After watching the Kavanaugh hearings this week, I texted one of my best friends from my college days at Yale. My friend was a college football player who was a part of the fraternity DKE, the same one that Kavanaugh was a part of, which was mentioned when the media discussed his boorish behaviour in college.
You watch the Kavanaugh hearings this week? Yale DKE men in all the news these days…
He responded within minutes.
I know, I watched all of it. It’s unbelievable..
We chatted more back and forth about our college experience, and I finished with:
I honestly was so innocent in college, and I feel so grateful I seemed to have gravitated towards angel dudes such as yourself.
And I was. I was really, really fortunate that the guys I chose to be around, while many drank heavily, never once did anything that made me uncomfortable or was inappropriate.
They were my friends and they looked out for me.
With all the stories as of late, I realize just how truly lucky I was.
It feels like learning that you made it through a massacre you didn’t realize was happening, having dodged most of the bullets, grateful and alive.
Kavanaugh cited his Yale experience many times through the hearings. Despite repeated citation of his drunken behavior in high school and college, he professed things such as getting into Yale “on his own,” and the insinuation that because of this, surely he was an upstanding individual, incapable of the things that he had been accused of.
It made me reflect on my own Yale experience.
I went to Yale because the women’s soccer coach called me, and within the first 5 minutes, we were tearing each other jokingly to shreds, as we have continued to do for the last 20 years.
Ironically, he was a young African-American guy that joked about recruits walking right past him at the airport, as he was so different to the Yale stereotype. Subsequently, our bond and my desire to go to Yale and play for him had everything to do with everything he was about, which was the opposite of the ostentatious, privileged institution that I found myself at.
As a public high school Canadian kid, in fact I was so oblivious to everything that getting into Yale was supposed to be, that when Rudy, my soccer coach, told me that I had gotten in, and there was a pause, I felt that I had to fill the space with fake excitement, when in reality, my little Canadian public school self thought, “these people are lucky to have me.”
While I can look back with a chuckle at the confidence of 17 year old Ciara, I knew for a fact, that I didn’t give two shits about anything to do with the school’s prestige, or the idea of prestige in general – if Rudy had been at “Piece of Shit School of America,” I would have wanted to go there. It just happened he coached at one of the best schools in the world and I had managed to keep my grades at a decent enough level to get in there as a recruit for the women’s soccer team.
And so, I found myself, my freshman year, amongst the elite of the elite, often feeling like I wished I had the 1997 version of the Go Pro on my shoulder to film everything going on around me. Just walking on the campus felt like a magical, mystical world so different to any kind of vibe I had ever been around.
As I watched Kavanaugh, and cringed at his entitlement, at his pretension, I thought back to our Yale President’s Speech that all the freshmen attended the first week of school. He talked about how special we were, how we were the chosen ones, and how much better we were than everyone else.
I remember clearly, sitting there thinking to myself, if I ever believe and buy into this shit, I hope someone punches me in the face.
Even at 17, I could see that being at that school had everything to do with opportunity, both in getting in and all the resources we were afforded as students there, and should have been cloaked in gratitude and thoughts of how we could give back, instead of this idea being sold to us, of being special, entitled or chosen in some way and that it was all about us.
For Christ sake I thought to myself, a girl that I met just yesterday took the SAT’s 8 times, and had private tutoring every week for a year, not everyone has the money for that. It’s when I first started to really see the advantages that money could buy people and the disease in thinking that it somehow made you better.
All I could think watching Kavanaugh sneer, and cry, and act like a fucking entitled asshole, was he was spewing and believing that inculcated attitude of entitlement that likely many people weren’t even aware we were receiving at the tender age of 18 at one of the top institutions in the world. It made me ashamed to have gone to the same school as him, as he dripped with all the white male privilege and entitlement that over these last few months just seems to be seeping in from everywhere.
It was utterly disheartening to watch.
Donald Trump tweeted a few days ago in the midst of the Kavanaugh hearings,
I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents
This has spurred many conversations with friends and made me think back to my own experiences.
The irony is, that amidst the MeToo movement, I have always thought to myself, that I managed to dodge a major bullet in that I never was assaulted per say.
I wasn’t drugged, I wasn’t raped.
But in thinking about it more lately, and talking with friends who have been assaulted, I realize that I too have downplayed past experiences in my own mind.
I realized that as a woman, I’ve just thought of inappropriate men as a hazard of being born with the female chromosome, and tried to lay as low as possible, always surveying for, and avoiding potential situations that I may not know how to get out of.
I’ve dismissed my own very real experiences as nothing, in the sense that I’ve never been raped, so in some way #metoo isn’t really something I feel that I’ve endured a serious enough offense, to claim a part in.
But I’m realizing that this acceptance of what has happened to me and the ensuing silence and minimization of my experiences is a part of the problem.
