"My Father’s Love: Volume I is an astounding feat of integration on a subject fraught with personal as well as cultural disconnect. Doubiago writes about her experience of incest simultaneously from two distinct focal distances. With the convex lens of subjectivity, she brings into acute focus the up-close matrix of daily lies, betrayals, violations, and denials that compose the foreground of child sexual abuse. At the same time, with the concave lens of objective research, she refracts the broader cultural landscape: genealogies of generational abuse, geographies of oppression, cross-cultural conspiracies of silence."
This book set me thinking (again) about incest. Doubiago shared with me from her Author's note in the second volume:
"I wrote My Father’s Love from November 2000-2005. The guides to literary agents that I consulted, the agencies interested in memoir in the related categories of Women’s Studies, Gender, Feminism, Child Psychology, Trauma, Domestic Violence, etc., nearly all ended their lists with “No incest stories.” Though fairly discredited now, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a political, right-wing, fundamentalist Christian think tank of the 1990s, was highly successful in influencing current social attitudes toward child abuse and fueling the controversy about the validity of reports by those claiming to be victims of parental sexual assault. Much academic and journalistic research has uncovered this now, including the Foundation’s successful blocking of publications and reviews. For more than ten years not a single incest book was published by a major US press—this culminating an era that had uncovered the fact that one quarter and more of all females are raped in childhood. The taboo of the incest book is still very powerful, censorship being an aspect of the silent shadow. Again, what focus there is remains on the abused; the psyche of the abuser is the norm (even admired and emulated as maturity, authority), still fairly unexamined. (What’s examined is dismissed as outside society’s embrace; just lock up the evil, incorrigible ones—that is, the ones who get caught—as freaks of nature.)"
In a nutshell, here is how it goes: There have always been a lot of girls being seen by doctors for vaginal infections and trauma to the vulva. The doctors have always been shocked by how many cases there are, and they have been unable to accept that these girls are the victims of sexual assaults by male family members. And they have used their erudition and their authority to come up with ingenious explanations for these cases... explanations that protect males, and especially white and class-privileged males.
This was easier to do before a lab test had been developed to identify the bacteria that causes gonorrhea. Doctors could deny that the purulent infection was a sexually transmitted disease. After the Gonococcus bacterium was identified, the doctors needed to become more creative. Yes, they had to admit that these girls did indeed have gonorrhea... but now they were insisting that the source was dirty sheets, chamber pots, second-hand washrags. Which could explain why the father and his four-year-old daughter, and maybe his wife and his other children could all have gonorrhea. In the case of middle-class families, the infection could now be attributed to the poor personal hygiene of the servants.
Then, toward the end of the 19th century, the burgeoning immigrant populations would provide another handy theory. Racism and xenophobia proved ripe breeding grounds for new and highly contagious forms of denial. Finally, the doctors were willing to admit that girls with gonorrhea were victims of sexual assault, and not toilet seats... but these assaults were only happening to African American girls and daughters of immigrants. And the motive was a superstitious belief that sex with a virgin would cure gonorrhea. The doctors never bothered to explain why the fathers would continue to abuse these children for years, if "the cure" was the sole motive, but there is nothing rational about theories of incest denial, except the consistent focus on protecting the perpetrators.
Dr. Flora Pollack stands out as a true heroine in this nightmare scenario of medical enablers. In 1909, she was treating, in her words, an "appalling number" of girls at Johns Hopkins Hospital Dispensary. She did not care a fig whether or not the perpetrators were perverts and sadists, or "infectionists" (the term for the rapists who purportedly believed in the cure superstition.) She did not think that the primary significance of these cases of gonorrhea was the possibility of complications that might lead to death, or the fear of institutional epidemics spread by toilet seats. She actually thought that the most significant thing about 1000 girls a year in Baltimore turning up with gonorrhea was that men were sexually assaulting them. Flora Pollack actually had the gall to insist that doctors seeing cases of girls with gonorrhea should assume there had been a sexual assault... and it only took 90 more years for the medical field to adopt that no-brainer for a standard. A moment of silent tribute to Dr. Pollack. Her courage and persistence must have been Amazonian.
As I say, I am only half-way through, and it's only 1920. I have not gotten up to False Memory Syndrome (FMS) yet, and I am very curious to know what those august men of medicine came up with during those 70 years between the cure superstition and FMS. I'll keep you posted.
What is interesting to me is this automatic bonding and protecting of a class of criminals who are truly heinous: men who rape their daughters. As Doubiago notes, even today when incest is more openly admitted, the focus is on the victims and the "psyche of the abuser is the norm." This is what Pollack was wanting to confront, and this is what Doubiago's book indicts. This is the story, this is the social ill... not the PTSD of the victims, tragic and disruptive as that is.
No, the real story is the silence and the cover-up. What is this peculiar virus that seems to originate predominantly in the male psyche, mutating every few decades and then spreading like wildfire through male-dominant cultures--denying, protecting, discrediting, recruiting?
African American author and Nobel Prizer winner Toni Morrison's brilliant insights about racism have helped me think about oppression in radical ways, and I am reminded of this quotation from her lecture "Unspeakable Things Unspoken:"
"Looking at the scope of American literature, I can't help thinking that the question should never have been 'Why am I, an Afro-American, absent from it?' It is not a particularly interesting query anyway. The spectacularly interesting question is 'What intellectual feats had to be performed by the author or his critic to erase me from a society seething with my presence, and what effect has the performance had on the work?'"
My question is "What medical or propaganda feats had to be performed by the doctor or the shapers of the culture to erase incest from a society seething with sexually abused girls and what effect has the performance had on all of us, and especially on women?"
They are also the title of the word collage I presented last night at a literary event here in Portland (Maine), titled "Patriotica." I was one of two women reading in an evening filled overwhelmingly with readings by, for, and about men... illustrating Woolf's point beautifully.
During the evening, I thought of a quotation by Native American activist Winona LaDuke, "I would like to see as many people patriotic to a land as I have seen patriotic to a flag." Sadly, "treehuggers" are usually seen as unpatriotic.
