In 1987, a woman named Pat Schroeder gave a speech announcing that she was ending her campaign for the presidency. It was unusual for a woman to run at all in those days so that drew some notice. But what really got their attention?
That was a disqualifier. In many cases, women seemed more disapproving than men. They understood that this would only fortify the widely held assumption that you can’t send a girl to do a man’s job. How could you possibly expect to run the country when you’re so unpredictable, and irrational, and premenstrual?
Her emotionality meant she was weak. And in a man’s world that’s a nonstarter.
But the truth is, it was always a no-win situation for women. If they tried to compete on men’s terms they were seen as ball busters and bitches. Remember, Hillary Clinton was briefly humanized by almost crying because lots of people found her too masculine.
Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without ‘em.
That’s why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recounting of her experience of the Capital insurrection stood out to me so much.
It showed me what has changed, and what is in the process of changing. She demonstrated that being vulnerable does not mean you are weak.
She talked about trauma and fear without it making her dismissible.
It didn’t turn her into a damsel in distress.
The old system would have demanded that when speaking up about a violation (which is already questionable) it would reduce her to victim status. That means we might honor her injury, but she would then surrender her power and require rescuing.
She reminded me of so many groups that have been targeted for genocide and other atrocities. Some among them understandably want revenge, or restitution, or justice. The thing that they appear to want more than anything, though, is to be witnessed.
What seems to have the most power to really restore balance and allow us to heal and move in a new, healthier direction is the acknowledgment of what actually happened. All the gaslighting and lying going on right now is a refusal to take ownership of what they have done and a refusal to relinquish the privileges that allow them to continue.
Not everyone sees AOC this way, obviously. The difference is she is not diminished by their opposition and they can no longer just shut someone like her down.
Should action be taken? Should changes be made? Definitely.
But let’s not underestimate the significance of being able to stand in your truth and be witnessed. All the furious and deranged energy being put into these alternative versions of reality – now who’s irrational and unstable? – shows you just how powerful the truth is and how desperate they are to avoid it.
If your spirit is prompting you to have a conversation about the need for witnessing, I encourage you to consider working with me.