In A Year Of Reckoning, The Skies Are Full of Us

Oct 10, 2018

“A woman in the shape of a monster / A monster in the shape of a woman / The skies are full of them.”

That’s Adrienne Rich, from her poem, “Planetarium.” She’s talking about the powerful mythological women of constellations.

I’m talking today about the bizarre images of women projected onto clouds by the U.S. Senate and media.

During the recent judiciary hearings, one woman testified under oath to her clear memories of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh at a high-school party. Then one man, Kavanaugh, testified under oath as to his own sterling character. 

The right-wing media, indeed the president himself, jumped in with mockery and attacks on Christine Blasey Ford.  

When Debbie Ramirez shared with reporters her own memories of sexual assault by Kavanaugh in college, she never even got a hearing. (Full disclosure: I went to college with Ramirez and Kavanaugh, but did not know either of them.)

Both of these women were portrayed as vicious creatures intent on destroying the life of a simple family man. 

It’s been a year of reckoning, a year since we all started sharing and reliving our histories of sexual violence.

Our patriarchal, white-supremacist culture is dying. By sheer force of demographics, the old will die off -- I’m not so young myself -- and indications are a more multicultural, tolerant society is emerging.

But it’s hard to feel it now.

After listening to survivors in my office over this truly intense last month, it’s clear that the sorrow, hurt and fear women have felt are now joined by anger, by rage, by fury.

Women aren’t the monsters we’re made out to be.

But we can become monsters if we’re made to do so, if that’s what the moment demands. We have the strength of our numbers.

A view within the constellation Cassiopeia.
Credit JPL-Caltech/UCLA / NASA

Like the harpies of ancient mythology -- terrifying creatures with the heads and bodies of women -- survivors are ready to sharpen our claws, beat our wings, and shout from the heavens our demand: an end to sexual assault, and an accounting, too.

In the words of the great James Baldwin: “The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.”

The skies are full of us. Careful what you wish for.

Shoshana Marchand is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Northampton, Massachusetts.