Recently, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a friend from college whom I had not seen in over 40 years. We had drifted apart in our sophomore year, as both of us struggled with personal upheaval, family discourse and, as it was the sixties, coming to grips with an ever changing political and social landscape. And so we lost touch. Our pain did not draw us in deeper connection, rather we did what most young women did in the sixties; we isolated and withdrew.
Now, we were easy with each other from the first sighting. We are older, yes, but still had the same energy that drew us together as kids. Now after 40 + more years of living, there was no need for pretense or defense. We unfolded to each other and revealed some of our deepest hurts, fears, disappointments and joys. Of course, we reminiscenced over the boys we loved and the girls we envied. But we also rejoiced and marveled at a connection that seemed easy even with the passage of so much time. It wasn’t as if we “picked up where we left off”, rather we discovered parts of each other not previously known.
Later in the month, I facilitated a group for women through my practice. Six women came together, some for their first women’s group experience and slowly unveiled themselves for each other. It was a powerful and moving moment as each woman “confessed” how isolated she felt with her fears and doubts about not being good enough, bright enough, pretty enough, thin enough, young enough and so on. Relieved laughter overtook a stilted politeness as they rallied to defend and assure each other. They each saw themselves reflected in the faces in that room and a sense of belonging, affirmation and safety was created. It was, for me, a magic moment to bear witness to what happens when we identify deeply with each other and stop comparing.
Whether in my personal or professional life, it is heart affirming to experience these moments of deep connection as we drop all pretense and speak our truth, but it is not enough. We need to remember that what affects one woman, affects us all.
So, when one of us is judged and called hateful and hurtful names (in this case by Rush Limbaugh) for simply voicing an opinion, it catapults us back to a time when women isolated, felt shameful and stayed silent. Our courageous acts of sharing our challenges and concerns need to extend beyond our lunches and women’s groups. It doesn’t matter how you feel about contraception, premarital sex, abortion, or even what your opinion is on how we should fund health care. What matters is this–the verbal attack on one woman (Sandra Fluke) who merely spoke her mind, is a wake-up call for all of us.
Certainly this is a political issue, a health care issue and a media issue, but it is also a women’s issue. Do we really want to return to those shame filled days of judgment when we felt “not good enough” and were filled with guilt and self -loathing about our bodies and our choices? Through dialogue, petitions and intention, we can express our opinions with cordial discourse. But we won’t be silent again. Whether in our homes, our workplace or in the media, we must work toward a zero tolerance policy for any kind of abuse. We need to be outraged at the denigration of any woman or girl–publicly or privately.
We may have come a long way, but don’t call us “baby” or “slut” or “prostitute” anymore. We won’t be demeaned, infantilized and make to suffer the indecencies of the women who came before us and fought so hard for the right to speak up and be treated with respect. We have found each other and we will stand by each other.
To view the Rush Limbaugh’s comments about law student Sandra Fluke, click here.
To voice your opinion about Rush Limbaugh’s verbal assault on Ms. Fluke, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice and is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. Click here to purchase.