16 Things Every White Woman Can Do for a World where Kavanaugh’s Hearing Never Happens Again
I spent the whole day on Thursday listening to the Dr. Ford-Judge Kavanaugh hearing. It haunted me. Dr. Ford’s emotion, more than anything else. And not the most explicit parts, but the parts in which she told of the attack itself. As a trauma survivor who has been studying trauma for years, the explicit parts of her statement, the ones where she described her trauma, were extremely realistic. The lowering and shaking of her voice, the shallow breathing, forgetting to drink water. All signs of a survivor reliving the trauma. This all shook me and drove home even more the importance of #BelieveWomen.
What haunted me was something else: the controlled and contained demeanor of compressed rage and strength that surrounded the wound-filled story. Her voice as a thin as a needle. As few words as possible (“correct”). The sweet/high pitch (“I’m used to being collegial”). The deferential demeanor (“I wish I could be more helpful”). Tremendous strength and rage hidden behind a thin veil of weakness. Outside of the fact she was speaking up at all, it was a perfect display of normative white femininity. Only this display would allow her message to be heard on the other side. Had her demeanor opposed patriarchy in any way, her content, her experience would have not been heard.
What haunted me is the gut-wrenching realization of how, as white women, we uphold white men’s performance of power, toxic masculinity, and domination by performing weakness even when we are strong. How we are the legs that hold up white men’s boisterous voices. It made me sick to my stomach. The display of white male unleashed disdain and privilege that followed with Kavanaugh’s outburst of anger and denial, just confirmed the rotten tastes in my mouth and expanded them.
Over the weekend, all I could think of was, how can I contribute to creating communities of white women who don’t uphold patriarchy? How can people who are hurt share it honestly? How do we not repeat patterns of domination in our communities towards others? How do create communities where women are free to express emotions, feelings, betrayals? How do we create strong humane communities, that are not the exception, but the norm for all human beings?
Left with more questions than answers, whether these questions are new for you or you’ve been asking them for decades, here is where we can begin (or continue) to work:
1. Give up being “nice;”
2. Rock the boat;
3. Question the term “professional;”
4. Give yourself permission to get what you need, even without someone else’s permission;
5. Don’t question your truth;
6. Be all of who you are;
7. If you’re sad, be sad;
8. Trust your body, take care of the emotions it stores;
9. Feel your feelings;
10. Learn to be yourself without dominating someone else;
11. Look for other ways you may be upholding white patriarchy;
12. Choose not to uphold white patriarchy;
13. Build community with other white women;
14. Quit criticizing women who do 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. And 13.;
15. Teach your young women and girls to do steps 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. and 15.;
16. Teach your boys and young men to appreciate the honesty and courage of women who choose to 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. And 16.
As for how triggered most people are around the hearing and everything that has followed, trauma can be gift, too. So. Under 7. Feel your feelings, also means acknowledge the trigger and get the help you may need.
Here are some articles you can read that explore this more in depth. It’s crucial we do this work, to build collective spaces we uphold vision, Because the Vision Our Country Needs is up to Us Common Folk (Rita Sinorita Fierro). What happens to our bodies when hard truths are told: What Happened When Dr. Ford Testified(Kelly Germaine), What does it mean to be White?(Kelly Germaine) How our bypassing sadness upholds domination: Bypassing the White Spiritual Bypass on the role of white spiritual liberation (Kelly Germaine): For White Spiritual Doctors Writing Spiritual Prescriptions (Kelly Germaine).The time we need to invest in How to save the rich white boys (Abraham Lateiner).
Rita Sinorita Fierro, Ph.D. Has been studying institutional racism for 25 years. Her forthcoming book — Give Me Back My child: How the USA System Kidnaps Children is about how different systems perpetuate injustice on families of color. You can read more of her writing and her social approach to trauma at www.DrRitaWrites.com and www.DrRitaWrites.com/blog. You can read more on her Inclusive Conversations series and her Evaluation and Facilitation work at www.ritafierro.com/blog.