“Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.”
You may wonder what possessed me to read the Daily Stormer article with this title. After all, I knew that the website was a neo-nazi “news” and commentary site. Part of me didn’t want to believe that, hours after Heather Heyer had been killed in Charlottesville, anyone would be vile enough to write such a headline referring to her. Part of me felt compelled to know for myself what they said, rather than just rely on commentary from others. It is hard for me, after the fact, to reconstruct my thought process prior to clicking on the article because reading it changed something in me.
The gist of the piece was that women are always a drain on men’s resources and, as such, have only one redeeming purpose on this earth: procreation. Women who are not mothers should be exterminated to reduce the drag on men. This, the article assured me, was doubly true for fat women who are not mothers. What possible purpose could such individuals have? Following this line of reasoning, the commentator went on to say that, therefore, Heather Heyer – and by extension any woman without children or past their child-bearing “usefulness” – deserved to be murdered.
The article was vile. Truly, unequivocably, vile.
But, truth be told, it felt a little familiar. It was definitely more direct, more intentionally hurtful, and less sanitized than a lot of messages our culture sends to women. But it was, underneath the nazi rhetoric, not that different from what women are told repeatedly in this culture: We are worth less than men; We don’t deserve (nor do we receive) the same care/benefits from society as men; We should be grateful for the attention of men, even when it is expressed as harrassment and/or violence. I don’t want to spend this post arguing that these assertions are true: if you want convincing that women are treated as less-than and systematically discriminated against, you can do the Google search as easily as I can. Try “women and healthcare” or “women and wages” or “women and violence”.
Reading the Daily Stormer piece flipped a switch inside my brain. I could feel, at the deepest level of my being, the ways that I’ve both received and internalized cultural messages about my own worth and power (and also about the worth and power of a variety of other folks, whether people of color, LGTB+, those living in poverty, etc.) At the core of who I am, a word formed:
As in, “I/we have had enough.”
As in, “I AM/We ARE enough.”
As in, “There is enough.”
While there are definitely people who know where I stand, I have mostly tried to play by rules that I now see more clearly than ever were intended to keep me quiet: don’t ruffle feathers; don’t lose relationships over differences of opinion; be likeable; don’t be forceful; don’t assume you know anything (or that what you know means something). Sometimes, I have lived my life as if the greatest good that could come of my choices would be my own invisibility. I have allowed myself to make occasional small ripples, but I have avoided ever making waves.
I’ve believed the myth of my own powerlessness for far too long; I’ve finally had enough of that bullshit lie. I am powerful enough to change this world. Despite the scarcity narrative so prominent in white supremacist and nazi chants, there is enough to sustain each of us in this world if we will only use our power to shift dominant paradigms. We are – each and every one of us – so much more than just a drain on resources.
Today, I find myself wondering about Heather Heyer. Her friends say she was afraid there would be violence, but that she felt she needed to protest on Saturday anyway. What was she thinking when she left home that morning? Was she hoping to send a ripple of love or justice into the waters of racism, misogyny and hate? I feel certain she wasn’t seeking death. Whatever her hopes and dreams, Heather understood that she had the power to effect change and she chose to use that power. Heather definitely made more than ripples: when she chose to stand in her power on Saturday, she unleashed a wave containing all the force of a tsunami. May each us discover our power and courage to do the same.
“The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.” — Virginia Woolf