“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.” Audre Lorde
There is power in truly wanting to see through your own bullshit.
Since I opened the door to wanting to know about silence, privilege and oppression, so much has been shifting and churning. I am already wiser for this exploration. Your comments have touched raw nerves. My own words are doing the same.
Over the past six days, I kept writing and sitting. Nothing clear would come out. I spoke with my writing partner, Jeanne, and clarity seemed to show up for a bit. But the next morning when it came time to write, fog and confusion, again. Something here doesn’t want to be seen. I don’t want to see it; but, I do. I want to be free.
Silence, privilege and oppression.
Three pretty powerful topics, and I’ve lumped them all together. They are intertwined.
Some of you have asked why I’m exploring this topic. Something is pushing me to see what I don’t want to see. I want to know what keeps me silent. I want to know where I am blind. I want to know where I am ignorant. I want to see what I haven’t been willing to see. I want to be free. And, it is foggy. It feels like something painful is coming to light.
I know that what stays hidden, what stays in the dark, hurts us all.
A few nights ago,
after opening this can of who knows what, anger and grief finally came pouring out. I kept yelling, over and over, out loud, very out loud, from someplace deep inside, “I don’t understand men’s silence.” “I don’t understand.” “How can you stay silent about what happens to women, when there are women in your life you love? Your mother, your sister, me?”
I was saying it to him, my partner…and at the same time, I was saying it to all the world’s men.
After so many years wondering what it would be like to simply say what had been kept inside for so long, I experienced it. It wasn’t clumsy at all. It was clear. It was alive. It was powerful. It came from someplace deep within my body.
The anger was a deep and boiling. It’s been cooking for some time. It burned its way through. It burned itself out of me. After it subsided, grief began to spill out. A deep, deep grief about the way things are in the world. So much grief.
But as everything came tumbling out of my body, the rage, the grief and the tears, I also felt something inside me become stronger. It was as if I found a part of myself that I had lost a long time ago. It’s the part that I silenced.
It is still a bit hazy,
but I’m going to try to write it in hopes it will become more clear.
I don’t understand my partner’s silence. He is a good man. I love him. I feel so much anger and so much love. It was a sign that something was up in me, something coming up to be seen through, something that was ready to be set free.
There is an old, worn out relationship between me and men. In opening the door to seeing my complacency and silence, I see even more clearly how these things are fueled by my conditioned loyalty with men, especially the men in my life that hold power. The men in my life who hold power are white men. Educated men. Middle-class men. Men I love.
If you asked them, they might not feel powerful. In fact, I bet they don’t feel powerful. So many men have said they feel powerless in this culture. Yet, in relationship to me, they seem powerful. They seem to hold the power. What’s that about?
As a girl, I learned I held no power. Small body. Big men. No way I could hold my own.
As a girl, I learned my role was to take care of men, and to try to help them feel good about themselves.
As a girl, I learned to be silent about the things they did that didn’t feel right to me, that didn’t feel good.
As a girl, I learned to stay silent: silent = safe.
As a girl, this was survival.
As a woman, it is no longer survival, it is conditioning, habitual conditioning that covers old fears. old betrayals and very real oppression.
The conditioning played itself out until, one day, the urge to know the truth, to be free of the conditioning, became stronger than the urge to stay safe. As Lorde wrote, we can incite our own learning, if we follow the urge for truth.
So what is the relationship between silence, privilege and power?
You may already know this. I didn’t know, until these past few days, how they have played out in my life.
Over the last few days, every time I tried to write about this, I would feel sick to my stomach. Something really uncomfortable was coming up. I could only see fog, and writing didn’t clear it like it usually does.
The morning after so much anger rose up and burned out of me, I went for a walk in the woods across the street from our home. I could hear the birds calling, the water rushing down the stream, and the rustle of the early morning breeze. As I walked deeper into the park, I could feel the earth alive. I could feel her holding me, Mother earth. I felt so much love from everything alive around me. In that holding, more grief tumbled out. The tears literally poured from my eyes.
As the grief subsided, I could feel something shift. It was as if a distancing had happened, a distancing between me and men. Then I saw it clearly.
My silence earns me privilege, and it costs me my power.
Let me say that again. 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.
Any privilege is hollow at its core.
Privilege is not the way Spirit works. It is not the way of soul. It is not the way of the Earth. And it is not the way of the Mother of us all.
Privilege is the way of patriarchy.
It’s an exchange. A pact. A very unconscious pact. Unconscious in me, until now.
This pact between privilege, power and silence upholds this system of domination and control.
As the tears poured from my eyes, I felt grief rise up and leave. I felt a letting go of this pact of silence. I felt my own autonomy grow. I felt a solidness in myself take hold.
I want to be free, a woman liberated from her own silence.
This is part two in a series of posts on silence, privilege and oppression. You can read part one, here. I don’t know how many more there will be. Thank you for walking beside me through this exploration. I would love to know your reactions, comments and experiences with these very tender places.