medical treatment and care. I just can’t do it.

Hey, remember when this post was about Blossom? Let’s bring it on home.

Bialik writes “I believe women can give women special support” – and she’s right. Read anything I’ve ever written about the Red Tent or the Red Tent Temple. Women just “get” other women: our struggles, our insecurities, our secret desires and dreams. Our biological clocks. Our blood.

So when I keep reading about women who would either themselves or come to the defense of those who would restrict, crush, and annihilate women’s rights to their own bodies – it hurts. It leaves me baffled. It makes me want to scream at these women: “Don’t you understand? Aren’t you outraged too? What don’t you get about how casual and misleading comments about rape and anti-choice legislation hurt you too? How this hurts you, your daughters, your sisters, your mothers!?”

Sometimes, I have to be honest: it feels like a betrayal. A betrayal to what I believe is a shared, common and often unspoken sisterhood that unites all women by the virtue of our repeated X chromosomes. I feel like we – the global We of Women – are obligated to look out for each other because throughout history, we have been browbeaten and literally beaten into secondary, submissive roles. We have had to fight for everything since the Fall of Eve.

I feel like it becomes hard to Trust Women when sometimes, I look around at women like these legislators mentioned in this post – and I wouldn’t trust any of them. I feel like now more than ever, given our current national discourse on women and women’s rights to their own bodies – I feel like this is when we should band together.

To be the woman that Mayim Bialik so desperately needed and wanted in her moment of crisis. To reach out and console one another. To fight for another and not against each other.

I feel like that we, as Women – as Women Together – as Women Who Understand the Uniqueness of What it Means to Be Woman – owe that to each other.

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Comments

  1. says

    Keiko, you wrote the post that I’ve been meaning to write since the Akin remark … only so much better than I could ever have written it. THIS is what has bothered me about the Akin debacle … not just his remark, because it was stupid, but the fact that there are women out there who will vote for him, support his candidacy, NOT speak up against that remark, and in support of fellow women … because there are women who support the legislation that got passed in Arizona. How can we do this to our friends, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers?

    I believe that women are a diaspora. Of course we are not all the same. There are feminismS, not feminism. But no feminism I know about allows women’s bodies to be defiled, objectified, ignored, colonized.

    I am so sorry for what happened to you, all those years ago. I am holding you in my heart, along with women everywhere. Because despite our differences, we share a deep and undeniable sisterhood.

    Thank you for writing this.

    • Keiko says

      Thanks Justine – this post was a long time coming. And thank you for your words of support – after 15-ish years, I’m at a completely comfortable place with what happened to me. That said, I had commented elsewhere on the web that I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be an actual rape/sexual assault survivor right now and see this everywhere in the news and on the internet; to potentially hear your own legislator tell you your rape was not “legitimate.”

      I’ve also hesitated to share this fact about my life b/c I didn’t want people to be like, ZOMG U WERE RAPED! Because I wasn’t like that after it happened. I was confused, I was scared, I struggled with my approach to sexuality for a little while after it – but I moved on. I healed. I found The Vagina Monologues was a necessary tool in that healing process. I am one of the very, very lucky ones. It could have been worse, both in what happened to me and how I dealt with it.

      That said, I’m glad I’ve got it out there.

  2. says

    Amazing post, Keiko. You have unlocked some powerful words here. As a woman who has not yet shared her story (yup) I still find it so sad that explanations are needed when we talk about assault. I understand that categorizing helps a healing process, but it is a slippery slope when we, as women, go from “it wasn’t REALLY rape” to having men in political office say, “see? not REALLY.” It’s like being a little bit dead – no such thing. Of course I totally and absolutely understand your point (I have done the same thing in other moments in my life – especially within my infertility journey.) but I want you to know that what you went through was not ok. I am sorry that you went through it. I am sorry for any woman or man that has. xo

    • says

      Dresden, thank you so much for your kind words. I am so sorry we share this in common. More than sorry – infuriated. I do have a hard time calling what happened to me sexual assault or rape. Interestingly enough, I think it’s due to the suppression of victim voices as part of the current rape culture/discourse. Jezebel has commentary on a piece from The Cut where as woman was told to label her rape as “rape-light” or “caffeine-free diet rape.”

      I think in a lot of ways, I’ve done this to myself. Even after all these years, it’s still a healing process. The Jez piece is here, if you’re interested – definitely worth a read: http://jezebel.com/5940724/workshopping-rape.

  3. says

    Keiko, thank you so much for sharing your particular story in order to address this larger story of women supporting women. I know that had to be hard to write.

    I have to admit that I’m floored when women support or create policy that limit the lives of other women. I expect it from men, just as I expect any outsider to not fully understand what life is like for an insider, but I don’t understand it when women give their support, as in the case of Barnes.

