Friday, April 13, 2012

Bra Burning

I wonder if television realizes how great a debt it owes to the women's movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Back in those less than good old days, women had the vote, received less pay for equal work, and kept our mouths shut about society's dirty little secrets. When we found our voice through activism, and our anthem thanks to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," we brought a lot of secrets out of the closet.

Until women started standing up for themselves and speaking out about the unspeakable, media paid little if any attention to domestic violence, rape and child abuse. Those were secrets best kept in the closet and handled "within the family." When a woman spoke out, she was ridiculed and disbelieved.

Much has changed. Much hasn't. But when we came out and said, "I was raped by my father/stepfather/date," we found freedom in voicing the unspeakable. Society could no longer ignore its dark side. We made sure it was out in the sunlight. I stood with a group of rape victims in graduate school. We told our stories. We weren't proud of what had been done to us, even though some tried to make us believe rape, incest and abuse were our faults. We were proud to stand up and say what happened.

We wouldn't have battered women's shelters and homes for abused children if we hadn't burned our bras and shouted for attention.

Television has benefited from our bravery. Where would Law and Order: SVU be without the ground breakers who dared ridicule and ostracism for speaking the truth. We wouldn't have the police focused on these horrible crimes. We wouldn't be able to keep attention on what's really going on in the dark. Turning the bad into entertainment may not be everyone's favorite way of getting a point across, but it works.

Think about all the movies in the past several decades that talked about abuse. Kramer vs. Kramer. War of the Roses. Add your own titles. You can come up with a dozen without trying. Through the lens, we learned how our actions affect our children. We've seen how abused women (and men) lack self-esteem and would do anything to hide what's happening to them.

We have a lot of work to do to eradicate these menaces, but our voices will not be silenced. Yes, I burned my bra. Yes, I marched for women's equality. Yes, I sang our anthem. Yes, I stood with my sisters when we spoke out. More women than men pelted us with tomatoes and eggs for telling the truth. Still, I stood up for myself. I'm proud of what I did. I can't take back what happened. And I won't be marginalized and shoved back into the closet.

I was raped.


Franz X Beisser said...

Good for you!
I hope the suppressed women of cultures and religions will see their freedom soon. How will they achieve such, without freedom of speech, I can only pray.

Brenda Marroy said...

So was I. I never told my family or anyone, instead I buried the trauma so deep, I never even thought about it for almost 30 years. I knew no one would believe that I had not "asked for it."
Thanks for writing this Betsy. Makes me think I may need to put mine down on paper.

Betsy Ashton said...

Franz, thanks for your thoughts. We all worry about women in repressive societies. Our was one until recently. Now, with more of us daring to speak out, we can and do make a difference.

Brenda, none of us ask to be raped. When we are, and we can't tell someone who can help us, the rapist wins.

I went from rape victim to rape survivor when I told the world. Now, I'm not afraid to write about it, even though it still brings tears to my eyes. No longer brings rage, though. More like pity for my rapist. He got his punishment...