A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

I’m Not as Strong as You Think I Am

rosie

(art by Norman Rockwell)

Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m a persona.

(Hi, Rosie!)

I exist to protect the person who hides behind me. I allow her to say things she has trouble saying with her real mouth, but I am her True Voice. Through me, the person who writes this blog has found a way to talk about her life and what it’s like to be a woman in what is still very much a man’s world in so many ways.

I can be a bit rough around the edges. Ranty, sweary, short-of-temper, unlikely to take crap. She’s like that too, but my knob is tuned way higher than hers. And I think that sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that the fact that she and I have strong opinions about things and fight for what we believe in means we’re super tough and impervious to harm. I think sometimes people have the impression we’re so sure of ourselves—this real-life-person and I, her avatar—so confident and secure, that words, judgment, implications that we are what’s wrong with feminism, that we see problems where none exist, that we’re too angry and intense and that we spend our energies on all the wrong things…that none of this gets through the armor of this persona and reaches the real person.

But she’s in there, and she’s tired and sad and it’s taking everything I’ve got to help her find the words to admit it. She has learned that life is different now and unless she’s willing to give up on the dream of making positive change, she’s going to have to get used to encountering resistance not just from the faceless Internet, but from friends and allies.

She’s sad and tired and sometimes she feels like giving up, but she’s got hope and she clings to it and it’s what gives me whatever power I’ve got to pull out words when all she’s got are tears. Hope that all this will end up being worthwhile (and faith that it must), and that those friends and allies who doubt and resist will let down their guard and trust that when she says “this hurts me” it does. Hope that the fact that she hurts is enough to make a thing—or even a movement—important enough to them that they won’t dismiss it out of hand or imply that she’s not seeing clearly or that she’s “too angry.” Hope that if they disagree, they’ll remember that it’s not philosophy to her—that it’s something she feels deeply.

Hi. I’m Rosie. And I’m here to tell you that activism isn’t fun. It can be very, very rewarding, but when one of us launches a campaign like the one I helped launched yesterday, we’re putting ourselves out there to be criticized by the whole entire Internet, and if you think I haven’t spent the last 24 hours second-guessing myself, alternately shaking with rage and crying tears of frustration, then you think I’m a lot stronger than I really am. I’ve been told I’m part of the problem and that my perceptions are flawed, that I’m wasting my time, and that I’m aggressive. None of these are firsts, but when every ping from your blog and social media elicits a moment of panic, you know you’re stressed. And when some of the doubt comes from within the tent, that’s particularly hard to take—but it happens every single time. And while it’s certainly healthy to entertain differing points of view, by the time I’ve gone all-in on a campaign like this, I’ve gone over and over it and I know how I feel about it, so the second-guessing is just a mind-game I play with myself. I’m in no doubt, for example, of how I feel about that hotel ad.

And that’s what I left out of my post yesterday: Me. Why this campaign is important to me personally.

When I was 20, the man I was with beat the shit out of me and promised me I would not live through the night. He smacked me around first, then gouged my eyes with his fingers (leaving scars I still see when I look at a blank wall), cut my face with a putty knife, then threw me across the room. Somewhere in there he told me he was going to bury me in a field where no one would find me. About half this he did in front of my two-year-old daughter. That’s just one of my stories of violence, but it’s the one that comes up like bile when I see this image.

A reader yesterday said the ad in question looked like slapstick to him. Someone else said she looked like she was just lying there—no violence implied. Me? At a gut level, without any analysis, I see a dead woman lying on concrete (I get “alley” or “parking lot”) at a glance. When I see this image, I see her story. The story this image tells me is of a woman to whom violence has been done (she didn’t throw that suitcase at herself) and who has been left for dead on a stained concrete floor. On closer inspection, she’s sprawled in a decidedly lifeless way (I now have a copy of the magazine and it looks like she’s in a parking garage—there are oil stains), her hand palm-up. She’s certainly not conscious—not struggling to get up under the weight of the heavy suitcase she accidentally dropped on herself. In fact, to me, it doesn’t look like she’s getting up at all.

