Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I Am Alive


So, this is something I actually wrote up last Friday, which was the day that the first Tool album in 13 years was finally released. For reasons that will be explained, I could not enjoy this album and it brought up some grief, with the help of an internet asshole, and so I ended up writing a long piece pouring out my soul on a variety of subjects, including something very personal that I don't want to have to hide anymore.

Usually I repost good posts from here to Medium, but this time I'm doing it in reverse. Whatever! Medium says it's a 12-minute read, just FYI, but I wrote it so it's counting as a blog post.

You may or may not be aware that on December 12, 2018, I published a Medium post entitled “Maynard James Keenan is a Rapist and I’m Dead Inside.” This was nearly six months after an anonymous Twitter account published a detailed rape accusation about the frontman of the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. Over eight months after that, Tool released its first album in 13 years.

On that same day, which is today, I received an email alert that someone had responded to my December 12, 2018 post.

I’ve received a few responses to that post, one that was indeed surprisingly supportive and others that were entirely predictable, plus one that devolved into a pissing contest that Medium deleted. And I knew that was coming. You don’t post something criticizing the frontman of a famous band, oh no. And a cishet white able-bodied frontman? What was I thinking?

I dunno, why did I include a cheesy reference to a Tool song in the title of a blog post about how I can’t listen to Tool anymore?

The reason for the last bit is, of course, because when I was an adolescent girl I listened to Maynard James Keenan scream-sing the words “dead inside” over and over while I drank up the feeling. I was a confused, depressed teen who was absolutely terrified of being touched in a sexual manner, absolutely sex repulsed while emerging into a world that only seemed to become more sexual by the day. I was being constantly triggered and yes I said TRIGGERED by sexual content, wearing the baggiest clothing I could get away with and still being sexually harassed by the boys as school, likely in no small part because they could practically smell the fear and vulnerability on me.

And I had no idea why.

The response I got today from the post I published on December 12, 2018 was not supportive. On the contrary, it was the shittiest response yet. It wasn’t just the predictable “you have no evidence blargity blarg” word vomit from boys who went and tied their identities far too closely to a man they’ve never met and never will meet. I was told that my post, my “article,” if you could even call it that, was used as evidence that most rape accusations are false.

Well now, that’s an interesting thought. To be clear, if you haven’t read it, the post in question was not describing a time I had issued a false accusation against someone, nor was it arguing that the accusation against Maynard was false. It was a haphazard bit of emotional vomit, and an extremely necessary bit of vomit — the kind of desperate thing you write when you’re depressed and grief-stricken and can’t get over something so you write “I’m dead inside.”

I said I had a gut feeling that Maynard did it and as a result I could no longer listen to any of the music that had been so important to me for so many years. I talked about how hurt I was, how angry, how confused and lost I felt.

I still cannot listen to his music. I still feel all of those things, especially today.

And so I wrote a response dripping with sarcasm, apologizing profusely for expressing my personal feelings of grief and causing people who are already convinced that most women who accuse men of rape are liars to think that most women who accuse men of rape are liars. In the response, I repeatedly called myself a survivor. That was a deliberate attempt to make them feel bad, and based on this person’s response to my response to their response, it worked.

After I finally managed to finish my work for the day, I took my laptop to bed, exhausted and emotional, hoping to sleep. I didn’t. I turned on Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” special on Netflix because it always makes me cry and as much as I’d already cried today, I knew I needed to get more emotion out of me. As it got to the best parts, I realized I’d also chosen Nanette because it speaks to so much of what I was and still am feeling.

I am tired. I am so sick of facing the same shit every fucking day and seeing so little change. Perhaps I would not have been so upset today and gone off on some person peddling less common but still entirely predictable bullshit if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d been battling an increasingly overwhelming shadow of depression for so many months. Sometimes I think Maynard is to blame, for cutting me off from a link to spirituality that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. But it also definitely has to do with an increasing certainty that humanity is not going to be able to save itself from the ravages of climate change.

So here I am, trying to somehow figure out a way to cope with the absolute madness of believing there is a good chance that society will begin to collapse by 2050 (the topic of another highly dramatic Medium post) while doing normal, everyday shit like writing articles for someone else for money and paying bills and talking to an accountant about how much I should be sending to the government every three months because for some reason, freelancers have to do that. It has not escaped me that a link to the spiritual could really help me out with the whole “facing the end of the human species” thing.

