Sunday, March 25, 2007

QUIET WARS





To whom it does concern:

You have a certain way of doing it. It began with the identical set of questions you had asked other women, students, about their personal lives. One woman who spoke didn’t let it get past the questions. I was in a slightly different position. The people I trust, the people who had changed my life have close relationships with you. I was familiar with your work in the community and had personal relationships with those who collaborated with you or worked under you. Students were ready to risk their university degrees for your cause, because they believed you were deep in the struggle. I was caught up in the fabricated glory of you. So I answered your questions without a second thought, and asked some myself, not knowing yet where this was going but not feeling threatened at all.

Each night, once a week on the same weekday after class you’d come upstairs and into my door or we’d go out to dinner, and the plan was to go over some work. This only happened two or three times. Other nights were continuations of the questioning with drawn out conversation. Flirting. You asked me about my general intentions. I told you I wanted nothing short of commitment. I was moving into a new cycle in my life, where I wanted to be patient with the next person. To wait a while. You said you were glad I was 25 at the time. That I had a certain maturity and certainty about my path. There was a clarity that developed through the late night conversations and the short moments of physical closeness.

There was that first night. Before a trip to some academic conference you were flying out to. We agreed it was cool for you to spend the night, so we could continue our talks. The late night came and went, and then came tiredness long past midnight. You told me to bring an extra pillow. I figured there wasn’t any harm. I reminded myself that there was a given mutual trust and respect.

Your hands. They caught me by surprise- attempting to find their ways into places I was not yet ready to give. I wanted to be held. But I was not asking for more than this. I pushed your hands away- several times. Eventually you stopped, turned around, and fell asleep facing the wall.

It was that second night. We studied at your house. The place that you were so thrilled to show me. This was yours. Your accomplishment. Your big privilege. Not mine. At times you would say we were privileged, that we could do whatever we wanted. Clearly you misunderstood who I was, and you were immersed in your acquisitions. There was an obsession about you. Always wanting to get published. To out-publish this person or that institution. Na├»vely so, I got caught up in the glory of this world I confused for my own. I slipped outside myself to become enraptured with the idea of co-publishing with you. Of thinking that this was going to become part of what was going to define me. This was your way of doing things. It was not long before I discovered that your vision was never to incorporate my valuable thoughts into what was to be your accomplishment. Your big privilege. To have someone run around and look things up for you. Your academic maid. Xerox copies. Research. I was too busy for this. I had to defend my time. And even that night I couldn’t finish my own work, because yours needed feedback, processing, analysis, refinement. When I said I had work of my own to do, I caught you stopping yourself before you said my work was insignificant in light of yours. Blinded by the glory, I doubted that this was what I heard. But I look back into the image of that time, and that's exactly what was said.

Still, that second night you had your way of doing things. Between the work, there was the continuing conversation over tea. You said this could work. This secret affair. Someone would have to make compromises when it came time for me to make the decision to move back home, but we should try it. See if it’s worth it. See what comes out of it. You were seriously into me. You were feeling me. You were feeling this. You said this. And I reiterated what my intentions have been. I was not a fling. I was looking for the real thing and you responded saying you were looking for the same. I believed you. Caught up in the glory of it all. That second night continued. The drowsiness came in, but we were caught up in your bedroom. I was not so reluctant as the first night. I had your words with me. Still, it wasn’t easy. There was kissing and stopping. Touching and blocking. Reaching, and grabbing, and pushing away. Thinking. I had your words with me. Your words that so many had relied on for validation. Your words that were inquired into by academic experts supposedly in the struggle. Your words that have compelled others to question, think, and reason in new ways. Your words made it okay. They were worth something. They were worth all the faith I had in the work you do and the people who have worked with you. And so it happened your way. I took you for your words. This was your big accomplishment. Your big privilege. Your words have given you all the access. Power. Money. Sex. Reputation. Status. This was your way of doing things. And then came morning and the rest of the day as it usually comes to me. Work. School. Home. Sleep. The quiet war had started, yet I still didn’t know.