As girls and women we shouldn’t have to deal with any of this shit, but we do.
We shouldn’t have to downplay these very real traumatic experiences across all parts of the spectrum, but we do.
When I was 16 I was standing at the bus stop by myself, just a normal morning, waiting for the public bus to take me to school. Before the bus got there, an older man walked past me and asked for the time, I gave it to him, and before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my shoulders, pulled me into him and said, “give grandpa a kiss”, or something equally creepy and tried to kiss me. I shook him off and walked quickly off in the other direction, not sure what to do or where to go. He ran off down the street, but not before shooting me a dirty look, as I stood in shock trying to process what had happened. Seconds later, the bus arrived, and I didn’t know what else to do besides get on the bus and go to school.
I sat through my first two classes stunned, not hearing a word, off in my own head, trying to process what had happened.
After the class ended, I was in the cafeteria with a friend, and after stumbling over my words, started crying as I told her what had happened. She took me to the counselor’s office, and shortly after the cops were called and arrived at the school. I missed class that afternoon as I gave a statement telling the cops what had happened.
Besides a call from the police a few nights later making sure I was ok, nothing more was said or done, and I washed away the situation from my mind, thankful that nothing worse had happened.
A second and third traumatic situation happened to me when I was going into my junior year of college. I spent the summer in Colorado with my best friend on my Yale soccer team, living with a good friend from home in a house full of University of Colorado skiers. My friend and I, jobless, had sent an email out through the Yale Alumni association to people in the Denver/Boulder area, and had gotten a response from a Yale alum named Oak. Oak was about 70 and said, that while he didn’t have a job for us, he would be happy to take us around Boulder, that he did it all the time for Yale kids in town.
During that summer, he’d come and get my friend and I. The guys we were living with us would joke around that our boyfriend was coming to pick us up whenever he showed up to get us. We laughed, because, while I had become hyper aware of many guys kindness being masked in ulterior motives, and becoming very careful not to get close enough to lead anyone on, this guy was 70 and there was 2 of us so absolutely I had my guard down. In our minds he was a grandfather figure.
Which led to a conversation with him towards the end of the summer, when we talked about how we wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and he said he knew the area well and would take us. We were ecstatic, and excited to go.
In the car, things got weird when he started talking about his sex life to us. We would change the subject but he would find a way to try and lead it back. We were weirded out, but laughed it off. He was 70 and there was two of us.
By the time we were on our last night there, in our shared hotel room, him on one bed, us in the other, we were completely weirded out and just wanted to get home.
One more night we thought.
The next morning the alarm went off, and before we knew what to do he had jumped into our bed. It’s interesting when something traumatic happens how you react. I just jumped out of the bed and ran to the bathroom, in shock, wondering what the fuck had just happened.
I quickly changed and told my friend to get her stuff let’s go for the run that we had planned the night before. When we got outside, my friend said to me, “why did you leave me with him? He tried to jump on me and I had to wrestle him off.”
I am so sorry, I told her, I just acted instinctually and before I could even think I ran.
So now we were in the middle of Wyoming, in the pre-cell phone era, and later I realized just how completely fucked we could have been, as we had completely trusted this guy and no one really knew exactly where we were.
He could have done anything to us and no one would have known.
I realized that we had been in some very desolate areas and we were just lucky that our hotel was close to town.
We can’t go back with him, I said emphatically to my friend as we both being from the West Coast, scrambled to think of someone we could call on the East Coast, that would have been awake to get advice from.
Rudy we both said, thinking of our soccer coach.
So, likely in what was Rudy’s most random summer phone call ever from his players, after we found a pay phone and dialed his number, we explained to him what was going on.
We were in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, we had no money, we just had an old man try and attack us, and there was no way we could go home with him, but we both needed to be back at work the next day and all of our stuff was still with him. He implored us to go to the police station and report what happened. At the end of the call he said to call him if we needed anything.
And then in a typical hilarious Rudy quip ended the call with:
I’m just glad you guys are ok. I knew getting a call at 9am on a Sunday morning, that you guys weren’t calling with questions about the summer fitness program.
So my friend and I walked to the police station in Cody, Wyoming, and after waiting for 30 minutes finally found ourselves with a tough female cop, that we told what had happened to. And in words I never have forgotten, she said to us,
May you girls never forget this. Men never do anything to just be nice. They always have an agenda. I can’t tell you the amount of girls that I have had sitting in this office, it doesn’t matter the age, if there is two of you, how old the guy is.
Let this be a lesson to never put yourself into this kind of a situation again.
My friend and I just sat wide-eyed and silent, feeling ashamed that we hadn’t seen the situation coming.
While we sat in her office, the phone rang. It was Oak. He had called the police to report us missing, as we had been gone on our “run” for over 2 hours. The officer told him calmly, I have both girls here, bring their stuff over here immediately.
