I recently shared an article on Facebook where Justin Timberlake said that Tori Amos’ album, Little Earthquakes, changed his life. Sometimes I agree with this thought—other times I feel like it doesn’t go far enough. Little Earthquakes was to my life what Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was to second-wave feminists: it didn’t just change my life, it gave voice to a part of me that had previously been silent. It put into words all of my conflicted emotions and helped me feel like maybe I wasn’t as lost as I felt.
There have been times when I wished I could say that I discovered Little Earthquakes entirely on my own. But I have to confess that it was a bit of an accident. During my sophomore year of high school, I briefly dated a guy who offered to make me a mix tape (his music collection was vastly superior to my own and he was older and therefore much cooler than me). He asked if there were any songs I especially wanted on it, and I told him that I loved “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. Well, that was the one song that wasn’t on the tape, at least not entirely. Instead, the tape was filled with songs I’d never heard before. The first one of those songs to really catch my attention was one called “Silent All These Years.” And that was the moment that everything changed.
I remember times when I cranked up the volume on my stereo and lay down on my bed with my eyes closed, allowing myself, no, willing myself to become fully immersed in the music and lyrics (at least until my father interrupted because he was having a hissy fit over the volume). I would ride on this roller coaster of emotions and just for a moment I could feel like it all made sense. I would choose my start and stop point based on where I wanted to be when I ended, sometimes starting at the beginning, but just as often starting in the middle and circling back around.
That was almost 25 years ago, but Little Earthquakes continues to speak to me and for me. I don’t think there was ever a consequential moment in my life that wasn’t set to a soundtrack of snippets of these songs.
“She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own.”
“All the world is all I am.”
“Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.”
“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years… I’ve been here, silent all these years.”
It’s the last quote that lives in me right now, as I still struggle to process my post-election thoughts. While having a blog has theoretically allowed me more freedom to expand on my thoughts than Facebook, I find that the new format does not really alleviate the biggest hurdle: my concern about hurting feelings. I still censor myself, sometimes intentionally, but it’s often an automatic reflex at this point.
What drives this need to polish my thoughts for public consumption? And, more importantly, how do I break the habit? After all, it’s not like polished and censored really prevented any sort of fallout. I spent a full day watching an argument ensue in the comments of the following post:
While I’ve shared plenty of other people’s words, I’ve been generally hesitant to add my own, but I think it’s time to change that.
For those of you who missed my post a few years ago, I am a rape survivor. What most people do not know is that I was also sexually assaulted when I was 16.
Let me be very clear- I’m not offended by the fact that Trump used the word “pussy.” I don’t care if he’s caught on tape using the work “fuck” or any other obscenity. What does offend me is the context in which the word was used. Make no mistakes, what this man was describing was sexual assault. Whether it’s walking up to a woman and kissing her (which he said that he did), or grabbing her by the pussy (based on transcript this was more of a hypothetical), this is unwanted contact of a sexual nature and it is a crime. And if this is truly what all locker room talk is like (which I already know is not the case), all that does is explain why we have this ridiculous ingrained rape culture where men like Donald Trump or Brock Turner believe that they have a God-given right to take what they want from a woman, regardless of her own wants.
Do you really still think that this is okay? Because I don’t.
I spent close to 30 minutes drafting those words, making sure that I didn’t attack anyone and that I presented something that should have been fairly non-controversial. And yet, not one, but two different pro-Trump acquaintances felt the need to defend his honor and throw in some jabs at Secretary Clinton while they were at it. Another post (that I shared from a friend) resulted in my cousin calling me a bitch and ultimately unfriending me.
Probably the biggest reason for my silence is the sometimes challenging relationship I have with my father. I love my father, but our views couldn’t be more different. As a result, my first thought isn’t “what am I really feeling,” but “what can I say that won’t hurt my father’s feelings if he reads it…” It’s easy to see how giving more weight to an opposing opinion than to your own is nothing but a call to silence.
I’ve been presented an opportunity to write an essay pertaining to my perspective before and after the election. It will be published in the spring. I’ve known for a couple weeks now, but my parents will only find out about it when they read this post. My father has dreamed for years about seeing my writing published, but I feel torn because I know that what I have to say will upset him. My words will be published and I my biggest concern is my father’s feelings, rather than my own.
I suppose this is an age-old problem, and I could go into a short dissertation about women’s voices in the patriarchy, but that’s not totally my point. My point is that I’ve become more and more aware of it and I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to stop it. My voice is just as worthy to be heard, my feelings just as valid, and the gloves are coming off.