Read the Headlines, Check Your Pulse
What happens to you when you read about Taylor Swift’s testimony? Do you gloss over it, because you’re not all that interested? Are you surprised to find the story is in WaPo rather than the super-market checkout? Are you wondering what did Taylor expect? Why didn’t she do anything when it happened?
Or, do you feel a flutter in your stomach of shame, embarrassment, powerlessness or guilt, as the remembrance of a time in which you were violated floods back? Do you still kick yourself for freezing, for not saying anything, for being polite, for hightailing it out of there, or for staying in place as you pretended That Did Not Just Happen?
Or, do you shut down and dissociate? Do you imagine it was actually your fault? Do you feel the need to use, commit self harm, or what ever it is that happens when the electrical signals in your body are activated again (and again and again)?
I hope not. I hope that when you read that Taylor Swift actually had a very clear understanding of what it felt like to have her bottom grabbed and even though it was four years ago, and even though in the minute it was happening couldn’t see a course of action, NO, no she is not about to let a person who felt entitled to her body win –and victimize her again–by her silence, I hope you shout out YES! I hope that you give a smile and nod of approval. I hope you think about what it must have been like to carry that gross experience for so long, what it must have felt like to be badgered by the perpetrator’s lawyer, what it must have taken to resist being belittled, boxed in, and gas lighted.
A pop star has given much needed oxygen to those who have been holding their breath as crappy people have done crappy things to them. She’s brought much needed air and light and strength to others who may suddenly find themselves being groped without consent–whether in front of cameras, on public transportation, or in the places that they should be safe–home, school, church, with family, friends, or love interests.
When I saw the headlines I didn’t want to read the story. I checked my pulse, and my heart rate registered as pissed off. I’d like to not read about the groping of a popstar in WaPo, Slate, NBC, CNN, The Independent, The Guardian (etc.), because I’d like it to just stop happening. And I’d like the world to care about all the other non-popstar people who have been groped– and more egregious transgressions–without their consent, and who are not going to have their name in a headline.
Taylor Swift may have been brave, as many have said. Or she may have just had enough. But for now, it may be helpful for someone who’s been there and can command the media’s megaphone: Be fearless. You don’t have to be defined by the actions of others. Thank you, TS.
Cathy Plourde is co-editor with Catriona McHardy for Making Out Like a Virgin: Sex, Desire & Intimacy After Sexual Trauma.