When he tried to pull the “My brother in law is a senator in Wyoming”, she roughly said to him, I don’t give a fuck who your brother in law is, get the girls stuff down here right now, they don’t want to see you again.
She gave us a voucher for the greyhound bus, and we took the bus overnight through the whole state of Wyoming, landing back into Boulder as the sun was rising.
I wish I could say that was the end of it, but we got one final scare as this all happened in our last week in Colorado. After writing us an email apologizing telling us that he had a bad little boy inside of him sometimes that needed to get out, he showed up at our work. He knew where my friend and I were employed and a few days later as we were going for a goodbye dinner with our workmates, he jumped out from behind a car, and tried apologizing to us.
I screamed at him, while my friend cowered and cried in the back of the car. I yelled at how he had destroyed our trust in people, and what a sick fuck that he was.
DRIVE, I screamed at my shocked co-worker who had no idea what was going on.
We reported the whole incident to our Athletic Director when we got back to school and that was the end of it. Until my friend almost ran directly into him on campus later that year. At that point, I went to the Yale Alumni office and reported to them what had happened and had to go through and give a police report once again since they had no record of what had happened as the athletic department hadn’t forwarded anything on when we had reported it to them in the summer.
The other traumatic incident happened when we got stalked by another guy we met that summer, in the park when we were playing soccer. Again, with two of us, our guard went down and we met him once or twice more as we were keeners and he wanted to coach us and we wanted to play. After he got creepier and creepier, insisting on knowing where we lived, and us seeing him as we watched TV in our living room, riding his bike around outside looking for us, we pulled a no-show at our next “coaching date” hoping we would never see him again.
Scarily, I encountered him by myself in the forest a few days later when I had gone for a run by myself. Why didn’t you guys show up that day,? he questioned me angrily, as I tried to play my coolest, realizing the kind of danger I was potentially in, by myself in the forest with no one else around.
Let’s go get a drink, I told him lightly, as my heart raced. I’m so sorry, we got invited to a concert and didn’t have your number to call you. He followed behind me, as we walked through the empty trail to get our “drink.” When we hit a part of the route with a large staircase, I told him I was going to run the stairs for my workout and would meet him at the top, and proceeded to sprint up the stairs and the mile home, scared out of my mind, collapsing in the back of our empty house, feeling like I had just dodged a missile, shaking.
I called my friend who was visiting her boyfriend. You’re never going to believe what happened, I said breathlessly into the phone, adrenaline pumping, gasping from running so fast, so long, so hard and so scared.
We ended our last night in Colorado that summer, sleeping with a baseball bat between us in the bed, with all the furniture in the room pushed up against the door. The front door lock was broken, all our roommates were away, and we were convinced that either Oak or the creepy stalker would find us and rape or hurt us on our last night there.
This year I hung out with a friend who is beautiful and who soaked up male attention. I told her how interesting it was to me, since I always instinctually did the opposite, never wearing make up and mostly being found in baggy athletic clothes. We talked about why I didn’t want to be noticed.
I didn’t really have an answer, but for the first time, juxtaposed with my friend who was so confident in her own sexuality and looks, I really noticed my own tendency to hide, not wanting to draw male attention.
In retrospect perhaps it was from these incidents at a young, impressionable age, I don’t know.
What I have been feeling however more and more, is that we are living in a white man’s world. As I do my own soul searching and personal growth, and trying to be more aware of my belief systems, I am realizing so much of what we internalize are the narrative that has been made around us in society, dictated by white men.
The insane expectations on us as women
The fight for control over our own bodies both literally and legally.
It goes on and on.
And in this moment, let me make clear the point that some of the best people I know are white men, but it needs to be acknowledged that every facet of our society has been shaped by their needs and wants in a way that has hurt so many of us.
Seeing Kavanaugh in the hearing throwing a tantrum made me think, take the politics right out of it, aren’t their better people out there that have the character to do a better job? Where are the women or the people of color in these positions? Why the fuck was that brave woman who gave her testimony staring at a sea of white men who held all the power?
I also thought to myself as I watched, that maybe these Ivy League heralded institutions, and the entitled, elitist bullshit that they espouse should be the last people that we are looking to shape and lead our society?
I normally wouldn’t post a blog unless I had a nice way to tie everything together, but I don’t.
Or clean it up and edit it because it’s so long, but I won’t.
I’m going to post it anyways.
And maybe that’s the point of this.
Maybe we just need to start coming forward and feeling like our stories and experiences have a voice. That they matter and share them, none being too small, and all having significance no matter the circumstance and scope. And not needing to deliver them tied perfectly with some wrapping paper and a beautiful bow.
Maybe just starting to get our experiences into the world, in whatever shape or form is how things start to change.
Because we are worthy. And we deserve so much more.