A couple of weeks ago I listened to Roxane Gay's Not That Bad, a collection of essays about rape and rape culture. It was probably not the best choice - don't get me wrong, it's an amazing book that everyone should read, but I was already experiencing a depressive dip and listening to the audiobook, read by the very women who'd had these experiences, didn't help.
One of the essays that gutted me was "Picture Perfect" by writer Sharisse Tracey. In it, Tracey recounts how her father raped her at 13 years old and her mother, instead of leaving the man, made her forgive him. She made her be civil to him. Of course, years later, he ended up nearly assaulting her again.
Another essay from Not That Bad that stuck with me was "All The Angry Women" by Lyz Lenz. In this essay Lenz recounts how her anger at a relative over his molestation of her sister isolates her from her family, including the sister who she believes she's protecting. Her sister rages at her for telling the family what he did to her. Her parents continue to invite the man to holiday dinners. And she is made to feel wrong in her hatred of this man who has never been punished for what he did to a child that was supposed to be safe with him.
That is rape culture. That is civility. That is telling people with more progressive minds than those in power to be civil and accommodating to people who don't even know the meaning of those words. I read and listen to a lot of true crime, so I've heard stories like that before, and they always enrage me. I can't wrap my head around how a person, a mother, a family, who claims to love a child could allow - no, force - them to remain civil to someone who hurt them so badly.
Here's what runs through my mind when I hear stories like that:
Those children would be better off raised by wolves, because at least wolves know to bare their teeth at anyone who harms their cubs.
And then I get mad at myself for judging these people, because I don't know what it's like to be a woman who loves a man who hurts a child, or to cut off part of my family. What right do I have to be angry?
I used to send angry emails. Long, angry screeds to people who I felt had wronged me. Full of shit that had been bottled up for months, if not years, because I was afraid of what would happen if I let myself be angry at them in person. One went to a guy who loved me, but pretended not to because his sister didn't want him to date me. Another went to a boss and friend who I didn't think appreciated my hard work. Looking back on these emails, I saw them as failures. Failure to maintain the control that I'm known for. Failure to hide my emotions. Failure to be mature enough to continue to stomp down my feelings. I was embarrassed by these outbursts of anger. My anger was uncivil, and I was raised to behave better.
So every now and then, when I came across someone who definitely deserved an angry email, I repressed the desire.
I had no right to be angry.
I spent almost 5 years taking classes and performing at The New Movement here in New Orleans. In January of 2018 that all came crashing down when it was revealed, in an excruciatingly long town hall meeting, that the married couple (Chris and Tami) who were 2/3 owners of the theater had mishandled the aftermath of a female performer and faculty member being sexually assaulted by a male performer. There were other allegations - this article is pretty comprehensive. They claimed that ignorance was the problem - they didn't know how to handle a sexual assault claim within the community.
But. There was an Austin branch of TNM (now successfully separated) that had their own meeting, where (without going into the details, because they're not my stories to tell) it became clear that Chris and Tami have a long history of a. minimizing and mishandling sexual assault complaints and b. holding faculty members to the rule of not dating students/performers while treating their student and performer base like their personal fucking harem.
Myself, and many of the most talented teachers and performers at TNM resigned and are now boycotting the theater. I will never step foot there again. I don't believe that people with toxic beliefs change, especially once you're Tami's age. I just hope that one day she becomes self aware enough to realize that denying the assaults of other women does not erase the trauma that she's experienced herself.
Recently they sent out a press release reporting the findings of a lawyer who they hired, who of course did not find Chris and Tami at fault for anything.
Cool story, bro.
I found myself livid. And when I'm angry, I turn it inward, and become deeply depressed. Then, I found out that one of my favorite friends and collaborators, who had left his position at TNM and gotten a new job, had returned to performing there. Because his friend, some faux male feminist asshole, had asked him to. If I had known it that was easy, I would have asked him not to.
I realize now why so much of the stuff going on at The New Movement has caused my heart to race. Has caused me to stay up at night. Has caused me to spiral into a summer depression that is leaving me significantly less productive and useful than usual. Because so many people who I cared about and considered friends have gone back there and I. Am. Enraged.
And I've been holding it back.
That you would hide behind willful ignorance and the desire for civility in a boycott of people who have a long history of having a very limited view of what constitutes as sexual assault, and using their positions of power to silence those who were victims.
Most of these people no longer advertise the shows that they're doing at The New Movement to social media. I'm sure that they'd say it's because they don't want any drama from those who are boycotting TNM, but the truth is: they're ashamed. But not so ashamed that they won't tell people face-to-face that the accuser is a liar. They always only refer to the one accuser, not the several others who came forward afterwards with their own frustrating stories of the men who assaulted them remaining unchecked, because to acknowledge those other women would be to make it a lot harder to dismiss their collective stories as lies.
There's only one person who has been very vocal in his continued support of The New Movement, and sadly he's someone who I once considered a friend. His entire life was TNM - megaphone tattoo and all. All of his free time was spent there, and all of his friends were from there, and he has very bitterly, personally, attacked those who are vocally opposed to TNM because he's angry and blames them for tearing down his playhouse..
Part of being an adult is realizing that the people and things that you love will disappoint you, and knowing when to let them go. These people can't let The New Movement go. So they'll continue to perform and work there and pretend that everything is okay, because it's easier to be weak and stand for nothing than it is to let go of the place that made them happy while it secretly forced women into silence.
I'm angry, and sad, because it means that I'll have to let these people go. But just because it's hard doesn't mean that it's not the right thing to do.
And I don't apologize for these feelings anymore. Someone should be angry for the women who men abuse, if the people who are supposed to love them won't.