At the same time, I have managed to craft a career, entirely desired, out of writing about the worst of humanity on a daily basis. Concentration camps. Police brutality. Hate crimes. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. Cruelty in every form. Including, of course, rape culture.
So what’s also predictable is an increasing feeling that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Humanity has not learned from its mistakes. Some details have changed but the picture is largely the same. Humans hating and hurting other humans for being different. Humans scapegoating other humans in order to gain power. Humans exploiting other humans for their own pleasure. Humans beating other humans down to make themselves feel big.

I’m am so very, very tired. I am so sick of all of it.

When I was a young teen, I was terrified of being sexually assaulted. The very mention of rape gave me a feeling of utter vulnerability and violation so intense that often all my mind could do to protect me was shut down all but the essential systems. Over the years, I got help, I went to therapy, I got on antidepressants, and I discovered my own sexuality, finally, at age 16. I mean, I still thought I was straight but as least I was able to touch myself.

I didn’t tell my therapist about the way I felt about sexual assault, which still triggered horrifying feelings within myself. It wasn’t until after college that I told a therapist about these feelings and confessed that I felt them in spite of having no memory of ever being sexually assaulted in any way in my life.

This is the truth. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know what, if anything, happened to me. I don’t know why I feel these feelings. I have no facts.

Facts, I have been told, are the Most Important Thing.

“But none of that is more important than the facts, and I don’t mean fact’s about this one incident, I mean facts in general,” said today’s responder to the article from December 12, 2018. “Facts about rape, about the accusations, about the statistics, which get utterly lost when people like you turn a rape accusation in a moving train, trying to ‘jump on’ without even checking the destination.”
The next sentence, which begins the next paragraph, of this person’s response starts with: “When you get a bit older.”

I am often mistaken for being younger than I am. Part of that is probably because the photos I like to use for things like this Medium account are from several years ago. I rarely take photos of myself because, to be completely honest, I think I’m ugly and I have for most of my life. So I use the same precious few photos of myself I don’t hate for years. Also, I have a baby face.

But in eight days, I turn 31. The individual I’ve been speaking about says that they are still older than me, though not “that much.” The reason I bring up the age thing is because I get condescension about my youth from people who do not know how old I am but are convinced that I need a Very Important Lesson, and, likely because I was the baby of the family (with my baby face), this tends to make me angry. So here’s some condescension right back.

I do not feel like being lectured by an individual who shows so little mental and emotional maturity that they clearly have not asked the two essential questions about the concept of “facts.” These are:

  1. What are facts?
  2. Who decides?

What does it mean for something to be a fact? Is a fact something that everyone agrees to be true? Because you’d be hard pressed to find a fact, in that case. Is it something you can see with your own eyes? That leaves blind people in a tough spot.

What is the dictionary definition of a fact? Well that, my friends, depends entirely on which dictionary you look at. And that brings up the second question, which far too many people have failed to consider.

Who decides what is a fact? Who writes the definitions of these words we throw around all willy nilly on a daily basis without hardly thinking about it? Is it a fact that I am typing up a strange, rambling post on Medium dot com in response to rude comments from a stranger on my aging laptop in a one-bedroom apartment in a Seattle-area suburb, or am I, in fact, nothing more than a computer simulation, or a brain in a vat, or some weirdo’s dream?

These are the extremely annoying thoughts that have been hounding me for months, perhaps years, and have prevented me from giving up on talking about “facts” and instead screaming into the void about my feelings. Unless, of course, I’m talking about how absurd it is to call much of anything a “fact” and ruining parties in the process.

But the concept of “facts” comes up again and again, especially when it comes to rape. How do you establish for a fact that someone did or did not consent? How do you establish for a fact that something which no one else witnessed took place between a person who says it did happen and another who said it didn’t?

One of the things I sarcastically apologized for was for personally sending Maynard directly to prison with my blog post. The point, of course, is that nothing at all happened to Maynard as a result of the allegations made by the Twitter account in June 2018. He even managed to put out another album. But it is often considered a fact that the vast majority of people accused of rape don’t spend even a single day in jail. Our legal system very often comes up when yet another man is accused of rape. People like to talk about the “court of public opinion” and “innocent until proven guilty,” as though me personally feeling that a man is guilty of a crime before he has been found guilty by a U.S. court of law is a breach of that very legal system and not allowed. These are often the same people who get angry at anything they interpret to be a suggestion that they can’t have an opinion.