    • says

      Thank you, Mel – and thanks for the link-up in your follow-up post. You know, the harder part of this post to write about was female legislators betraying the female population. I’ve pretty much 99% come to terms with what happened to me. As I’m exploring in the comments here, I’ve still got some healing to do – some truths I need to tell myself about what happened.

      Re: Barnes – Denial is a helluva drug.

  4. says

    Keiko, such an amazing post. I keep waiting for women to finally hear enough and regardless of political affiliation, declare such legislation as immoral and wrong. Where is that sisterhood?

    • says

      Thank you so much KeAnne. Like Mayim Bialik, I crave that sisterhood. I celebrate it. I cherish it. And when I see sisters try to tear each other apart, it just kills me.

  5. says

    truly a powerful and eloquent post. should be required reading.

    I am dumbstruck by the words of Akin and those like him. thank you for using your own words when I could not find my own. and the Arizona law is mind-boggling. I suppose each monthly period will be classified as a miscarriage. because that makes perfect sense.

    • says

      Thank you, Luna – that means a lot. If Arizona wants to secede, they’ve got my vote. The friends I have that live there are practically losing their minds over absurdity of their state governance.

  6. says

    Great post.

    I’m a bit confused, though. Why don’t you think your experience was a sexual assault if you said “no” and “stop” and he didn’t? You would have been all of 15 at the time, right? So what exactly were you supposed to do to resist the unwanted contact beyond using your voice? I think that the correct definition of sexual assault is forcing sexual contact on an unwilling person, an underage person, or a person who is unable to consent. You don’t have to physically hurt that person in the process, and they don’t have to kick and scream and fight tooth and claw for it to be an assault. And if the contact that occurs after your objection includes penetration, then it’s also rape. The fact that you were only troubled, not deeply traumatized, is a blessing, but that doesn’t make the act any less criminal. I think that we need to hold sexual aggressors up to higher standards here.

    • says

      Sara, thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your forthrightness and I’ll admit – I’ve been struggling to reply to your comment w/o being confrontational :)

      I’m a big fan of labels, in that, I’m very keen on how I choose to describe myself. I do not force my labels onto other people. I learned this when I was President of my college gay/straight alliance. When one person identified as queer, another chose “trans.” But we never assigned those labels to one another – we came to the table and said “This is who we are and how we would like to be identified by others.”

      I think the same thing applies here. You’re very right about the legal definitions about rape and sexual assault. As someone who has gone through multiple survivor first-response training in both MA and the state where my incident occurred, I’m pretty well versed in what legally constitutes sexual assault and rape. Without getting into explicit details, I can say for a fact that rape did not occur. Coercion, definitely. Assault?

      I have a hard time labeling it that. And I think that speaks to how I’ve come to terms with this on my own healing journey. So while others might be quick to cry, “RAPE!” – I’m not. And there are a variety of reasons why I never sought to take legal action against that person. It was a complicated time. Could I have done better? Sure. Could I have made an example of him? Absolutely. But it would have cost me far much more in emotional anguish and relationship damage than I was willing to engage in right before I left for college.

      Seeking legal action is a choice. How I choose to define what happened to me is a choice. And to get at the heart of this post, those choices are mine – and I wouldn’t want anyone else to force that on me, or take that choice away.

      That said – we do “water down” rape. And I think I’ve done that here – I think it’s playing into a coping mechanism that has allowed me to handle this so well over the years. And I will continue to do that until I no longer feel the need to. It’s not what I recommend for all – it’s what works for me. Jezebel has a great post up today about how a woman was forced to “water down” her rape as she described it in a writing workshop. I think you’d appreciate the read: http://jezebel.com/5940724/workshopping-rape.

      Thanks again for your candor, Sara – I appreciate you opening up the doors for dialogue that needs to happen.

      • says

        Thanks Keiko. I expressed myself badly. I didn’t mean to imply that you should have handled the situation differently, or to in any way criticize you or your post (which I loved), but rereading my comment, I can see that it may have come off that way. I was interested in hearing more about why you chose the words that you did, knowing that you do choose your words carefully. I went beyond the question itself just to clarify that what I was interested in was your thought process, not the details of what actually happened. Please forgive me if my question made you uncomfortable or made you feel attacked. I can see now that my words were insensitive, and that the question itself falls squarely into the “none of my business” pile. Thank you for your patient response.

        I asked the question that I did because I think we (as a society) need to engage in more thoughtful conversations about the language of sexual misconduct. The disturbing and thought-provoking Jezebel post that you linked to makes the related point that women don’t always feel empowered to assert their feelings and choices even (or especially) in the context of an existing romantic or sexual relationship. We need to learn how to talk about this stuff, and how to listen, so, thank you for responding positively to my comment despite its awkwardness.