Anyway, here is my contribution to the evening. I want to add a footnote.. In the piece I quote Colonel Janis Karpinski, who was a whistleblower about a military rape coverup. Karpinski was demoted from Brigadier General in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, and she courageously went on to write a book, One Woman's Army, about how she was scapegoated to protect higher-ups. She tells how the prisoner abuses were perpetrated by contract employees trained in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay and sent under orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There have, of course, been attempts to discredit her, but, tellingly, no lawsuits.
Another footnote is that the epidemic of rapes in the military was the subject of a Congressional investigation in 2008. As a result there was an admirable military PR campaign, "My Strength is for Defending," which, sadly, appears to have been just so much window-dressing. The raping continues, the suicides continue, and the coverups are ongoing.
One of the thoughts I had in researching this piece was that, if a situation like this had come to light in the 1970's, I believe that women's groups would have organized all over the country to picket and leaflet every recruiter's office, to let these very young, very vulnerable, often low-income women know that they had a 50/50 chance of sexual assault if they signed up, and a 90% chance of being discharged if they report, and an 85% likelihood they would be ineligible for VA support for the PTSD after the involuntary discharge. If they had a prior history of being sexually victimized, that would be used against them in their (mis)diagnoses.
Why isn't that happening today? Many reasons. The economy. Women simply do not have the luxury of activism. Also, a generation of women who seem to think that naming and resisting oppression is what makes them victims... (WTF, literally) Lesbians having the option of insemination and adoption, so that we are no longer a predominantly childless community, and our priorities, for better or worse, reflect this shift.
I have written an essay titled "Medals for Military Sexual Trauma:A Proposal." Medals would be far more effective than a poster campaign, because the awarding of medals would necessitate a profound shift in the military mindset... a shift acknowledging that "women" and "soldiers" are not mutually exclusive categories, a shift acknowledging that an enemy soldier is a soldier who assaults any US military personnel, a shift acknowledging that that rape constitutes wounding and that PTSD is a wound.
So here is "As a Woman I Want No Country..."
These are the words of lesbian author Virginia Woolf:
“... if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or “our” country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. For,’ the outsider will say, ‘in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
According to the website of the Military Rape Crisis Center, one in three women in the military will be sexually assaulted. Two out of three women in the military will be sexually harassed. Congresswoman Jane Harmon from California has done the math: “A woman who signs up to protect her country is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”
Over 90% of all females that report a sexual assault are discharged from the military before their contract ends. From the 90%, around 85% are discharged against their wishes. Nearly all of the 85% lose their careers based on misdiagnoses that render them ineligible for military service and ineligible for VA treatment after discharge.
"... in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
In a startling revelation, Colonel Janis Karpinski testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.
Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."
The women were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark. The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. According to Karpinski, "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night." "And rather than make everybody aware of that -- because that's shocking, and as a leader if that's not shocking to you, then you're not much of a leader -- what they told the surgeon to do is don't brief those details anymore. And don't say specifically that they're women. You can provide that in a written report, but don't brief it in the open anymore."
Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory."
“... in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
Sept 2009 The report by the Defense Department’s Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services, based on 15 months of work and interviews with more than 3,500 people at 60 locations around the world, said the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office is not providing policy or oversight for key responsibilities, or interacting with military officials in the field who are accountable on this issue.
“... in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
“Administrative discharge.” The words stung, like I had just been slapped or spit upon. I couldn't follow the rest of the lieutenant colonel's words. Only that the man who raped me was being given an honorable discharge.
The rapist would keep his rank and his benefits. His record would be unblemished. He could reenlist the day after his discharge. “With all due respect, sir,” I said with the intensity of barely controlled fury, “that isn't acceptable to me. I don't ever want to see this man wearing this uniform again, leading troops again, or dishonoring another veteran at their funeral.”
The lieutenant appointed as my advocate told me that she had once been raped, but decided not to file a criminal report. “It was easier to just forget about it,” she told me, and implied that I should, too. This is how life is for women in the Army. When I rejoined my comrades, no one would talk to me. Not even the women. They all faulted me for breaking up the unit, for getting the rapist taken off of the deployment. The rapist had a long history with the unit, while I was the new girl. A few days after I rejoined my unit, we reviewed some video footage from training. At one point, the rapist’s face filled the screen. I was paralyzed, lightheaded with fear and nausea. I ran to the bathroom and vomited. Minutes later, a female I had trained with and lived with came in to use the bathroom. As I sat on the floor heaving with sobs, she stepped over me to wash her hands, survey her hair, and leave. I was alone. To her, I was worthless.
During my deployment, Major R often accused me of being promiscuous, of spending too much time with men (which made up about 85 percent of the post's population and my entire office), and of putting myself in dangerous situations. He once said this must explain the rapist’s actions. With tears and anger, and no regard to military bearing, I rebuked the major. “I have done nothing wrong,” I shouted. “He made his own decision to rape me.” The major cringed at the word “rape,” then stared at me with contempt and told me to leave his office.
“in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
There is no set reaction to Military Sexual Trauma. You may feel fear, shame, anger, embarrassment, or guilt. You may have a response right away, or it may be delayed for months or years. You may feel sad or scared months or years after the assault.
After Military Sexual Trauma you may:
Avoid places or things that remind you of what happened.
Avoid your friends, family, and other people.
Have trouble sleeping or have nightmares
Feel numb or feel nothing at all.
Have relationship problems.
Think about death or killing yourself.
“... in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
Listen up, world! Some serious tag-team action in Berlin this week, when philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler used the podium of a German LGBT Festival--where she was guest-of-honor!--to call out the organizers on their racism… and THEN, philosopher and political activist Angela Davis, at a different event in the city, nailed it to the door for all of us.
First, here’s Judith:
"When I consider what it means today, to accept such an award [Award for Civil Courage], then I believe, that I would actually lose my courage, if I would simply accept the prize under the present political conditions. ... For instance: Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them. The host organizations refuse to understand anti-racist politics as an essential part of their work. Having said this, I must distance myself from this complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism."
Now, I am not a big fan of Butler’s work. I think gender is about as performative as oppression… and I'm suspicious of any theory founded by pro-pedophilia activists (see my play Hermeneutic Circlejerk)… and I’m always nervous about people who say things like,“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power”
… but leaving those concerns alone for the moment, Butler's action in Berlin this week was courageous and spot-on.And the fact she gave the speech in German just puts the cherry on top. (Read the translation or watch the video.)
