How To Look Like A Ghost Denied Relief So Long As Injustice Persists
Ghosts know things. Ghosts remember.
“I f you die right now, whatever you’re wearing will be your ghost outfit forever.
I saw a meme that said that once. And I think about it every day.
I’ve been feeling wraithlike myself these past weeks. I’ve been wearing the same shirt for five days.
Listless, translucent. Frustratingly powerless. Forced to retrace unpleasant memories in the recent flush of the #MeToo conversation following film power producer Harvey Weinstein’s wide exposure as a serial sexual predator. I’m wrung out in its wake. Vengeful. Betrayed. Condemned to haunt, denied relief so long as the injustice persists.
I suppose October is an appropriate month to feel this way. And it’s a vitally important conversation to have. But like most things of great value, conversations on the proliferation of sexual harassment and assault come at a great cost.
In a just world, that cost would be borne entirely by the perpetrators and enablers of unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, in the reality in which we live, this has been a tough few weeks for most women.
On all of my social media accounts, I’ve watched friends, family, strangers I admire share tales of dark instances in their lives, of powerless moments when more-powerful men degraded them, objectified them, abused them. Reading each one, I ache in sympathy.
It’s not that the content of these remembrances is unfamiliar to me. I know many of the stories already because women talk about these things. But it still feels jarring to see it stated baldly on my Facebook feed. Wide open. Is it unsafe? I can’t shake a deeply imprinted fear of tempting even worse consequences, of the possibility of pain and punishment levered for the temerity of speaking up.
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The sheer volume of such experiences is also not surprising, but disturbing. It’s a heavy emotional weight, to bear witness to the flood. It hurts to know that loved ones have been treated this way, and it brings back my own memories of powerlessness, of becoming suddenly—violently—less than.
I think the primary emotion a ghost must feel is frustration. Frustration to the point of rage. How DARE someone do something so awful to me? How dare he continue to exist unaffected, unburdened by the horror of his own crimes? How dare he leave me lingering in this tortured state of cringing and apologizing and hiding for HIS WRONGDOING? How DARE he.
And that’s where the power shifts a little bit, just an iota: A lone ghost may possess limited power to affect change on the land of the present, but ghosts are still really scary.
Ghosts know things. Ghosts remember. And ghosts’ collective desire is to see justice wrought upon those who have wronged them.
I hope to see real change stem from this chapter of #MeToo. Harvey Weinstein is a start, but as many have pointed out, he was brought down long after the height of his power had waned. What of the abusers who now sit at the heads of the various industries in which we all labor? What of a president who was caught on record bragging about sexually assaulting women? What of the men who still just can’t manage to see “the problem” in spite of women screaming their rage into their faces?
And what of all the women who have suffered? What of all the many, so many, the almost-every-woman who has been made to feel like a ghost in her own body? Will she finally be able to feel some peace following continued exposure of sexual predators?
I hope so.
In the meantime, I’ll keep screaming.