A Thanksgiving Request
After being saturated for months in hateful election dialogue, millions of American families will sit down together tomorrow and try to share a meal. In this post, I would like to make one Thanksgiving request, and I would appreciate it if you would pass this along to others who might be willing to take my appeal into consideration. Because no matter what you believe about the Supreme Court, abortion, international policy, or economics, this issue hits close to home—and likely your home.
Please. Be sensitive to the fact that you may have sexual abuse survivors sitting around your Thanksgiving table.
Nearly one in five women in the U.S. has been raped or sexually assaulted. One in four has been beaten by a husband or boyfriend. One in three has been a victim of rape, beating, or stalking. This means that if you have five women sitting around your table tomorrow, the chances are pretty high that at least one of those has been hurt.
These are not just strangers. These are your sisters, cousins, aunts, and daughters.
Our culture tends to blame and doubt sexual assault victims, so many women may never have told family members about the nightmares they have survived. They carry the burden and the flashbacks silently.
These same woman have just watched a man who bragged about sexually abusing women win the most powerful office in the country. No matter how we feel about the rest of Trump’s platform, no matter how bad Hillary was, we need to realize that when a trauma survivor watches a man like Trump win the support of the nation, she can feel like her greatest life burden has been invalidated.
This pain grows more intense when brothers, uncles, or fathers minimize Trump's abuse. The fear she has been carrying around forever—the fear that nobody would believe or care about her trauma—is being played out on a global scale.
I will never understand why certain men seem to have the capacity to consume the body of a woman without caring about her spirit. Nor will I understand why society doesn’t rise up and rebuke them when they do so.
Several years ago, I was caught eating a meal with a man who was speaking crudely about that old Hardee’s commercial in which a young woman was riding a mechanical bull. His wife was sitting near him. Scores of men and women were sitting around him. Yet he roared on and on about how sexually appealing this actress was, laughing and expecting others to laugh.
I felt sorry for his wife, and I also felt sickened by this man's ability to objectify a stranger as if she were a piece of meat.
Finally I responded, “Yes, she was so sexy riding that bull. In fact, I think that actress looks a lot like your little sister, don’t you? I wonder if your sister would be interested in doing a commercial like that."
Those words hit him like a brick in the face, and he was instantly angry with me.
“Don’t talk about my sister like that,” he said.
“Why?” I responded. “The woman in that commercial is probably somebody else’s little sister. She's definitely somebody's daughter. Maybe we should find her older brother or her father, and you can tell them what you said about what you wanted to do to her.”
The next few minutes were awkward, but I didn’t care. I had refused to allow him to perpetuate the myth of the anonymity of the female body. Suddenly the degradation didn’t just fall on “that sexy woman,” it fell on a woman he cared about and knew. And he didn’t like it. Of course he didn’t.
Some of us seem to have forgotten that Trump's conversations about objectifying women were conversations about real people. Your cousins, sisters, daughters who have been abused know that. They know that you can’t grab a woman by the p**sy without grabbing a woman by the soul. They know you can’t rank a woman’s value at 1-10 without simultaneously ranking the value of every woman on the planet at 0.
No matter how bad you think Hillary was, no matter how relieved you are that she didn't win, as you speak about Trump, realize that women you love may be hurt deeply if you boast about him at the Thanksgiving meal. Our insensitivity about this matter has the potential to drive daggers into the hearts of our closest relatives, ripping open deep, old wounds.
Some of their stories would break your heart if you heard them. You’d drop your fork and knife and want to hunt the jerks who did this down and beat them to a pulp.
But you don’t know all those stories. You will never know those stories. And you will never know know how much courage it’s taking those women to simply show up this year.
Please, be gentle. Please be sober. Please be careful.
There may be a time for political conversations with family, but this year is not likely it. Talk about football. Talk about the weather. Tell the old family stories. Ask about how jobs are going and talk about how the children are growing. Fight about who is going to inherit the family silver. But for the sake of women you know who have been hurt by men like Trump, please leave bragging about our new President at the door.