An open letter to the next generation of angry young women


Dear Alexis,

I won’t stop being angry.

I know you through your family; I've enjoyed seeing your exuberant smile and boundless energy as you walk onto the stage of adult womanhood. Welcome. I read your post as I watch my own daughter and son navigating their teen years, and I think about what is ahead for them. All the joy, and all the pain.

I read your exhortation to stay angry, beyond the passing of news about the Stanford rape case and its injustice. And I have to tell you a secret. 

I won’t stop being angry, ever.

Even as I pray, yoga, run, and cultivate compassion, I won’t. You see, I was sexually assaulted too, when I was a young woman. Another time I was assaulted on a running trail, and a man tried to pull me into his car. Like you and so many other women, I had to recount my traumatizing experiences to strangers and have my motives and actions picked apart by people who were supposed to be on my side, protect and advocate for me. I didn’t even get to the part where my attackers stood before a judge. 

My sisters are angry too; both biological and non-biological sisters have been through this, along with the men and women who love them.

My mother was angry too. I don't know about her experiences with men besides my father, because her generation wasn't allowed to speak up at your age. But I know she was angry, and more than that she found her voice by the time I came. She took me to NOW and ERA rallies when I was a girl, to marches, meetings, consciousness-raising sessions, and most importantly she brought me with her while she got petitions signed, while she stuffed bags with political literature and hung them on doorknobs, translating her anger and frustration to real change one doorknob at a time. 

  Victoria Claflin Woodhull ran for president in 1872, long before women had the right to vote

Victoria Claflin Woodhull ran for president in 1872, long before women had the right to vote

She did something about it. And she taught me to do something about it. Now you are teaching, too.
My mother's generation dared to speak out, and mine has picked up the torch and carried on that work. But there is obviously much more to do.

So you see: you are joining a long, long history of angry women. 

I’ve lived with the reality of sexual assault and the fear of assault for decades. It’s part of the background of life, like living in a war zone where you never really feel safe, not ever. You never know when the bomb is going to explode, safety is an illusion, but you have to keep going.

 that feeling you get

that feeling you get

Unfortunately, I’m not alone in feeling that way. One in five of our sisters lives with that feeling too; wherever I am, I'm hanging out with survivors, with women who have not received justice. I know some of their stories; others can’t even tell theirs.

You have my love and respect for speaking out, for taking your case to the university. For every women who couldn’t come forward, you spoke for her, speak for her. It makes a difference.

There are so many of us, so many men and women who truly care about this issue because they and their partners and children have been through this pain. We move through the horror and don’t let it destroy the joy, the love, all the good things and good relationships in our lives. 

Keep going. You aren’t carrying this alone. 

There are more of us than you think. Way more. Every time you are in the grocery store, count five people. One of them (maybe more) is angry, maybe has been for decades. We won’t stop. We can’t. Our daughters and sons are counting on us. You are amazing and fierce. But most important, you are not alone. Don't ever think that. Knowing that you are not alone is *how* you stay angry without letting it destroy you. The way we treat women has to change. It is changing. 

Thank you, and thanks to your sisters and brothers who are out there adding your beautiful, unique voice.
 

Feeling lost is part of the journey

Finding Reasons to Run: National Running Day