The thing is, what we really mean when we say “proven guilty” or “proven innocent” is that either a judge or a jury of people selected by the lawyers of the case came to the conclusion that the defendant was guilty or innocent based on some things that said lawyers told them were facts.

Here are some other things that you could consider to be facts:

According to the Innocence Project, since 1989, 365 people convicted of a serious crime have been exonerated by DNA evidence. The average number of years served by these innocent, wrongly convicted individuals was 14. 62% of them were Black Americans.

So if Maynard James Keenan did go to actual court for the alleged crime of rape and found to be innocent, would that be a fact? If he were found guilty, would his guilt be a fact? Or would it be, in fact, an opinion? Based on feelings?

I know someone currently going through a court case who was told by her lawyer that more than anything else, what a jury decides comes down to how much they like you. Mmmmmm, justice.

This has been a lot, I know, but let’s bring this back around to me. Do I know for a fact that Maynard is guilty of rape? No. Does Alternative Nation and the defensive Tool fans and the general rape-deniers know for a fact that Maynard is innocent of rape? No. Do I know for a fact that I’m a survivor of rape or sexual assault? Hell no. I don’t. What I do know is that I’m sick to death of trying to appease every fucking asshole who wants to tell me that I’m ruining the life of a rich and famous able-bodied cishet white man when I am as certain as I possibly can be that he dropped an album today, and that the single “Fear Inoculum” has been played 8,715,164 times and counting on Spotify.

I want to hide the fact that I don’t know if I’ve been sexually assaulted and therefore have the right to call myself a survivor and make people feel guilty for saying this kind of shit to me because I fear that I will be accused of exactly what I was, albeit bizarrely, accused of today. That I am hurting the fight against rape culture by being a false accuser myself. Now, I haven’t actually accused any individual of hurting me in this way, but as I think it pretty clear by now, it doesn’t much matter, does it? Because as it turns out, anything can be called a “fact” and people will very often believe what is most comfortable for them to believe.

Not always, of course. It is not comfortable for me to believe that Maynard is a rapist. Is it possible that I could be choosing to believe this, either consciously or subconsciously, because I love misery or something? Or because, as suggested, I just want the attention of randos across the internet who accuse me of terrible things? Sure, I mean, it’s as possible as anything else, isn’t it? And it’s certainly occurred to me that I could somehow subconsciously be making all of this up, every negative feeling I’ve had since adolescence, which appeared at some point in between 7th and 8th grade but I don’t remember exactly when, how, or why, for some reason.

Imagine sitting on a toilet trying desperately to stop hyperventilating and ugly-sobbing, fearing you might pass out, alone in your apartment after being triggered by the attempted rape of a character you identified with in a book, and at the same time wondering if you’re just making this all up for attention. Is that not the very height of madness? If so, why am I not in a mental hospital right now? I guess because I’m still paying my bills on time.

The truth is that I can only know what I feel. To me, the fact is that I feel a strange and undeniable certainty that Maynard raped a 17-year-old girl in 2000 and probably many other girls and young women. The fact is that every time I think I should just try to listen to some of his music again and just put the allegations out of my head, I can’t do it. The fact is that I can’t separate the allegation from the music from my own pain. These are facts to me, but you don’t and can’t know if I’m lying.

The true absurdity and what humans have been doing to themselves for millennia until we quite possibly doomed ourselves to a very sweaty death is declaring a universal truth that we think must apply to every single individual person. We argue about the “facts” of climate change or not climate change while more and more thousands die every year from extreme weather. We argue about the definition of concentration camps while children suffer irreversible trauma during their formative years from being separated from their families and caged by adults with guns.

We think that this vague concept we call “facts” is more important than what makes us human.
I am tired of it. I will not hide anymore. I will not make a single further effort to make anyone more comfortable in their worldview than they would be if I told the truth, including myself. If you are going to use me as an example of “proof” of your hatred of women then go the fuck ahead. You were going to find your “proof” anyway, so go ahead and use me, a nearly 31-year-old woman who refuses to hide anymore. At least then you won’t be using vulnerable 17-year-old girls.

No comments: