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Witches Unite!

17 Dec Posted by in Jewelle Gomez | 2 comments
Witches Unite!

In the early 1990s I finally bought my own car, a twenty year old Volkswagen that was in pretty good condition. But like every ‘pre-owned’ car it sometimes needed professional attention. That meant I had to enter the minefield known as the garage. I was happy when a friend recommended one nearby in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

‘Girly’ photos in garages is almost a stereotype so I was prepared but still annoyed as I waited for the owner and had to stare at not one, but several, photos of almost nude women in provocative positions including one in which a woman’s crotch looked like it was about to swallow a gear shift.

I’m not a prude, in fact I contributed an erotic story to one of the first lesbian sex magazines, On Our Backs, which made me a target for then vocal anti-porn activists. I have my own collection of erotica—literary and visual arts—at home and feel like women taking control of our sexual desire is part of our liberation. What’s disturbing is knowing the underlying exploitation most women in the sex industries face. And in that moment it was excruciating trying to avoid the smirks from young male (Latino and Italian) workers.

The men need the photos to feel virile and powerful and my presence made them feel more so. When the grandfatherly (Italian-American) owner arrived with my paperwork I was furious because there was the perfect picture of the legacy of sexism and sexual exploitation handed down through the generations. Probably a good, married Catholic, maybe one of the workers was even his son, the owner still felt comfortable creating this oppressive atmosphere. The race and sex dynamics felt like a tinderbox to me. Even if they were maybe really nice guys suddenly I was the meat thrown into their domain.

So am I surprised that the #MeToo campaign has unearthed so many casual sexual predators? Not at all. The culture encourages men to be predators.  I agree with my friend Andrea who said (as we listened to yet another revelation about harassment) that men have a different set of ethics. They get to behave anyway they want and women have to balance on a line of respectability and availability. Too many men of all political stripes seem to have developed an image of themselves as the great hunters and women are the prey. Women provide food (read sex) for the body and shelter for fractured male egos.

As the story about politician and movie star groping (read humiliating) women continued Andrea suggested that maybe men need to be put on curfew from dusk ‘til dawn! A great idea for a sci fi story I might use but even that won’t save us. We get groped at the State Fair at high noon and even pulled out of our high school classes to serve their needs.

Once as I was riding on the NYC subway a young African American man casually ran his hand over my butt as he tried to pass. My reaction was instinctual—I swung around and pushed him. The look of shock on his face when I pushed back was priceless; then it flashed in my mind that he might hit me. Oddly enough he instead looked to another man who was holding onto the same pole and demanded: “Yo, bro is this your woman?” The implication being the guy should keep me in line. The poor brother looked stricken and just kept shaking his head ‘no.’ As I observed their interaction confirm their unity in my subjugation I started screaming loudly and repeatedly “Get the f*** away from me!” I’ve learned that playing crazy can send men running.

I believe that sexual harassment of all kinds is not simply about sexual impulses; it’s about keeping women in line; humiliation as a tactic to be sure we’ll do as we’re told as men hold on to their hegemony. It’s worked for millennia. When women complain it becomes about how we deserved it or how we exaggerate, or how our backgrounds make us unworthy of respect.

In 1991, when Anita Hill (who later became a law professor) testified in the Congressional hearings about appointing Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court her revelations about his harassment were met with disrespect and derision—she was called ‘delusional.’ Other witnesses who would have echoed her claims were never called. Hill even took a lie detector test while Thomas refused. The process was so bad that former vice president Joe Biden recently apologized to Hill for his part in skewering her. An apology that Hill’s defenders do not accept!

Recently following the spate of confessions famous actor Angela Lansbury, the doyenne of television (“Murder, She Wrote”) and Broadway (“Sweeney Todd”) stated that women had to take some of the blame for sexual harassment because of the way we dress!

No, that let’s men off the hook, as if they have no control over their urges—like little boys who should be sent to their rooms. And Lansbury makes it sound as if it is all about sexual desire. The sex is the tool (pun intended) to gain power. Sexual harassment is about making men feel powerful and intimidation is what works! And at the root of that is male fear.

I’m sure psychologists and psychiatrists could probably analyze the deep-seated causes of the fear using some Shakespearean allusions. But what has evolved, I think, is a species of males (not all but certainly the dominant number) who have to keep women under their control (whether in abusive relationships or away from birth control or out of the White House) because they’re terrified women will treat men as badly as men have treated us.

Will we take away their dick pills? Raise the cost of cleaning three piece suits? Insist they get vasectomies? Restrict insurance coverage of prostrate disease? Cut their pay scale? Encourage prostitutes to unionize? Not allow men to occupy more than a small percentage of corporate CEO jobs or good paying union jobs?

There are so many things they could be afraid of if the tables were turned. Fortunately women are not just like men for the most part and we usually want something different, (to risk sounding Pollyannaish) something better. But we’re not above revenge and we’re really good at it! I was thrilled to push the guy back on the subway; if I were more devious he’d have been under the train wheels at the next stop. So it’s important that we’re pushing back finally before things get worse and we have to rain down fiery retribution. Anita Hill lit a path for us, let’s follow it.

One politician called the #MeToo responses a ‘witch hunt.’ And he’s right. But this time the witches are after him.


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  • Oh we are so totally on board with this! says:

    Women Inspired Theaology

  • Oh we are so totally on board with this! says:

    Oops! (Partial comment went out.)
    Great piece! Wonderful rallying cry!
    Always a powerful community.
    Here’s a few in my & my friends pasts —-
    Wild Independent Thinking Crones @ Hags
    Women’s Inspired Thealogy Conspiracy from Harvard
    Women Intent on Taking Control of Health
    so many more … long part of
    Women Intending to Create Herstory.