“Well, I certainly hope that Judith Butler’s refusal to receive the Civil Courage Award will act as a catalyst for more discussion about the impact of racism, even within groups that are considered to be progressive… Somehow, [the idea that] people from the Global South, people of color are more homophobic than white people—is a racist assumption. When we consider the extent to which the ideological structures of homophobia, of transphobia, of heteropatriarchy are embedded in our institutions, the assumption that one group of people is going to be more homophobic than another group of people misses the mark. It misses the mark because we not only have to address issues of attitudes; we have to address the institutions that perpetuate those attitudes and that inflict real violence on human beings.”
Davis goes on to say, “…when we win victories in movement struggles, what we do is we change the whole terrain of struggle. So we don’t simply add on: we don’t add on women to black people; we don’t add on LGBT people to women and to black people; we don’t add on trans people and so forth. Each time we win a significant victory, it requires us to revisit the whole terrain of struggle. And so therefore, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in gay and lesbian movements, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in the women’s movement, we have to ask questions about the impact of sexism or misogyny in black communities, and we have to ask questions about the influence of homophobia in black communities or communities of color.”
The whole terrain. This incident has triggered three memories for me. The first is personal. I was hired to teach a workshop on diversity to a group of young people in an urban gardening project. Most of them were Somalian immigrants. The woman who hired me was in the room, and everything was going well during the racism and sexism segments, but when I got to the LGBT component, and came out as a lesbian, and explained how homophobia constituted a violation of human rights... well, things started to unravel. Confronted with what Allah and the Koran have to say about queers, I explained how such teachings are actually political positions masquerading as sacred writing. The woman who hired me was looking miserable.
This is a population who have had to contend with horrendous racism here in my home state, with their cultural identity in crisis from twin threats of discrimination and assimilation. I understood that the students experienced my statements as direct and probably racist attacks on their cultural identity, and I had to remind myself that it was probable that at least one of the kids in the room was or would be LGBT, and that his or her identity was already under attack.
The second memory was of an international organization for women writers, to which I used to belong. They had a comprehensive diversity policy. I know, because I helped draft it. The policy was inclusive of both religion and sexual orientation. A situation arose, where a press that was church-owned, but hiding that affiliation from the public, was busted for covert discrimination against LGBT writers. The writers' organization chose to privilege the interests of the publisher over those of its lesbian members who were protesting the discrimination. Homophobia, apparently, came under the rubric of religious tolerance.
The third memory is Gita Sahgal’s recent resignation from Amnesty International. This is from her statement:
“I was hired as the Head of the Gender Unit as the organization began to develop its Stop Violence Against Women campaign. I leave with great sadness as the campaign is closed. Thousands of activists of Amnesty International enthusiastically joined the campaign. Many hoped that it would induce respect for women’s human rights in every aspect of the work. Today, there is little ground for optimism.”
Sahgal goes on to talk about AI’s decision to support a former detainee from Guantanamo, who is a proponent of jihad. “Unfortunately, their stance has laid waste every achievement on women’s equality and made a mockery of the universality of rights. In fact, the leadership has effectively rejected a belief in universality as an essential basis for partnership.” The whole terrain. Thank you, Dr. Davis, and thank you for reminding us, "This notion of intersecting or cross-hatched or overlaying categories of oppression is one that has come to us thanks to the work of women of color feminists."
Broadway and Off-Broadway... the touchstone for "arriving" in the world of theatre in the US... the El Dorado, the Brigadoon, the Camelot... So why aren't there more women playwrights who make it?
Here's how it works... Remember the old playground game called Red Rover? Two lines of kids facing each other, and one team calls out, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send so-and-so right over!" and then the kid whose name was called starts running toward that line, while the kids all link arms and try to keep her from breaking through.
Now... here's the part that's pertinent: If the kid breaks through, she gets to take one of the two people who let her break through back to her home team. But, if she cannot break through, she must join the enemy team. To put it in corporate terms, the loser must assimilate.
In the world of top-tier commercial theatre, they don't exactly call us over by name. These days they do make a pretty big show about "Where are the women?" So we come a-running, manuscripts under our arms. If we can't break through, we are supposed to line up with their values, even against our own interests. Yes, and some of us do.
These women who have gone over to the big-boy team may seem like good strategic points to try to break through. But, they are not. They understand that, if they are the reason another woman breaks through, they will have to leave the big-boy team and return with the winner back to the women's team. And we all know the women's team does not own any commercial theatres. They are far more motivated to keep us out than their brothers on the line.
Well... Red Rover is an analogy for a dynamic that has frustrated women playwrights for centuries. What is really at stake, of course, is power. And having a voice is having power. And women's voices, when we really tell the truth about our lives, cannot be assimilated with the voices of those who are benefiting from the systems that oppress and exploit us. That's what this is all about, really. It's not about men who don't like women, although that's part of it, of course. It's not about women not being good enough. It's about whose story is going to be heard.
So, okay, whose stories are heard? Let's look at four examples that are on issues that are central in the lives of women and critical in defining our experience and shaping our personalities: rape, sexual harassment, assault, systemic child sexual abuse, and its subset, incest.
When these stories get told in the commercial theatres, and they do occasionally get told... who does the telling? Whose point of view, whose issues are represented?
Let's take a look:
One of the first plays that was focused on rape was Extremities, and it actually opened with an onstage, attempted, violent rape. The choreography was usually out-of-hand. Audience members would catch blobs of flying oatmeal, and, as Wikipedia notes, "it wasn't uncommon to see the lead actress with bandaged and splinted fingers during the run of the play." Real bandages and real splints, people. Actor, not character, assaulted. Susan Sarandon left the cast, if memory serves me, on the advice of her therapist. Farrah Fawcett had an actual stalker disrupt one of her performances to ask if she had been receiving his letters and photos. So this, one of the very first plays focused on rape victims, opens with a scene that is guaranteed to traumatize the audience, if not physically and emotionally brutalize the leading lady.
And the subject matter? The would-be victim manages to overpower the rapist and tie him up. Her housemates come home and the subject becomes, "Whatever will we do with him?" Because, of course, we all know rapists rarely are convicted, and even if they are, they may or may not be sentenced to prison. Should the women kill him?
