I am still shakingPosted: 10 March 2012
Last night I went to a protest against a white wealthy rapist who was being given a worldwide audience to give a capitalist talk on neoliberalism under patriarchy. I thought sleeping on it would help, but it didn’t. I am still shaking.
Trigger warnings for accounts of rape and rape-apology / Warnings to patriarchy for description of incredibly strong women and sisterhood
I had felt anxious all day without knowing exactly why. The perspective of a protest is often both exciting and stressful. Exciting because it means standing and shouting your anger with people who think and feel the same way as you do. And stressful because it means saying NO, opposing something or someone, because it contains some threat of physical and verbal confrontation with forces of repression.
During the first part of the protest, the anxiety grew. There were journalists everywhere, and these curious, external gazes made me extremely uncomfortable, as Rachelette recalls from MWR. Why are you staring? Why is it so disturbing that we are not letting this happen with impunity? I am not concerned about the principle of media coverage of protests: it is good that people hear about it, it’s basically what a protest is for, publicizing a political stand. I am concerned about which coverage is made of this protest. The brilliant and original question journalists asked was “why have you come to this protest?” The answer is: if you feel entitled to ask this question, it means this protest is necessary.
After a rather conventional first hour of protesting, we gathered in the street, and something incredibly rare and powerful and intense and moving happened. Some women started speaking on the megaphone. The first three of them had prepared what they were going to say, they had written texts, which they were reading out loud, telling a crowd of 200 people that they had been raped. Then other women, who had not planned on speaking, came out of the crowd and started sharing their own stories. Saying I was raped, too. And I, and I, and I, and I, and I.
I don’t know how long it lasted. One after the other, these voices rose and said what is never said, what is never heard. There were so many of them. I was listening, shaking, crying, feeling what they said in my body, the images of my personal story mingling with theirs. Saying that it was triggering would be an understatement. I felt that my guts were being scattered all over the street, and still I felt that every single word had to be said, heard, no matter how hard it was for them to say it, for me to listen to it.
Many women in the crowd were crying, many of them were hugging each other. I found myself hugging women that I knew, and a woman that I didn’t know, because it seemed that uniting our bodies in a warm embrace was the only thing we could do. There were no words to relieve the pain of what was being said, and we could only show, by our mutual physical presence, that what was said was being heard, and believed.
I had to leave before the end of the protest, to go back to normal life, to resume my activity as patriarchy’s waitress. I told my colleague, in a very controlled voice, what had happened in this street. She brought me a cup of tea, and I felt incredibly touched by this sympathizing gesture, which broke the rules of efficiency and stated that it was legitimate for me to be heartbroken.
When I woke up this morning, after an endless night of graphic nightmares, my first move was to check the news, to see what the mainstream media had recalled of what had happened. They talk about racket, about chants and placards, and confrontation with the police. Not a word about what these anonymous women said, not a line echoing their brave and loud voices. This absence tells more than any speech about it: these voices are not welcome to go down in history. Not that I am really surprised about it, but it feels like one more kick into my scattered guts.
And yet, whatever is or is not written in these patriarchal rape-apologist newspapers, what these women have said is still out there. What has been said cannot be erased, it can be ignored but it won’t make it disappear. I can still see their beautiful, brave faces, their wide eyes staring at the crowd, their shaking bodies, their hands clutching at the megaphone. I can still hear their voices, their cries, their phrases, I can’t pick up a fucking guitar/ this is not okay/ this privileged institution/ without having the decency of giving a trigger warning/ I am a survivor and I won’t be silenced/ I am not the only student/ let me say that again/ fuck off/ we believe you/ thank you, thank you so much.
I feel that somehow, now, these stories are part of me. Every time I say something, I say it having these stories in me. Everything I say resounds against these stories before I utter it. No matter what newspapers say, or don’t say, they cannot take back the warmth of this woman’s arms, they cannot take back what has been said, they cannot take back what has happened.
Since last night, I have smoked 5763 cigarettes, washed my hands 9645 times, and thought I had lost my credit card for 37 minutes. I genuinely hope my guts are gonna get back to where they belong within a reasonable amount of time, because it’s not very convenient to walk around with them hanging out like that. But despite all that, despite the irrational anxiety (but is it really irrational?) and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness, as tough tea says, I am so proud and humble to have been there. It was one of those very rare moments when something really important happens, and those are incredibly weak words to describe how I feel about it. Something has happened. And it is now part of Herstory.