It’s ALL about Power

In “MANIPULATION,” we reveal and analyze Planned Parenthood’s training documents and multimedia materials. Be sure to read Joyce’s compelling article about sex trafficking, “Selling Our Sisters.” You may purchase a copy here.

It’s All about Power

Yesterday, TIME magazine made its annual Person of the Year announcement. This year, they recognized the courageous women and men who first spoke out about sexual harassment in places of power. 

As I said in our last email about abuse on the Hill, “We will expect full accountability for any past harassment. And we demand restoration of the $17 million of our tax money used to settle past cases—from the members of Congress—not the victims.”

So we are pleased to announce our support for the bipartisan Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act. We urge its swift passage.

But not all power is with the most powerful in the media, politics, or entertainment. We know this has been happening in many other places.

FFL Speaker Joyce McCauley-Benner shared the following with me about her own assault in the workplace—and how her employer magnified the impact afterward. She agreed to let me share this with you:


I sit across from my general manager at the back of the restaurant.

I am painfully, slowly, trying to explain what had happened the night before. The cook I had been working with had made sexual advances toward me early on in my shift, and later that night, he had raped me.

I was sweating and shaking as I told him this.

He looks at me with pity. He shakes his head and says, “Well, Joyce, you are a naive girl; now you know how the world works.”

I was speechless. I had wanted the cook off my shift. That was my simple request. I had already agreed not to press charges (it would be a hard case to win), so I thought this was the least I could get.

And I couldn’t even get that.

Work with him or quit.

Choices aren’t always free, often the lesser of many evils.

For many years, I was angry at that manager. I was shocked—well, back then I was. The manager was right. I was naive. Half of America is, too. That manager taught me what so many survivors already knew: Violence against women (and all victims) is an epidemic, and justice is rarely won.

So many ask why victims wait so long or why they don’t ever report crimes. Often, when you do, a witch-hunting, victim-blaming frenzy ensues. Or nonchalance, as my manager demonstrated. For many, suffering in silence is more palatable.

But now, something is happening. It’s not just one survivor, but so many that we are starting to come together as one powerful, multi-faceted voice.

Voice is powerful. In all feminist movements, voice is paramount. Feminists for Life’s original research found that women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had fought not only for the voice of women to be heard, but they also recognized the systemic issues that tied women to their circumstances. They were pioneers in showing that social injustices are often connected. As Stanton noted in 1875, “What remedy is there, except in the complete elevation and enfranchisement of women!”

Following in the footsteps of our feminist foremothers, FFL recognizes that all forms of violence against women are intricately connected. If we are to be pro-woman and pro-life, then we must consider where violence stems from.

When women’s bodies are commodified and objectified, such as within sex trafficking and in pornography, it’s no wonder they start to be undervalued.

When women’s bodies are used and abused, such as in intimate partner violence, then it is no surprise that they are undervalued.

When women’s bodies are undervalued and mistreated, they are not seen for their worth. They become piecemeal, to be used in ways that fit the oppressor, or to fit into the status quo of society.

It’s no wonder then, our wombs become money-makers as well; either to be rented for profit or charged for handling—and the human beings in us cruelly discarded largely because of the lack of accommodation for their mothers.

Surrounded by all this, we grow up immersed in it. Even women fall prey to it, suffering from low self-esteem, and making our bodies and our lives fit into certain expectations until we are awakened to a new truth.

It is easy to be swallowed up by grief and despair in a world that is filled with such horrors, but we must not forget the power of our voice and our dreams.

I dreamt our foremothers, Ms. Stanton and Ms. Anthony, were sitting at my table looking over the #MeToo stories, and even the horrors of mass shootings that started as intimate partner violence. I imagine me telling them how sorry I am that we have not realized their dream yet and that women and other vulnerable people still suffer so much. That we live in a world that doesn’t seem a whole lot better than when they lived. But then I imagine Elizabeth Cady Stanton taking my hand, and with a soft pat repeating her words:

“Forward Into Light” features 40 pages of insightful articles examining coerced abortion, pornography, stalking, intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault. You may purchase a copy here.

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Every truth we see is ours to give the world, not to keep for ourselves alone, for in so doing we cheat humanity out of their rights and check our own development.”

—From an 1890 speech to the National American Woman Suffrage Association by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, mother of the pro-life feminist movement
So something is indeed happening: The day is here when a victim is heard. It is not a dream anymore. It’s not just one survivor, but a powerful, harmonious choir coming together that cannot be ignored. The song is more powerful than we’ve ever realized before.
I am grateful to Joyce for sharing this message of hope. If you have an experience to share, please email us at Submission implies permission to publish on social media or in a future print edition of The American FeministReplies may be anonymous.
Finally, a message to those of you who gave on Giving Tuesday. Thank you.

To those of you who want to know if there is still a match for your gift, the answer is YES. Our year-end match is still on, and there are THREE ways to participate! 

• Single donations between now and December 31 will be matched by the Board and Friends.

• All new and increased monthly gifts will be double-matched by another group of friends.

• And employer matching gift programs can double your gift(s) throughout the past year may be matched again by them.

All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Remember, you have real power to make change, for good, for life. Thank you

Because women deserve better,

Serrin M. Foster