In other words, the focus is on the rapist. The question of the play is, "What would women do to rapists if they were ever in a position to exact revenge?" Now, I know hundreds of survivors of rape. So does everyone, because it's one-in-three women. And I have sat in on thousands of conversations on the subject, and never, ever ONCE has it been, "Gosh, what will I do if I ever catch one?" It's simply not our issue.
The conversations go like this: "How can I leave the house?" or "How can I support myself while I'm trying to work through the PTSD?" or "How can I keep from losing my partner when I have so many traumatic associations with intimacy?" or "How can we make sure this never happens again?" or "How can I help my daughter/lover/sister/neighbor/roommate... myself?" These are the issues for women.
The rape play that went to Broadway was voyeuristic for perps and restimulating for trauma survivors, and obsessed with a question that only a rapist would find compelling.
Well...okay... but how about sexual harassment? And, yes, it's a real problem. These stats are from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
31% of the female workers claimed to have been harassed at work
62% of targets took no action
100% of women claimed the harasser was a man
Aside from the physical and emotional toll, many women have to change jobs, often more than once, and this has very real career and wage consequences. And, for women in the military, the stats tell us that 95% experience harassment. And, of course, in the military they can't can't change jobs or quit. Yes, it's a problem.
So, the sexual harassment play to go to Broadway? Oleanna. It's about sexual harassment on college campuses.
Okay... but I'm talking about the mainstream Broadway treatment of an issue that is huge for women. In the play, it turns out that the professor is a well-intentioned victim of a confused female student who has been manipulated by those evil, man-hating, paranoid bitches (read "dykes") over in Women's Studies.
Wow. And whose story is that?
Okay... next example. Let's take something that is irrefutable, documented, topical, and epidemic... the priest abuse cases. Of which there are tens of thousands globally.
The play that went to Broadway was Doubt. Yep, you heard that right. Doubt. And, again, there is an evil, man-hating, spinsterish woman-- this time a nun. And of course, the priest is progressive and much-loved. Yeah, so you know who you're supposed to be rooting for. He ends up, in spite of a history of "doubtful interactions with children," with a promotion, and she ends up... doubting. Now, some have said that the play plants seeds of doubt, but I doubt that. Read the reviews. It frames a global horror as a situation fraught with gendered ambiguity. Not.
And how about incest? Well, there was How I Learned to Drive, which went to Off-Broadway. This play is by a woman, and represents a very accurate depiction of sexual abuse by a skillfully seductive, adult family member, who preys on the insecurities of his victim. The playwright depicts, with accuracy, the confusion of a teen victim who is unclear about her role in the perpetration. Her protecting of the memory (play is told in flashback), her occasional role as the aggressor, her sentimentalizing of her relationship to her uncle/perpetrator... these are all very real dynamics that can be present for the victim of incest. AND this confusion, this sentimentalizing, this ambivalence is actually part of the post-rape syndrome. The play does not frame it that way. Audiences and reviewers go away with comments like, "Incest is a complicated issue; there's no black-and-white" and "it's a two-way street." If you don't believe me, read them online.
And who benefits from that?
This is what is at stake in the Red Rover game for women trying to break into commercial theatre. Whose voice will be heard?
And you know what? The most important, the most dangerous, the most competitive, and the most successful strategy we can engage is to arrange our lives and our careers so that, first and foremost, we can hear ourselves.
Board games... I remember playing Candy Land... it was probably my first. And then, of course, there was Monopoly. I can remember figuring out early on that, unless one was adept at strategic alliances, the outcome of the game was pretty much determined by the toss of the dice. It might take a long time to play out, but basically, if one landed early on Boardwalk and Park Place, it would be pretty tough to beat that monopoly. Then there was Risk, a microcosm of Cold War thinking and global domination.
Turns out, board games are ancient, the earliest one named "Senet" being pictured in a fresco in an Egyptian tomb from 3000 BC. "Patolli" was played by the ancient Aztecs, and the Royal Tombs of Ur contained the "Royal Game of Ur."
But let's go back to Monopoly for a second. If board games represent microcosms for cultural mindsets, it behooves us to understand the origin of this game. The game that taught me capitalism was, according to the BBC, a redesign of a board game first published by (wait for it) a woman who was a Quaker and a political activist. Her name was Elizabeth Magie. The original name was "The Landlord's Game" and it was intended to teach people how monopolies end up bankrupting the majority, while enabling a small minority to amass an ill-gotten fortune. On January 5,1904, the game was awarded U.S. Patent 748,626.
In 1933, three years after the start of the Great Depression, the game was reinvented as "Monopoly," and it has become the most popular board game ever played. More than one billion would-be millionaires have passed Go and collected $200 in the eighty years since it's invention.
But something very strange seems to have occurred along the way from "The Landlord's Game" to "Monopoly." Life has begun to imitate art. We, as a planet, have begun to treat life as a board game, and the earth as the board.
Right now, as I write this, the greatest environmental disaster on the planet is transpiring. An explosion on an oil rig, due to lax oversight, shortcuts on materials and research, and exceptions to regulations, is causing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil to pour into the ocean.
That's a catastrophe. Now, imagine that the explosion had taken place in a building in Manhattan... and a fire is raging, destroying PROPERTY (keep that word in mind). Fire trucks and ambulances show up. But imagine government officials sending them home. "No, this explosion has occurred in a building owned by Widgets, Inc. and it is their responsibility to deal with it." And then, of course, Widgets, Inc. who is in the business of making and selling widgets, has to scramble to get in the business of firefighting and rescuing people... for which they have little expertise, less budget, and miniscule motivation... because the bottom line of a corporation is producing profits for their shareholders. Actually, there will be a certain tension between this firefighting/lifesaving and the interests of the stockholders. And, meanwhile, the fire rages on, spreads through the city, and destroys lives.
That would seem crazy, wouldn't it? As soon as the explosion occurs, the model changes. There is a full-on mobilization to deal with the disaster.
