The wedding was a blur of lace, irises, and lilies. Judgemental eyes were the only thing to take the form of guests—their faces swirls of skin under hats. The groom waiting for me swirled out of view as I approached and the scene changed around me. I walked with my gloved hand resting on the bend of my new husband’s arm. He looked down at me apologetically as we made our way into a gilded parlour which echoed with the wailing of hungry citizens in the street. My husband’s family made sure their body language displayed more evidence of their disdain for me—a commoner. I try to jump into the discussion of politics, but every time I open my mouth, a man’s voice comes out giving an opinion against mine. The louder my voice got, the tighter my chest closed in. The parlour is empty now. My husband’s voice comes from the phone to tell me he will be home soon with the support of other countries. The phone is gone from my hands. I look up at the wall of windows curtained to block the view of the dying and hungry on the streets. The curtains are thrown back on their own and the window shatters, but I do not move until someone is gripping my arm to drag me out of the parlour. The citizens of France are now calling for my death in the streets as I am dragged through in a ripped and blood stained ball gown. They take me underground to a congressional meeting. The judge and jury came back with the verdict before I arrived to speak my case. I stand to die, but take this moment for what it is—my last.
“I do not blame the people of France. I sat in shameful silence while you cried for help. I was one of you once, but let the royal family tie strings around me to dance their sick waltz. I let their approval and judgement shut me away to where it was too painful to even leave my rooms. I stand here ready to answer for my crimes through death, but they killed my soul years ago. This is not about me. This is about France. Do not let them kill your soul. Women, fight for your rights to health and your own body. Children stand up for better schools. Soldiers, your war didn’t end on foreign soil but continues as the monarchy uses you for their own gain. I should have never ignored the voices telling me I had my own voice. Take down the 1% and take care of France.” With that last word, the ropes around my wrist fell and I became a voice in the crowd cheering for a revolution.
* * *
“Good morning. The time is 6 am. It is 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside…” I hit snooze on my phone’s alarm as it woke me from my dream. I didn’t need a psychology degree or Sigmund Freud to tell me the reason for such a dream, but I did have a difficult time figuring out why I needed to be married to Jason Momoa for it.
I tried to go back to sleep, but instead I was kept awake by words given to me in the past about women in politics:
“A woman should vote the way her husband votes.”
“It is not a woman’s place to have political opinions.”
“Feminist are stupid. They already have the right to vote. Why do they want more?”
These words caused a fireball of anxiety to bounce from my stomach, to my chest, to my throat, and then back again. My gender seemed to be an ideal silencer of my opinion, but after years of bending to the will of the patriarchy, I refused to sit behind a man only echoing their views as facts.
* * *
Recently I have been reading a novel on women in the French Revolution. Ribbons of Scarlet is a collection of novellas by female authors highlighting seven women who had a hand in the various sides of the French Revolution. The book intrigued me in the ways women stood up for their political views in a time of unrest. With each passing story, readers watch as women work for freedom and then have those freedoms taken away once the revolution is over.
Reading this novel brought up so much anger at the way women are treated in politics. Growing up in Appalachian Tennessee, I saw the door shut in my face right after being scolded for even knocking. The biggest issues were not believing in the same oppressive views as family and co-workers. It was okay to be political only if it meant I was on the same side.
With family, I was told—begged—to avoid politics altogether, but as soon as events began, members discussed how kneeling during the anthem was a criminal offense which needed to be punished via a “gunshot to the head.” They said immigrants are destroying America, women shouldn’t have political standings because it was their nature to be “irrational,” or “all Muslims are out to kill us.” With each statement, my mother would look at me silently pleading me into silence. She looked at me while I looked at my right hand as it peeled back the nails of the left until blood appeared and stretched around the edges, staining where it met skin. Everyone joked in agreement to hate. My mother wanted to keep the peace, but I was the only one told to be silent on my standings.
Hunger escaped me during these gatherings. Instead, my stomach turned as I moved food to new spots around my plate. With so many get-togethers going the same way each time, the week before a birthday party or holiday resulted in anxiety attacks. My own graduation party resulted in a migraine and nausea for the next few days.
Mamaw and Papaw were the worst of it. Mamaw felt strongly about a woman following her husband or her father. She made it clear my sisters and I were worthless for coming from our mother—her daughter. She thought of us as “whores” for wearing makeup in middle school. She thought of me as demonic for having my own opinions and she once told my aunt I was a terrorist due to a Facebook comment made about those of Middle Eastern background.
Sophomore year of college I saw Mamaw post on Facebook a racist and xenophobic post condemning all Muslim and Middle Eastern cultures as terrorist. I refused to keep in my feelings of disgust for her xenophobia any longer. My thumb flew over the screen of my phone as I attempted to educate her away from her hatred over people who had done nothing to her but exist with a different religion than her own. I can’t remember the exact wording of her post, but it was the typical statement of someone who refused to understand another culture than her own. My response was to stand against her instead of scrolling past. I informed her that her views needed to go further than what the fake Facebook post told her about those who were different in religion and nationality.
She told me I was going to hell for these beliefs to which I replied, “I’ll be driving the party bus.” This resulted in her telling my aunt I was “clearly a part of ISIS,” because I was standing up for a culture she believes to be a terrorist organization.
Mamaw was cut off from communications for a while, but she apologized, family members shamed me, and I let her back in. A mistake on my part. These conversations continued to happen with my grandparents. With Papaw, I stood up when he made a racist and sexist jokes, but he attempted to guilt me into apologizing. This tactic worked for a few arguments. The one that chopped me from the family tree helped my anxiety ease up by levels. Papaw posted an image of Anderson Cooper and Stormy Daniels which discussed the morals of a gay man and a porn star. Instantly I stood up for all those who identified as LGBTQ+ and those in the sex industry. I sat on my green, pleather couch staring at my phone screen while the room spun around me.
“You clearly have no idea what morals are. Sexuality is not immoral. It does not make someone a bad person. A pornstar is not a bad person for her career choice. What is immoral is judging someone on who they are and then saying that they do not deserve the right to make an opinion.”
We went back and forth for a little while until I finally called him daft and blocked him.
Calling my Papaw daft resulted in an email written in all caps from Mamaw “preaching” on my path to hell for what I believed in. Unfortunately, their words still got to me for just a moment of self-hatred at being bisexual. Their words reminded me that I would never be accepted no matter what. Their words told me that their love was conditional. My stomach knotted, my chest tightened, and my throat held back bile. I wanted to cry, but I wasn’t sure if it was for mourning my already rocky relationship with them or the anger at myself for letting them make me feel this way.
I cut both of them off for good after that. The only communication came from gatherings where I had no choice but to appear at. Even then I evaded them. My anxiety and self-worth improved after cutting them out. It wasn’t the revolution I dreamt of, but even the smallest pebble makes a ripple in stagnant water.