The most devastating aspect of the domestic violence dynamic for me has been the isolation. While I was living with the judge, it was clear his only hobby was stalking the women who had been in his life. I was shocked at the betrayals of trust involved and at the lengths he would go to keep track of all these women and extract revenge. We both knew one day I would leave, and it was his way of letting me know I would never really be free. I would always wonder if a trusted friend was actually a traitor.
My strategy was to cut off all ties to people he knew and to live my life deeply underground until I had established a new network of colleagues, associates, and friends. It was a very lonely existence.
Slowly, I discovered I could find mentors, role models, and friends in books. I am indebted to the generosity of authors who shared their stories and became my life rafts. The book that has been my most valuable life raft is Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem. She has helped me understand and appreciate how the intellectual constructs of researchers like Alice Miller manifest in the reality of our lives. As this web site grows and evolves, I will do a more in-depth explanation of what I have learned from both women.
Before I read Ms. Steinem’s book, I had a mountain of jigsaw puzzle pieces without a photo to help me figure out how they fit and worked together. Her book was my first map. Ms. Steinem candidly explains how she healed her own wounds and how her point of view evolved as she acquired the wisdom of life experiences.
Her greatest gift was the certain knowledge that books can be mentors when we most need one. Her main mentor and role model was Louisa May Alcott. Ms. Steinem takes her work seriously but not herself. She believes in the healing power of laughter. She cherishes the time spent with colleagues who have become close friends. She characterizes herself as a “hope-aholic” who allows her imagination and dreams to guide her future plans.
In a sea of calls to live in the present, she helped me appreciate that my own future-orientation was essential for the work that we do. In essence, our future vision and imagination are essential planning tools for the actions we need to take today. The strength of our imagined future self can help us know how to heal the wounded child within. We are simultaneously impacted by our histories and by our dreams for the future as we make daily decisions and sail our life’s course.
Ms. Steinem is infamous for challenging conventional wisdom. She asks hard questions most of us wouldn’t dare contemplate. She has helped me to challenge my own conditioning and thought patterns that hold me prisoner. In “Far from the Opposite Shore,” the final essay in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, she calls on each of us to push the abuse prevention envelope to the next level:
We’ve spent the first decade or so of the second wave of feminism on the riverbank, rescuing each other from drowning. In the survival areas of rape, battery, and other terrorist violence against women, for instance, we’ve begun to organize help through shelters, hot lines, pressure on police to provide protection, reforms in social services and legislation, and an insistence that society stop blaming the victim.
Now, some of us must go to the head of the river and keep the victims from falling in.
March 25 was her 75th birthday. I was ecstatic to learn that she and the Ms. Foundation are celebrating with the launch of Outrageous Acts, a social networking/change campaign. We’ve now got a forum to make things happen:
Outrageous Acts reminds each of us of our power to create change. It also helps us imagine what’s posible when we link the power of our own outrageous acts with others’ nationwide. . .each person. . .promises [to] do at least one outrageous thing in the cause of simple justice. . .We invite you to. . .change the world. . .shift our or other’s thinking about issues of equity and justice. . .gender-based violence. . .to create change from the ground up.
You can submit your outrageous act, donate, or host a party. It appears there might be some Ms. Foundation grants involved! As Elizabeth Wiggs would say, “Yippee Skippy!”
Happy Birthday, Ms. Steinem! Happy Birthday to you!