And when I see that, I think of all the women who—like me—have had violence done to them but who—unlike me—did not survive it. And I feel sick. And I feel like this is a crass fucking way to sell a product. But at the heart of it, this image causes me pain and given the response I’ve received privately, on the post, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments section of the petition, I’m not alone.

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m not as strong as you may think I am. But I’m not alone. For that, I’m more grateful than I can say.


Related

The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women (makemeasammich.org)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.

41 responses

  1. I just found out about your blog today and it’s bloody amazing. I read almost everything! I possess a very shitty internet connection and the ‘like’ button just doesn’t seem to load.

    I live in one of those countries where violence against women is quite prevalent. The law enforcement are more or less indifferent to this fact. Even though stringent laws have been made, due to lack of proper implementation they’ve become obsolete.
    Fortunately, I haven’t been subjected to it. However, this fact does not make me blind to the plight of others. Keep on fighting.

    September 3, 2013 at 2:58 am

    • Thank you! So glad you found me.

      Far too often violence against women is treated as a) not very important and b) just the way it is. It seems law enforcement doesn’t get serious until the spotlight is shined on them. One way for that to happen is for women to tell their stories, which is what we do when we blog and offer our blogs to others as a platform to express themselves. I’m glad you haven’t experienced violence yourself and are talking about it. The more of us who talk about it, the harder it gets for anyone to ignore.

      September 3, 2013 at 8:22 am

  2. Keep on fighting the good fight.

    August 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    • Thank you. I will. With many breaks in between.

      August 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

  3. i’m the kid, with your blood on him, and your howls echoing down the abyss of hoplelessness and despair, full of terror and weakness. all that, and the self recriminations of not “doing something” as a 6 or 10 year old. I fully hear you. doesn’t change what i see in that ad. on a personal note, i really wish it was some guy instead, just so it would be one less thing buggin you, because i care about you. lastly, it doesn’t make you strong to not have all the passion and fury. i’m sure if you had a couple beers with “Rosie” , she’d tell you to stop selling yourself short. you’re a tiger, no doubt. own that, if you expect to win a battle that has waged since day one, it’s going to get a little tricky. Do your part. Aren’t you standing on a crapload of shoulders? Some day , someone will be standing on yours.

    August 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    • I appreciate your words, Tom. I have a lot to learn about balancing my efforts and my energies, but I’m working on it.

      As I said on FB, I don’t believe this piece is designed for a man to take this woman’s place interchangeably–especially considering the up-skirt shot with visible underpants. It’s ok that you don’t see in that ad what I see as long as you understand that your perspective doesn’t change the pain I and others feel when we look at it.

      August 27, 2013 at 6:00 pm

  4. there will always be people who try to tear you down in one way or another, but you are surrounded by supportive people here, who admire your dedication to issues worth becoming an activist over, as well as your incredible survival ) peace, beth

    August 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    • Thank you so much and sorry for the late reply. (I was kind of overwhelmed when I wrote this and I missed some comments.)

      November 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

  5. I admire your choice to do this blog. I may not always agree with your position on some things, but I always respect your opinion and you have shown that you respect the opinion of others that may disagree with you. I’ve been to blogs that simply block any dissent what so ever, but you are very fair. You give the opinions of others a fair shake. And that is very admirable.

    So even if we may disagree from time to time, it will be respectful. And that’s how it should be.

    August 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    • Thank you. You’ve always been respectful and I very much appreciate that. (Sorry I took so long to reply. I was in kind of a state at the time I wrote this.)

      November 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

  6. Melanie

    I often feel like I am pretending to be stronger than I am. Like I am putting on a mask of strength to hide the shaking fear that is so very close to the surface.
    The mark of strength isn’t not feeling hurt feelings when someone tells you you’re wrong/stupid/oversensitive (that’s human), it’s holding hands with the hurt feelings and being willing to do it all over again in the name of all that is right and proper and good, and should be right and proper and good in this world. You’d have quit by now if you weren’t stronger than you think you are.

    August 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    • Thank you, Melanie. I’ve been suffering from a bit of a confidence crisis lately and your words feel very true and important. (So sorry for the delay–I was kind of emo when I posted this and meant to get back here sooner.)