But that's not happening in the Gulf. Everyone is standing around and waiting for Widgets, Inc.-- in this case, British Petroleum--to stop the destruction and save the lives. And this mission is definitely in conflict with their bottom line. We can see that. They immediately began to pour millions into public relations and lobbyists, because that's the kind of damage they understand: government regulation. That's the fire they are skilled at putting out. They have mobilized to keep the press away from the coastal areas. They understand company secrecy. They have raced to pour chemicals more toxic than oil into the ocean in order to sink the oil, get it out of sight. They understand the PR value of that, also... never mind that these chemicals will kill sea life. Out of sight, out of mind. And their CEO has complained about wanting his life back. Thousands of folks on the Gulf Coast have permanently lost their livelihood and with it the life they have always known, but the BP CEO has gone off to the yacht races in England, because, in his words, it's one of the biggest races in the world!
And is this their fault? They are, after all, a corporation. They do what corporations do. There is an unforgettable documentary The Corporation, which you can watch for free (and legally) on Hulu. It lists the characteristics of a sociopath, who is, admittedly, a menace to society... and then it goes down this list, showing how corporations exhibit every one of those characteristics... that, in fact, those characteristics are built into the very definition of a corporation. And how absolutely disastrous to society this is, and especially, now that the Supreme Court has granted them the legal rights of an individual (human).
Corporations view the world as a monopoly board. There are opponents and allies in the game, but no real people. There is property, but no real planet with nature and ecosystems. And the reason why there would be a governmental response to an explosion in Manhattan is that this explosion would be impacting private property. But the explosion in the ocean...? Well, nobody owns the ocean. Nobody owns the floor of it. Nobody owns the water rights to the ocean. It's up to BP to fix it.
This seems crazy to me. And there were immediate offers of funding and expertise from other governments. These were turned down. Hands off! This is a corporate problem! Goddess forbid anyone do anything that infringes on the territory of a corporation. The last thing this administration needs is more hysterical press about socialization, government takeover of business. Which is odd, because we have certainly nationalized a ton of banks and other financial institutions in the wake of the mortgage crisis. Isn't the "failure" of the ocean as an ecosystem something that would warrant a bailout?
But, the ocean is not a property. And the billions of ocean creature lives lost in this disaster do not form a voting constituency. And life is, after all, a board game.
Except it's not. We need to remember this. We are not the lords of the planet, we do not have rights over other forms of life. We act as if we do, but the day of reckoning, when we realize our interdependence, is upon us. Life is not a board game, much as some of us would like to believe that it is. If it was, all of us would be drawing the "Go Directly to Jail" card.
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Changing pronouns doesn't always solve the problem in a culture where males are dominant and where women are sexually colonized. There is no male equivalent for "whore," for example. And if a man is a master of his craft, does "mistress of her craft" really have the same meaning?
And what about God? Is Goddess just God in a skirt? Or a skort? Or jeans and a flannel shirt? And just what does gender mean when we are in the realm of spirit?
These questions have been on my mind, because I recently completed an adaptation of the Christian Science textbook, intended for use by women interested in a system of metaphysical healing with a remarkable track record. The book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures written by Mary Baker Eddy, was originally published in 1875, and this publication was followed by an astounding record of healings attributed to the reading and application of the teachings it contained. The Christian Science Church was founded on the healings, which, according to Eddy, proved her theory.
I was a serious student of Christian Science for several years, until the homophobia of the Church's policies in the 1980's compelled me to withdraw my membership and leave the religion. I have written about this in my introduction to the adaptation.
But I never forgot the power of the teaching, and, in fact, the more I read about recovery from trauma and about quantum physics, the more I felt the brilliance and prescience of Eddy's work. In a nutshell, she believed that what we know of the world, derived from the five senses, is inaccurate... that, in fact, matter is unreal. And, in fact, quantum physics has demonstrated this. Moreover, she writes that the mind reporting the delusion is the delusion itself. Kind of like a dissociated state reporting reality. And all of this would be philosophical speculation, except for her insistence on an ultimate reality, that is Spirit, which, according to her, can override this false testimony of the senses.
To explain another way... The Christian Scientist, understanding Spirit to be all and matter to be nothing, would approach the appearance of a tumor the same way she would the appearance of antlers. She would understand it to be an impossibility, a lie. She would not apply affirmations to make it go away. She would work to understand the impossibility and to line her thinking up with the spiritual reality of the allness of Spirit (also called Mind, Principle, Soul, Life, Truth, Love).
To make a long story short (read my intro), I have grown more, not less, interested in Eddy's system since leaving the Church a quarter century ago. Which is why I decided to adapt the textbook. (The book is in public domain and someone actually put it online in Word.)
And... this is where radical-feminist-lesbian-nature-based-goddess-worship ran headlong into 19th-century-protestant-Christian-patriarchal-Biblical tropes. Eddy's metaphors, which were useful to her in putting across a radical teaching in 1875, were not useful to me. They were, in fact, serious impediments. I did not feel that they were in any way integral to her theory, which is why I undertook the adaptation in the first place... but the whole point was to preserve as much of her 700-page book as possible... so what to adapt and how?
Yesterday I was reading a copy of Herstoria, which is a fabulous publication, by the way.... and I ran across an article "The medieval mystery of a prayerbook, secret writing and a woman's learning..." by Kathryn Powell. It was about the discovery of an 11th century prayerbook that appears to have been adapted by a woman sometime in the 12th century. And, yes, between the lines she had changed the pronouns. She had also decoded secret writing that appears to have been some kind of game played by the monks.
I felt myself in a long tradition of women struggling to tease out the core truths in metaphysical systems couched and coded in patriarchal terms.
Changing the pronouns in my case meant changing many other things-- words like "sin," "evil," "dominion," "purity," "righteousness." And, of course, removing all reference to the Bible and to Christianity. After much thought, and more than a little influenced by the Gulf Coast disaster, I changed "God" to "Gaia." I wanted to do more than put God in a skirt.
I do not belief that masculinity and femininity are yin and yang ideas, two halves of some whole. I believe that women are quite whole by ourselves, thank you, and that historically, our so-called "other halves" have made life a living hell on earth for us. A spirituality, and especially a metaphysical system of healing, that is for women has to reflect this wholeness. At the same time, there is power in personifying a higher power, because in moments of terror and chaos, intellectualizing is not much comfort.
Got my attention, too. I actually was at the opening of this gallery show yesterday evening, and one of the artists was telling me about the incident. He told me that there had been a controversial nude sculpture installed, but that there had been complaints about it, and it was being removed from the show. In fact, that morning, the artist had arrived to pick it up, but when she got there, she found that the sculpture had been "defaced." In fact, it had been "de-penised."
So, I was listening to this story, and I was seeing images of the famous "Mannekin pis" in Brussels, or Michelangelo's David, and so on, and thinking, "Really, Portland? Really?" But then suddenly, the light went on. I turned to the artist, who was male, and asked, "Was it an erection?" And, indeed it was.
So, now, the kaleidoscope of my brain turned again, and the patterns of my thinking rearranged themselves. This time, I was remembering Sylvia Plath's tombstone... and notice I say, "Sylvia Plath." The tombstone, which had been carved with her married name, "Sylvia Plath Hughes" had a history of defacement. Apparently fans of Plath's work have repeatedly chiseled off the name "Hughes." Some have attributed her suicide to her husband's affair with another woman, whom he would later marry, and with whom he would father a child. Hughes' second wife would also commit suicide, but, unlike Plath, she would murder her child first.
So I'm thinking about that. I am also thinking about Georgia O'Keeffe, who wrote how, at the Art Institute of Chicago, she was required to take a course in anatomy that entailed the painting of nude male subjects. She had had a strong emotional response to the situation, and an even stronger response to her experience of the first class session. Apparently traumatized, she gave serious thought to dropping out. This did not seem to be to be about squeamishness or Puritanism. It seemed to be a survivor's response to a situation that would restimulate the trauma, the exposure to a naked man (and his genitals) being the probable trigger.
I am also thinking about a former girlfriend, who expressed a similar discomfort with an live-modeling art course. She actually went to her professor with a request for an alternative arrangement for passing the course. If I am remembering rightly, he did begrudgingly offer an alternative, gave her a poor grade, and maintained a somewhat hostile and distant attitude toward her for the remainder of her time at the school.
I am thinking of all of these things, around this "defacement." The suffusion of blood into the male organ appears to be, in the public mind, the difference between art and pornography, anatomy and indecency. Had the sculpture's penis been flaccid, I doubt it would have been excised. First, it would not have been such an easy target, and second, I doubt it would have triggered such a powerful response.
And, yes, it could have been a college prank. It could have been a group of frat boys (the gallery is located on a campus). But I can't shake the feeling that the vandal (activist?) was a woman, or women, and that the action was political... a response to iconography that appeared to be celebrating something that she--or they--had experienced as a weapon.
And all of this is going through my brain in a few seconds. I'm in the middle of a conversation. To backtrack: I have just asked if it was an erection. He says "yes." And everything stops for me. He stands there, puzzled. I'm not sure what he's waiting for. What I do know is that I have nothing to say. Because I have too much to say. Is it vandalism to chisel out Hughes' name? After all, Plath had chosen to publish under her maiden name. Who was doing the disrespecting? Who owns history? Who is the dead poet's family?
And O'Keeffe... we all know her flowers and her canyons look like vulvas. Was this a response to a situation where she had been forced to make a choice between between her career or her safety? Was this her revenge... that the world must now focus on, write commentary about, celebrate the vulva in order to deal with her as an artist?
And, of course, I am remembering my girlfriend. I am remembering how difficult it is for two artists, who are both women, to fight for our lives as artists and still have the resources to support each other.
I am thinking about how, as a heavily censored artist, I will probably be expected to register outrage at this act of vandalism and censorship. But I know how celebrations of the phallus traumatize and silence survivors. That is the censorship that concerns me. I know that if I express ambivalence toward, or support for the defacement, I will be miscategorized ("sex negative"). I know that to try to explain how the depiction of an erection in a public place can feel threatening... like a racial epithet in grafitti, like a swastika, will bring down even more contempt on my head. I know it will prove that my "unfortunate" and "atypical" (1 out of 3 women!) experiences have warped my perceptions, embittered me, and rendered me an enemy to freedom of expression.
If he was paying attention, my artist conversation-buddy might note the eloquence of my silence. I am inviting him to demonstrate alliance. He must know that the ball is in his court. I cannot open the survivor files without a password. Anyone who reads the newspaper should know what it is. Anyone who has ever had a daughter, a mother, a wife, a girlfriend should know it. And what about his silence... what does that signify?
I am guessing he is baffled, but there is a 3% chance that he understands, that he is a survivor also, that he is unwilling to risk an act of language here in this sunny garden, with all these art lovers holding their plastic cups of wine and their plates of camembert.
The question remains: Was it art? Where is the phallus now? Was it pulverized in an act of ritualized rage, and if so, was it a solo performance, or witnessed? Is it sitting on the mantle of a frat house, trophy of a daring prank, rite of passage to manhood? Is it stuffed in a dumpster? Tossed in a river?
Personally, I think that the statue, sans penis, should be exhibited. I don't believe that will happen, because that is too suggestive of the really censored art: women's anger, women's agency.
Tomorrow I am going to a gathering to grieve the dying of the Gulf Coast. It's going to be outdoors, overlooking Casco Bay, and it's being hosted by a meditation center. I need to go. Last week I went to a "vigil" for the Gulf Coast that ended up being a noisy demonstration with signs and chanting on a noisy street corner with lots of traffic. Honestly, I felt foolish. It's not a war. It's not a controversial referendum. It's the greatest environmental disaster ever perpetrated. I don't think anyone thinks it's a good idea. And nobody knows how to stop it.
No, what I need to do is grieve. Specifically, I need help with grieving. When I read about the Coast, I notice that I can look at maps, I can follow the videos about corporate deceptions and censorship... but what I cannot bear are the stories about the animals. I can't look at the pictures, I can't hear the stories. I can't take it in. But I need to, because I am a part of the culture that has been so profligate in the uses of oil. How much plastic crap have I bought over the years? Why am I still bringing my produce home in plastic bags? I drive a car. I have driven a car since I was twenty-one. I can't pretend innocence. I need to be able to look honestly and fully at the horrors that are occurring as a result of a lifestyle in which I have fully participated. I need to be able to face, shame and guilt notwithstanding, the facts about the billions of forms of life that are dying and will continue to die as a result of my generation.
I need to grieve. That is the first step. I remember that, after she wrote her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe was constantly confronted and asked "But what can I, as an individual, do?" She would answer, "You can make sure you feel right." That was a brilliant answer. Far more brilliant than "call you Senator." And far more difficult.
Stowe knew that the facts of human captivity, abduction, enslavement were overwhelming. Most white people retreated to some form of belief that somehow the suffering and horror was different for the captives than it would have been for themselves. They dissociated into economic models to prove that nothing could be done. They donated to an abolitionist group, and let that be the limit of it. To "feel right" was going to seriously impact their quality of life. To be aware, in an ongoing context, of the vast empire of human suffering that underlay their lifestyle was going to compel them in some small way to share the pain.
The most radical action I can do right now is feel what my species have done, with my knowledge and participation, to the Gulf Coast and its lives. And it is going to cost me. I can feel it. Otherwise, why am I shutting down over the information about the suffering wildlife. My life is going to change, when I can get to the full and appropriate extent of the grief.
Grieving is powerful. As an activist, I remember how governments have tried to control the funerals of dissidents, outlawing displays of grief. The Catholic Church in Ireland banned keening on several occasions. Keening was an expression of great lamentation... and it was traditionally done by the women. In fact, some of them would keen professionally. Keening was this kind of other-worldly wailing, a vocal vomiting of grief. I remember trying it once, and I was shocked by the sound of it, but also by the power. It reaches way down into the gut. No wonder it was banned. When you cannot express grief, the feeling of it becomes stifled. And stifled grief is not good.
I remember stifling a huge loss for ten years. It came out sideways in rage, and what couldn't come out as rage, roiled around inside me, contributing to an autoimmune disorder that sidelined me for ten years. When I remember this, I think culturally, what will we do if we cannot face the magnitude of this loss collectively? Will we ramp up our distractions, which are already ubiquitous? No doubt we'll consume. Bigger, better, faster. And what about rage, which is just about the only emotion big enough to trump grief? I think we're already seeing that. Blame is a terrific way to divert grief.
In fact, people will do almost anything to avoid grief. It's crazy. But we fear grief so much we will ruin our lives rather than go through a patch of grief that might last a month or a year. I am not sure why we are all so terrified of grief. The tragedy, the loss, has already occurred. But accepting loss is just something we humans really, truly do not want to do unless we absolutely have to.
I work a 12-Step recovery program. In fact, I owe my life to it. Those steps have helped me walk through grief over and over. Show up, pay attention, tell the truth, let go of results. So that's how I'm going to do this Gulf thing:
1) Show up. I'm going to the gathering. I'm following the news. I'm trying to face the wildlife thing. Not there yet, but I know I need to.
2) Pay attention. Trying to, like I said.
3) Tell the truth. Truth is, I'm not there yet. I want to forget, ignore. I would like to scapegoat and blame. I need to change. I want to live my amends.
4) Let go of results. If I can "feel right" about this situation, I believe that my life could change in radical ways. I can't let fear of that keep me from showing up, paying attention, and telling the truth. And that is where a spiritual component comes in for me. Hard to let go, maybe even impossible, if there is no trust.
Well... this is sounding like a sermon. Maybe it is. Yo, Deb Randall... This is the final day of the 5-Day Blog-off. I did it! Thank you! You got me launched... Sister!
"Queer has become so inclusive that it doesn’t allow the space for lesbians to exist."
"Some women can't say the word lesbian... even when their mouth is full of one."
The first quotation is by Susan Hawthorne--activist, publisher, poet, aerialist. Her blog is a revelation. If you don't know her, you should. And her book of poems The Butterfly Effectcan catch you up on six semesters of women's history... and her book of poems titled Bird, about living with epilepsy, is... well... you just have to read it. Not to mention Earth's Breath, about what it's like, before, during and after a cyclone. You can read my review of her poetry in the Lambda Literary. (Susan, if you're listening, get a Wikipedia page!)
And the second is by Kate Clinton. And everyone should watch her vlogs.
ANYWAY... I'm on Day Four of the 5-Day blog-off with Deb Randall of Venus Theatre, and it's about Day Seven of rain here in Maine... So I picked a subject that always gets me riled. False inclusives--which is to say, leaky umbrella terms.
I am old enough to remember when "men" and "man" were used to mean "men and women." Which is like telling people, "Well, now, when I say 'dog' you know what I really mean is 'dog and cat.'" No self-respecting cat would fall for that for a nano-second. They would know that it was a political ploy intended to privilege the interests of dogs, erase the traditional animosity between the two species, and, basically, make the cats suck it up.
Sadly, women, and especially lesbians are not cats. We have and continue to fall for it. Imagine a gay man being told, "Okay, so from now on, the term 'lesbian' is going to be the term used to refer to both gay males and lesbians." No self-respecting gay man would fall for that for a nano-second. They would know that it's a political ploy to privilege the interest of lesbians, erase the ... well, you get the picture.
My generation of feminists fought very hard not be called "men" or "man." The New York Times, if I'm remembering rightly, was one of the last hold-outs. It took them until 1986 to stop using Mrs. or Miss, and go with Ms. Because in speaking of any woman, anywhere, in any context, it is always supremely important to understand her heterosexual marital status.... because.....???
Anyway... trying to stay focused here. Our suffrage sisters could tell us all about false inclusives. How Thomas Jefferson (enslaver and impregnator of an enslaved captive) added the words "all men are created equal" to the Declaration of Independence, and how women were assured that this meant us, also... oh, except for when it didn't... like, for instance, when it came to being able to vote.
What I'm trying to say is that words matter. Toni Cade Bambara, whose work the entire world should know, and whose book The Salt Eaters should supplant Moby Dick... ANYWAY... Toni used to say how she took "acts of language" seriously. We all should. Seriously.
Men are not women. Gays are not lesbians. And... okay, "queer." What about "queer?" Well... I am not queer. I am not odd or unusual. To cite another awesome African American goddess, Florynce Kennedy, "I never stopped to wonder why I'm not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren't like me." Yeah. What she said. Now, Florynce did not identify as lesbian... so she's not talking about that. But she is talking about how supremely natural it is to be wild, social-justice-loving, inventive, outside-the-box, feral, decolonized, and liberated. Women's natural state. (Color Me Flo, her autobiography, is a great read.)
"Queer" might work for someone who experienced their same-sex attraction as a burden, or an affliction, or a disability... something they were born with and have to learn to live with. "Queer" might fit for someone who views it as a quirky, deviant lifestyle.
My lesbianism feels like a homecoming to me. It feels like a beachhead from which women, all women, can effectively fight for our truths, our lives, and for the planet. In a world where women are still forced to offer up our sexuality and our emotional resources to men, where we are still killed, incarcerated, or faced with the slow-motion violence of poverty for choosing to put women first in our lives, there is nothing queer, odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural; unconventional, unorthodox, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, untypical, out of the ordinary, incongruous, irregular; puzzling, perplexing, baffling, or unaccountable about choosing women. There is something tremendously courageous, with a deep core of integrity about it. Considering how everyone's first object of attachment is a female, it can hardly be deviant to be attracted to women. It's more like making a beeline back home.
I recently had lunch with three young gay men in their twenties. The issue came up about why they didn't use the word "lesbian." All three made faces. It was a spontaneous reaction. They had a VISCERAL response to a word that referred only to women. I had the unmistakable impression the faces indicated their distaste for women's bodies, that they were all associating the word with women's genitals... which, indeed, one of them told me he was. Ah... the infamous "ick" factor.
Okay... but is that any reason why lesbians should abandon the word... just because gay men feel more comfortable with a word that privileges them and protects them from actually confronting the fact that lesbians are in different bodies?
Look, let's be honest: The reticence about using the word "lesbian" is always and ever at heart rooted in misogyny. No, really. You are not going to convince me otherwise.
Judith Halberstam in a recent article in Bitch Magazine says, that to her,"lesbian" has associations "which are always sort of dowdy and unsexy."
WTF??? The Bitch author helps us out by explaining how "lesbian" has connotations like "lumberjacks," (that's "loggers," Bitch) granola-eaters, porn stars, cat owners and goddess worshippers.
WT-double-F??? Make up your mind.
So now Trish Bendix of AfterEllen.com chimes in with how "lesbian" has "almost become a dirty word" because of its association with feminism. Jeez. The squeamish faces of the young gay men are starting to look not so bad. At least their aversion was to anatomy, not human rights... although, yes, of course, duh, there is a direct connection between their wrinkled noses and my 77 cents to the male dollar.
Look, here's the thing: Lesbians have no more control over the times and places where "gay" will include us than earlier generations of women could control when and where "men" and "man" would include us. Allowing ourselves to be given an identity whose primary referent is male may seem to offer some degree of protection and privilege, but it's a chimera. Our safest and strongest strategy is to remain visible to ourselves, and, sisters, "gay" is not going to do that. Now we see us, now we don't.
Oh... and that "label" thing that was so trendy in the 1990's ("I don't like labels...") I am talking about an identity, here. You know. IDENTITY... as in a tribe, a heritage, a legacy, a history, a culture. A LESBIAN one. If you are confusing that with a label, then you are doing EXACTLY what our enemies would like us to do... (See my "In the Beginning" blog.)
So, now let's all say "lesbian." Slowly. Thinking of Sappho. Thinking of women's bodies. Thinking of all those times and places and ways that our gay brothers don't get our issues or, worse, actually undermine them. Let's say it again and, this time, look in a mirror. Think about feminism, which is defined as the advocacy of our rights to be considered equal to men. A goal many consider too unambitious...but nonetheless a starting place. LES-BI-AN.
I have been reading an intriguing book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, about a murder on an estate in Victorian England. It inspired one of the most popular plays of the era, Lady Audley's Secret, as well as a character by Dickins... and arguably influenced the entire genre of detective fiction... and, besides, it's a damned good read.
A 16-year-old girl murders her half-brother in cold blood, as an act of revenge against her horrible stepmother.
But here's what's interesting: Before the murder she attempted to run away to sea, cutting her hair off and cross-dressing as a boy... stuffing her girl-clothes down the same privy she would later stuff the body of her half-brother. Well, that got my attention. This was the daughter of a very wealthy family, and a life at sea is no picnic. She was caught and sent home.
What was also interesting is that she was tried and acquitted. She went to a girls' finishing school and then joined a quasi-convent, which took care of a hospital for unmarried mothers. She seemed to find family here, and especially in her relationship to the Mother Superior, Katherine Gream. In 1865, Katherine accompanied her to the police station, where she confessed the murder. Okay, that got my attention.
She served twenty years. Upon release, she emigrated to Australia, changed her name, and worked at an industrial school for girls, a hospital and a nursing home for nurses. She lived to be 100. That got my attention, too. She must have been a very strong woman to have survived two decades of prison healthy enough to live such a long life.
But here's what really got my attention. In 1928, when she was 84, Constance apparently sent a letter back to England (it was anonymous) , to the publisher of a book about the murder. It was a letter, finally, telling the familiy secrets. She told the publisher, if money was to be made from the account, to give it to the Welsh miners that "civilization is torturing into degradation." Wow.
Anyway... well let's see... Her stepmother started out as a governess, but when Constance's mother died, she married the dad. Apparently, she started the affair earlier and would openly mock Constance's dying mother. She ripped up Constance's little flower garden as a punishment for playing with the neighbors' children. The stepmother locked Constance in her room for hours, and once for two days, with bread and water. She would lock her in the garret, lock her in the cellar. She made her stand in a corner for hours, where she would sob and repeat over and over that she wanted to be good... until she came to realize the impossibility of that wish, seeing herself as a hopeless sinner. As an adult, Constance came to understand that her birth mother had not been insane, as she had been taught, but merely discarded, disrespected, and replaced by the evil governess. She murdered the stepmother's son to make her suffer. She felt that would be more cruel than murdering her.
Here is what intrigues me: I could not find references to this narrative of abuse anywhere on the Internet references to the crime, which was a very famous one. Yes, they would say she didn't like her stepmother... but that hardly seems fair to Constance.
Constance, I'm blogging today to give you your due. You were a strong, and really messed up kid. You tried valiantly to run away. You finally found communities of loving women, you confessed... you didn't have to. You had been acquitted. You did the right thing. You wanted your soul. And you had a second life, a good life. In communities of women. You lived to be a hundred. You rebirthed yourself. Nobody should have had to suffer what you did. Raised to be a psychopath, you retrieved your empathy. You understood and accepted who you were. Most of all, you never, ever stopped fighting for your life.