The latest issue of The American Feminist is almost here, just in time for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We present to you a special sneak peek of this important magazine, courtesy of FFL President Serrin Foster. Stay tuned for more important topics over the coming weeks, and please renew or join today to get your copy:
“The prosecutions on our courts for breach of promise, divorce, adultery, bigamy, seduction, rape; the newspaper reports every day of every year of scandals and outrages, of wife murders and paramour shootings, of abortions and infanticides, are perpetual reminders of man’s incapacity to cope with this monster evil of society.”
—Susan B. Anthony Social Purity Speech, March 14, 1875
It was the 1970s and unfashionable to join a women’s fraternity. But as a feminist, I was delighted to discover that the first women’s fraternities, like the one I chose, were started during the suffrage movement as women began to enter college so that they could run their own groups independent of men. (Much later, the word “sorority” was coined from the Latin word “soror,” which means sister.) And because my university was fairly new, hazing did not have a long tradition.
I was always the responsible driver, but on one occasion I was at a fraternity party and my sister left early, taking the car we shared home. My sorority sisters began leaving, too, but one guy promised me a ride home. So I stayed. Suddenly, I realized that I was the only woman there.
That’s when I heard some inebriated guys upstairs whistling in unison “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” and I saw them stomping down the Victorian stairway. They had boots on, and I saw legs that once had pants on were now bare. I went for the front door. Others blocked it. Then laughter. They were watching to see how far this would go. So I curled up in the nearby window seat in the foyer, and with all my strength I kept upright in a fetal position with my hands over my eyes.
Their hands tried to dislodge mine. They wanted me to see them, and I realized that if I made some smart comment, it would be all that was needed to trigger the gang rape of the homecoming queen. My “no” was not enough. Realizing I was physically powerless against so many strong young men, I used my brain and implored the brother who earlier had offered to take me home to help me. Finally, at his behest to break it up, they stopped.
It was absolutely terrifying. I thought they were my friends. I bet that some still rationalize it as a harmless prank. But I had escaped the worst, and it was a reminder that having your own transportation is a powerful tool. When they broke into our sorority house a year later, I called the police, and against their protests insisted that they pay for everything they destroyed during yet another “prank.”
After graduation, I worked as a dining room supervisor in a hotel in Washington, D.C. A senator was walking down the grand staircase when I looked up and his eyes locked on me. I knew that look. Nothing happened, but years later, when I was on Capitol Hill sharing our message that “Women Deserve Better than Abortion” and pro-woman solutions during the 30th anniversary of Roe, I met a new representative who explained to a small group of us that she never expected to come back to D.C. She had interned for that same senator while she was in college. She told us that she watched him seduce one intern after another. Then his eyes were on her. She had a choice: succumb or leave. She left. And yeah, I knew that look, and you do too if you’ve ever met a serial predator. We all know they are in every party and in many different positions of power
Bullied severely in junior high, harassed while working during school, nearly gang raped in college, and stalked after graduation, in my own way, I stood up for myself. And now it’s my honor to stand with you for other victims and survivors as Feminists for Life because it’s what we do after these defining moments that define us.
I still consider myself very fortunate when I hear about the experiences of others in the #MeToo movement, including those who share their experiences in this issue. During this national discussion, led earlier by the suffragists, I’ve found out more about those around me, including those in Feminists for Life. We are growing closer and stronger, and our voices grow louder.
Now instead of saying, “Me, too,” I ask, “You, too?”