      November 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

      • Melanie

        No worries. These aren’t easy to write or post, or reply to. I hope you feel better. You have a strong voice and it carries some weight and it’s good to know you’re human along with it all.

        November 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

  7. Britni

    I just want you to know that I think you’re amazing and you inspire the shit out of me. Thank you for your honesty, your bravery, and your vulnerability in writing this post. You’re stronger than you think you are.

    August 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    • Thank you so much, Britni. You inspire me, too. All the time. <3

      August 27, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      • I was struck by how your and Britni’s avatars here look remarkably similar. :)

        Also, Rosie – I feel your exhaustion, and your hurt, and I send a virtual hug. Doing good work and maintaining your ability to be rational and respectful when people (read: idiots) push back on it is so, so tiring. But I think your writing is important, as is your campaign. When it’s hardest, I try to remember that things are getting better day by day because lots of individual voices are talking about these subjects.

        Also, your description of the attack on you was horrendous. Can I send a hug to your 20-year-old self as well?

        August 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

        • Absolutely. Both hugs gratefully accepted. And thank you so much for the support. You’re absolutely right: every single voice is important, the more the better.

          Wow, I never noticed, but it’s true: we’re avatar twins!

          August 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm

  8. I admire you for taking a stand and fighting for your principles. We’re in an era where women’s voices are somehow even more terrifying than ever, (when we are not cooing and whispering to those In Power), esp. when we are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. Look at the in(s)sanity of those who tried to slag and attack and threaten the writers defending the decision to put Jane Austen on a British banknote. Seriously?!

    It is exhausting to fight and do it publicly and people will laugh at you and be rude. But others are grateful and admiring.

    August 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

    • Thanks so much. It *is* exhausting and I think people who don’t spend as much time doing it as I do tend to forget that. (Sorry for the late reply–emo Rosie was overwhelmed and neglected to catch up as intended.)

      November 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

  9. I don’t say a whole lot, but I always read you and cheer you on. Courage without fear is not courage at all. You have courage. You have heart and you have brains. You use them all for women (and men) who don’t have the way with words that you have. You have many more people behind you applauding all you do and say then you have against you. It just may not seem like it some days, especially if you are getting grief from people you care about. All I can say is, keep doing and saying what you are doing and saying as it will help so many of us in so many ways. There are women out there who don’t say anything because it has been drilled and beaten in them to shut up, but those are the women you touch more. You give them the words and the strength to help themselves and isn’t that what it is all about anyway? So I say…….Cheers to you!!! and big hugs too.

    August 27, 2013 at 11:30 am

    • Thank you, Jackie. I’ve learned that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to alienate people now and then. I don’t want that to be true, but it is. And others are just not going to get me sometimes and I have to learn to live with that, too. I’m doing my best. And if I help even one person–seriously, if I have helped even one person say something they needed to when they felt silenced, then it is all worth it. I just have to keep in mind that this is why I do it–because of that potential to make things even a little bit better.

      August 27, 2013 at 2:11 pm

  10. You don’t have to be as strong as anyone *thinks* you are. There’s no contest here. You’re here. You won. And you’re helping other women to be strong. That’s phenomenally important. You’re fighting the good fight–one of the biggest fights, really. The right for us to exist and be safe from violence and discrimination. The fact that you’re doing it makes you plenty fucking strong.

    August 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

    • Thank you, Madame. You and others here have reinforced the final paragraph of this post for me again and again and I’m more grateful than I know how to say.

      August 27, 2013 at 1:49 pm

  11. NotAPunkRocker

    You speak up. It is difficult, scary, exhausting, but you say what needs to be said. Someone else hears you. They speak up and share their story Soon, everyone is talking when they felt that had to live in silence before.

    Activism is a thankless job more times than not, but if one person shares an experience or helps another because of it, then I feel I need to keep going to see if I can reach another. That is me being overly idealistic and simplistic, maybe, but it is what what I tel myself when I do share my story because I just never know who it will get back to.

    Thank you for doing this and for not quitting.

    August 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

    • Yes. Everything you just said. Thank you.

