This letter originally appeared in the American Scholar on September 4th, 2018.
Setting aside much of Sandra M. Gilbert’s problematic cover article in the summer issue, “In the Labyrinth of #MeToo”), I would like to focus on three paragraphs. In the middle of her piece, soon after describing the rape of an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster that landed Brock Turner so disgustingly light a sentence that the sentencing judge was recently recalled by voters, Gilbert asks, are “these ambiguous traumas what feminism has actually been about?”
These “ambiguous traumas” led Turner’s victim to write a moving letter that Gilbert ought to read. Here’s an excerpt: “I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.” Moving on to answering her own specious question, Gilbert tells us that #MeToo has derailed feminism from its most serious goals, implying that we younger women have been too distracted by our insistence that violent rapists face justice for their offenses to remember that women around the world less privileged than ourselves continue to suffer.
As a young female attorney who manages to write about #MeToo and advocate for the health and well-being of LGBTQ people, particularly bisexual people, low-income bisexual people, and bisexual people of color, I take serious issue with Gilbert’s implication. Does she know about Black Mama’s Bail Out, the national campaign to end cash bail while simultaneously raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to bail black mothers out of jail? Black Mama’s Bail Out was started by young black women and is supported by organizations and individuals across the country. How about the National Network of Abortion Funds? Yamani Hernandez leads this network of more than 100 local organizations working to lower barriers to abortion access for low-income women, women of color, girls, and transgender and gender non-conforming people across the country. Or Third Wave Fund? Third Wave is “an activist fund led by and for women of color, intersex, queer, and trans people under 35 years of age” and is dedicated to raising funds for sex workers. These are only three examples of the incredible work that young women and other young activists are performing across the country. Work to support low-income people, LGBTQ people, people of color, parents, and kids. I am so disappointed to read Gilbert’s article, which ignores the powerful work that younger feminists are doing to change the scope of American social welfare while ignoring the role that older white women played in the 2016 election.
Young feminists like myself can focus on both the unambiguous traumas of rape and sexual assault and the underlying harms that sexism and racism continue to wreak in America and beyond.
Heron Greenesmith, Esq.