The next morning you had made your decision. You picked me up from my books and took me out to breakfast. Crepes, coffee, and home fried potatoes. This was your way of doing things. You said we couldn’t do it anymore. It was too risky. You could loose your place in the game. Your accomplishments. Your big privileges. The cause that you had everyone else so worked up for. We could just be friends. That morning you tried to dishonor the names of those who have been loyal to you, loyal to the struggle. You projected yourself onto them: saying that they’re caught up in their own privileges, that they’re not consistent with their words, that they don’t “ride” for you. We could still work together, you said. I looked at you. I had no words. You tried to draw them out of me, but I had not yet formulated cogent thoughts. I only knew I felt defeated. Back-stabbed. Used. You wanted me to be okay. Okay with this. Your decision.

The next week I had taken myself out of the glory of you and your world. I had slipped back into myself, finding myself angry at having abandoned my self. I looked at what had come over me. Recited your words in my memory. Replayed every action. Remembered every response you had for every word I said between us. Re/dis/covered your way with things. I called you. Texted you. There were no longer the prompt responses. I had some thoughts I wanted to share. You were too busy now. It was important, the words you tried to draw out of me- I found them. You called me from the doctor’s office, in a hurry. But, my words needed time. Respect. Space. Serious consideration. I was about to tell you something about yourself you couldn't see. Or so I thought. Something that called for reflection. Change.

Months went by with no replies. Days came and went with the usual school and work business, but now with this quiet war in my mind that I tried to ignore. Until a woman came up. She had her war too, and she had it with you. She was a random woman I didn't know who had spoken. I listened. I decided to speak too. Through this act of self-love, of speaking, of naming, I learned from other women who knew you closely, that this quiet war wasn’t just about me. There were a list of women who had their quiet wars with you too. I was enraged. Disgusted. Feeling more defeated than the morning you had made your decision. This was a way you had with other women too. It was systematic. I had been a bent up cog in your machine used to fabricate the false power you exude. My existence, my QUEENDOM had been diminished to that. And there was the struggle: a chariot used to carry you across the world with women of color for horses. I saw things now as they had been before me, as they continue to be for other women who fight these quiet wars. I spoke. Made it known. Swept the pile of dust from under the rug and into the wind of the world you share with your closest ones. The ones who validate you. The ones who should challenge you and your way with things.

This letter is not for you. This letter is for all the other women who fight these quiet wars. Every time I must face other students, other women, caught up in the glory, speaking about how great your lectures are, how innovative your academic articles are, how great it must have been to study with you, independently, I fight that quiet war. For every word I do not speak in these instances, my existence dissipates into the abyss hidden beneath the disillusionment of academic glory. I wish I could tell the world about what you do after your reputation is done doing its flaunting for the day in the ivory towers. How your integrity should be called into question. How that detailed letter you wrote to the colleges for me was not about me, but a copy and paste unfounded story about a different student. I bet you thought I wouldn't speak. How long would you think this game would play for? How long before you'd mess with the wrong QUEEN? But I know there is no design in place for healing and accountability. There is only punishment. And within revenge exists no change. No transformation for a colonized man of color in a white colonial system. No healing for the women of color who fight these quiet wars. I’m not interested in apologies. I won’t answer to any phone calls, letters, or emails about your excuses for the truth. I was there. The other women were there. Your character has already been determined by your actions. The conversation you must have is not with me or the other women you have dishonored. The conversation you must have is with yourself.

Sincerely,
Rosa Cabrera

P.S.
From the 5 Mindfulness Trainings you say you observe, the one you will not post on your big windows and walls:
The Third Training: Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.


(This is a first draft of a work in progress. Constructive criticism welcomed!)

6 comments:

JustMe said...

thank you for writing this. it's great. i am sorry for your war. i was on the brink of war myself and the men that do this are despicable.

fiercelyfab said...

tigera, thank you for having the courage to write about the sexist complexity that espouses the "movement" in such a powerfully personal way.

I love your writing, it is beautiful and so are you, queen Tigera.

lex said...

this may not be constructive...but i think you should know that your bravery has moved me to tears.
thank you,
alexis pauline gumbs
(brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com)

Tigera Consciente said...

Lex. I am moved at how deep you were moved by this. I wrote this for all of us, and I'm touched that this personal letter is reaching people who are both emailing me and posting comments. Thank you.

Ravenmn said...

I was caught up in the fabricated glory of you.

Wow. You express this so well. Lovely.

FWIW, I didn't see sexism because I read this as the story of two women. It's about power and a person high on her own reflected glory.

Thanks for sharing! Arrived via bfp!

Tigera Consciente said...

Interesting. It was actually something that occurred between me and a man, but I am aware of the power dynamics that can happen between people of the same gender, thanks to heteronormativity..