      August 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

  12. Heather

    Rosie,

    Thanks for being strong than you think you are. Although I m sad to find your name is not actually Rosie (it’s a great name), you are much more your persona than you think. Some book I read recently mentioned that courage is being afraid and doing something anyway; you have that. And courage is a form of strength. So thanks. For all the things you do here, for putting yourself out there for people to take hits at. It’s not easy (in fact it’s down right hard!) but it does so need to be done. Thank you, Rosie, and person behind Rosie. For your strength which is also vulnerability.

    Hugs and affection,
    Heather

    August 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

    • There’s a great quote from Game of Thrones where Bran asks his dad “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” Ned Stark answers, “That’s the only time a man can be brave.” Such a great message. Thank you for your kind words, and I’m sorry it took so long to reply (I was kind of a mess at the time I wrote this and meant to catch up before now).

      November 16, 2013 at 10:41 am

  13. Joanne

    I wish I could hug you right now. You do great stuff. Please don’t stop. xxx

    August 27, 2013 at 10:28 am

    • Virtual hug accepted. Thank you. I’m not quitting. <3

      August 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

  14. You are participating in, effecting and pushing forward a time of great change. Can’t you feel it? There is so much vitriol being spewed into the world that it is painful to witness at times. But just like a cut or scrape on a body must push out the infection in order to be healed – so too does this vitriol need to be pushed out. I feel it in my gut that this is what is happening in our world right now. It is at times frightening and overwhelming. Voices like yours – and as you say, there are many – are necessary to this healing – they are the balm that encourages the infection to move onward and out of our collective consciousness.

    August 27, 2013 at 9:57 am

    • Le Clown

      Rosie.
      THIS.
      Le Clown

      August 27, 2013 at 10:04 am

    • Yes, I do feel it. Thank you so much for these words.

      August 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

  15. I really appreciate what you do, and I’m with you. Seeing this as “slapstick” or anything other than violence seems to me like it would be a product of privilege. I saw this and immediately saw violence, and also knew that I was meant to see violence. It’s another in a long line of examples of violence against women being used to sell. Plus, if this was supposed to be “art,” I don’t think they would have gone with “haha silly women she slipped and ended up with her own suitcase on top of her, hilarious!”

    No, I see a lifeless women, dehumanized with her head completely covered by the suitcase, and sexualized. I see sexual violence in this ad.

    I know this doesn’t drown out those doubting voices, especially those close to you, but I guess I just want you to know that I’m angry that you have to deal with that kind of gaslighting from people who probably don’t have your experience and/or knowledge, and that I think you’re 100% right about this ad.

    August 27, 2013 at 9:51 am

    • Lindsey, in case I haven’t said it yet this week, you rock.

      I forgot to even mention the part about her face being covered. And as other people have mentioned, she’s unclothed from the waist down and positioned in such a way…yeah, we’re not making this shit up. And if we’re saying it hurts, then dammit, it hurts. Fuck.

      With love and gratitude,
      Rosie

      August 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

  16. Thank you for speaking out, sometimes it does feel like your all alone when you speak the truth. People believe they are entitled to their opinion, it’s the mantra of the ignorant and misinformed. Nothing factual to back up what they say, just crap rolls out of their mouths. I got your back, you’re not alone.

    August 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

    • Thank you so much. Just the response to this post is a great reminder of that. (Sorry for the delayed reply. I got overwhelmed and then neglected to catch up in a timely manner.)

      November 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

  17. You are stronger than you think. Thank you for speaking out, fearlessly and with fear.

    August 27, 2013 at 9:33 am

    • Thank you so much.

      August 27, 2013 at 10:06 am

  18. Le Clown

    Rosie,
    What you do is of primordial importance (my French today is coming out in my English, please be lenient). You have strong opinions, and you shake things. It doesn’t mean you are immune to criticism, and against assholes. I find some peeps will adopt a pompous attitude in their comments, and often enough, condescension, as if their opinion is the voice of god. What I like about you is that even though you have a strong set of values and opinions, you often prone education and open/respectful conversation to carry your voice. This is part of the reasons I read you, and spread the word about you… and of course, because I think you’re right all the fucking time…
    And by the way, vulnerability is a beautiful quality.
    Le Clown

    August 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

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