As I write this, there's yet another political scandal, this time involving a nominee for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.
The Internet is practically on fire with people on both sides but along with my outrage I'm struck by how familiar this all feels. Familiar too, I suspect, for you.
We live in a culture in which women's reality is constantly challenged. Not just women, of course. People who are poor. People who are ethnic minorities. People of color. But living in this culture, in which we are constantly questioning and being questioned about our objective reality is crazy-making.
And it grooms us, to some extent for what is pejoratively (and unironically) called "alternative facts":
"She's just a friend."
"We haven't even met in person."
"Why were you even looking at my phone?"
"What...are you following me now?"
"You're acting crazy."
"I can't talk to you when you're so hysterical."
We will find ourselves on the defensive. Forget that you've just presented credible evidence that he's cheating on you, YOU will be the one being challenged.
"Your phone was right there. The message flashed."
"I'm not hysterical. I'm just upset."
"I didn't follow you! I saw your car in a strange driveway."
Our culture grooms us for this from childhood. We're too sensitive (for pointing out that people say and do incredibly insensitive things.) We have such an imagination (when we point out something that people would prefer remained hidden).
But the danger of our culture dismissing us grows more dangerous when we begin gaslighting ourselves. When we agree that we're not credible witnesses.
Consider the ways in which your reality has been challenged throughout your life. Those of us who grew up with addiction or neglect or abuse will have a long list of ways in which we denied reality to not rock the boat.
But even those of you in relatively healthy homes can likely recall incidents in which you were subtly or not-so-subtley told to keep quiet because you won't be believed. It's what our culture does to women. Be quiet about the teacher putting his hand on your knee. You don't want to be responsible for him losing his job, after all, he has a wife and kids. Don't make a fuss about the date who was convinced you wanted it. Instead, question your own conduct – after all, what were you wearing? Why out so late? And you were drinking?
My 15-year-old was waiting on a busy street Friday night to be picked up from a theatre program she's involved in. She mentioned yesterday that some guys were hollering at her from across the street. As she told me this, it was as though she was running it through some cultural brain filter in order to make sense of it. It seemed that she was talking less to me than herself. "I was wearing a long t-shirt over a pair of shorts," she mused, wondering aloud that cultural question: What did I do to invite this unwanted attention?
My heart sank. This is a girl who has been told her entire life that her story matters. That her truth matters. That she's believable.
And she's doubting herself.
For all of you out there being told that your suspicions are somehow "crazy", that what you know in your gut is happening isn't happening, that you're just "jealous", I'm with you.
You're not crazy. You're not a hysterical wife.
Far more likely, you are picking up a zillion tiny clues indicating that something's not right here. As best you can, be still. Pay attention to those clues. Collect evidence, if only to remind yourself that your reality is, in fact, reality.
And brace yourself for the gaslighting. For the pushback. For the minimizing.
There's an army of us behind you who believe every word you're saying. Because it's true.
- Feeling Stuck, Page 22 (PAGE FULL)
- Sex and intimacy after betrayal
- Share Your Story: Finding Out, Part 5 (4 is full!!...
- Finding Out, Part 5 (Please post here. Part 4 is f...
- Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Separating/Divorcing Page 9
- Finding Out, Part 6
- Books for the Betrayed
- Separating and Divorcing, Page 10
- Feeling Stuck, Part 23
- MORE Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Share Your Story Part 6 (Part 5 is full)
- Sex & Intimacy After Betrayal Part 2 (Part 1 is full)