Last night, after what has been a draining week both on the national and personal fronts, I received the same “chain letter” from a few different theater friends on Facebook messenger. The message encouraged women to enact a “female blackout” on social media today: to change their profile picture to a solid square of black, as a way of showing solidarity with survivors of domestic abuse and demonstrating the value of women’s contributions by taking them away for a day and making “men wonder where the women are.”
I’m guessing this chain got going coming out of the general sense of exhaustion, despair, and rage so many of us are feeling after the shitshow that was the Brett Kavanaugh hearing this past Thursday. In all honesty, until I went back to re-read things before writing this post,* I was misremembering the stated solidarity message to be more expansive, and to include survivors of sexual violence as well as of domestic violence. The fact that the focus was narrower suggests to me that this chain letter was started/written some time ago, but I can understand why this past week’s events might inspire it to be distributed again.
The women in my friends circle made a bunch of different choices in response to this subterranean discussion. I saw some black squares, some black squares highlighting a message, and some folks who skipped the entire thing. I ended up going the “black square highlighting a message” route,** not ‘cos I think it was the one right way to go but because it was the choice that resonated most authentically for me.
Ultimately, I liked the possible visual impact of all the mostly-black squares where profile pictures should be. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that by posting a blank, non-semantic block of color that I was just going along with the myriad of ways that I am silenced in this culture–for being a woman, for being fat, for being a liberal, for being brainy. (And that’s a pretty mild list when you think of the more violent and dramatic ways that persons of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and people who are economically disadvantaged are silenced.)
I don’t really care whether folks spend too much time imagining what a world without women would be like. I’d rather we imagined a world without the patriarchy, a world where women are believed instead of silenced.
One last thing: this evening I was reflecting on my process to discern what to in response to this little FB message/chain letter. And I was dwelling on the weird contrast between my insistence on not self-silencing in that small (pretty unimportant) way, and the ways that co-exists with the huge way I have been self-silencing for months by not having the courage to be writing here or in my pen-and-paper journal. Seriously: months, y’all. Months that I have been feeling the call to be writing and also a complete shut-down of my words all mixed up in a weird sort of bouillabaise.
So here’s a small step to get myself out of the soup. Gaia willing, it will be sustained.
* Still nerdcore.
** “Survivors will not be silenced”