Filling the Hollow on International Women’s Day
In Part 2 of her “So Many Silences” posts, Julie Daley wrote, “My silence earns me privilege, and it costs me my power. I give away my power to have privilege. I may feel I have power, but as long as that power is based on a privilege that is hollow at its core, the power is hollow, too.”
My initial response to this was, “Whoa.”
How many ways have I have earned privilege with my silence? With complacency, self-protection, and ignoring? With a new dress or an intellectual maneuver? With going along to get along with race-and class-based separation from other women?
What is the solution to the hollowness of my privilege, obtained at the expense of my power? Do I throw it away, or set it on fire? Or is it possible to reclaim, reuse, or recycle it?
Hollow spaces can hold things. They are containers. Sometimes what goes inside them is safer, more readily available, more accessible than it would be without them.
I can fill the hollow space of my privilege the truth of my experience. I can speak the truth, and by speaking my true stories, help other women to speak theirs, too.
On March 8, 2011, the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day for celebrating the achievements of women past and improving the lives of women present and future, I commit to telling the truth about my experience with domestic violence. To publishing my memoir. To speaking and teaching everywhere I can. To blogging and tweeting. To talking about things that the collective “we” would rather keep in silence, ignore, think of as a private family matter which belongs to other people, people not like us, people who wear a different hollow mask.
My privilege and external power were ineffective against the physical and emotional abuse I experienced from 1999-2007. Privilege and power played a large part of my shame and my reluctance to tell anyone what was happening.
But now I will use that same, hollow as ever, privilege and power to gain the ears of people who can only hear a voice that inhabits a body that wears privilege.
I hope that when I tell my stories–what happened, why I stayed as long as I did, why I finally left–people will think differently about what kind of woman wakes up one morning to realize that she is a victim. I hope they won’t ask in quite as exasperated a tone, Why doesn’t she just leave him?
One out of every four women will experience intimate terrorism, partner abuse, domestic violence at some point in her life. And one out of four women is me, and I am she.
This post is part of Heather Plett’s 100 Years :: 100 People :: 100 Changes project.