        When I was 18, a woman in my undergraduate dorm that I didn’t know very well was raped at knifepoint by a stranger (recently released from prison, as it turned out). She was back from the hospital a few days later, bruised by without severe physical injuries. I remember hearing other women (women!) discussing what happened. One of them said, “I would have fought back harder!” When I pointed out that fighting back against someone who had a knife and was clearly willing to do you harm might lead to an even worse situation, another woman responded “I’d rather die than be raped!” My horror in that moment has stayed with me for over 20 years now. Why are victims of sexual assault and rape devalued to the point at which someone might feel comfortable suggesting that their lives have no meaning? That she should be ashamed to be alive? The women involved weren’t hateful people. They were obviously just distancing themselves from something that they feared using ideas imprinted on them by a society that at its heart doesn’t respect women. Stigmatization of people who “cry, ‘RAPE!’” (or “assault!”) is antithetical to the goal of empowering women, but it happens every day. How do we stop it? I agree that we should offer unconditional support to people who choose to cope with sexual misconduct in any way that works for them. I also think that an important step in striving for a world free of sexual abuse is to create a safe space in which women, men, girls, and boys feel comfortable using words like “sexual assault” or “rape” when those words fit. But how do we do that?

        Another thought…labels like “queer,” “trans,” “male” and “female” apply to a single person, whereas “rape” by definition involves two (or more) people. So, it’s complicated. If the victim chooses not to use the word “rape,” does that mean that the perpetrator isn’t a rapist?

  7. says

    This is a fantastic post…and the only thing that worries me is that I could share it with people who are “pro-life” and they still wouldn’t get it. They say “but what about the rights of the fetus? Women shouldn’t get the power to choose life or death. No one should! It’s up to God!” It hurts my brain that some – no, many – of those people are women.

    • says

      Mel wrote a really fantastic follow-up piece to this overarching conversation she & I had been having, after being inspired by Mayim Bialik’s post. She raises what I think are some excellent talking points to counter those very things pro-life women might say to you if you were to share this piece: http://www.stirrup-queens.com/2012/09/woman-to-woman/

      The best way I can say to approach this kind of discourse is simply to say, “Actions that restrict the rights of any woman hurt all women. To support those actions hurts your own liberties and degrades the collective power of women united in sisterhood.”

  8. says

    I really appreciate this post. Abortion rights are really complex for me personally, but I’ve concluded that I am not the boss of anyone else’s body, and as sad as it makes me that women choose abortion, it isn’t my job to limit their medical care. My job is to provide it as a future pharmacist. It made me incredibly sad to sit with a friend deciding what to do about a pregnancy that occurred after she was raped, and her decision to have an abortion was probably the right one given her circumstances, but it still broke my heart. We can protect women better and hold men more accountable as a way to reduce the need for any such decisions. I also feel like it’s important that we note that “sexual assault” is bad and “rape” is a very bad kind of sexual assault. I think it’s up to the victim to choose her/his own language for what happened, but we need to be sure we aren’t undervaluing the hurt that results from sexual assault of all levels of intrusion into our personal space. “I’m ok now” doesn’t ever make what happened ok and we should be careful to distinguish discussing our reactions to an event from the event itself.

    • says

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing this really unique perspective as a healthcare provider.

      And you’re right – it was no okay what happened to me. Emotionally, physically, spiritually – I’m in a much better place about it now than I was the months after it happened. A journey of healing does not necessarily mean that the wound won’t scar – so I do respect your view on the language survivors choose to describe what happened to them.

  9. says

    I love this post and the light it sheds on women’s rights and how every aspect of every decision regarding “our rights” affects us infertiles. You can’t want to ignore the politics of rape, abortion, or even birth control but it’s all intertwined. You can not agree on a specific stanc but to ignore and not become apart of conversations surrounding women and politics is a death sentence.

  10. says

    This part of your post really spoke to me:

    “I feel like now more than ever, given our current national discourse on women and women’s rights to their own bodies – I feel like this is when we should band together.

    To be the woman that Mayim Bialik so desperately needed and wanted in her moment of crisis. To reach out and console one another. To fight for another and not against each other.”

    Thank you for another very candid, brave and thought provoking post. I am sorry that you had that experience way back when and appreciate everything you shared here as you processed what happened with you personally, as well as with Mayim.

    I love that you had a Blossom phase, including the hat, and that picture/story made its way into the book that your family and friends made. That’s awesome!

    I know I am very late to this discussion, but appreciate still get to be a part of it. Thank you again for encouraging open dialogue about stories and issues that deserve to be discussed, debated and ultimately better understood.