I, too, had hoped a new day was on the horizon. Larry Nassar was convicted. Harvey Weinstein was being sued. Kevin Spacey’s ratings started to dwindle. The time was up for victims to stay silent. The beginning of my senior year in high school had me hopeful for what was yet to come. I was nervously awaiting for the trickle effect from the rich and powerful being brought into the limelight to reach the high school boys harassing my friends in the hallway. Perhaps I was too hopeful.
As I near my graduation, I reflect on the progress that has defined my time in high school: the Women’s March on Washington, the #MeToo movement, the resignations of infamous politicians, and the convictions of several celebrities. However, my senior year was also bookended by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in the fall and the abortion bans this spring. I saw people chipping away at the patriarchy and the subsequent backlash of those who wanted to bolster it.
My education taught me about those who came before my time and and charted new paths for women. In history, I learned about the Suffragettes, Mary Wollstonecraft, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and other leaders, and I felt hopeful that my generation would be able to build on their accomplishments. In English, I read “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and I felt reassured by the fact that my world would never become like that of Hester’s or Ofred’s. My education was not lacking in feminist heroines.
But as I walk across the stage to receive my diploma this week, it will be Dr. Christine Blasey Ford whom I will be thinking of. She is regarded as the Sisyphus of our time. She was willing to sacrifice her career, her safety, and her reputation to bend the moral arc of the universe. Her bravery has been regarded as futile. Yes, it is true that her story did not stop the soldiers protecting the patriarchy from confirming an accused sexual assailant to the Supreme Court. But her bravery has inspired a generation of women to not remain silent in the shadows.
As I watched Blasey Ford testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this fall, I asked myself the question that many of us were asking ourselves: Would I have been able to do what she had done? Would I have been brave enough to come forward in front of the nation to say #MeToo? The truth is, I probably would not have been able to. Watching her raise her right hand and take the oath of truth with the weight of the patriarchy weighing on her soul was heartbreaking. But it is also an image that almost every woman can relate to. The slow inhale we need to take before we come forward. Before we come out of the shadows of silence. The moment we need to take to close our eyes, to keep back the tears, and to shove the doubt and regret about coming forward down into the pits of our stomachs.
Before I testified at the Minnesota Legislature about my own experiences of sexual harassment, it was this image that I looked at for my last jolt of motivation. Blasey Ford was with me in the moments prior to when I came forward to say #MeToo as I testified on a bill that would reduce sexual harassment in schools. I knew that the bill might not pass, but someone had to come forward to say that this was happening in high schools.
Ultimately, the bill did not pass. Without the example of Blasey Ford’s courage, that may have marked the end of my advocacy. I could have let the rock roll over me. I could let the patriarchy stomp all over me. But I had to get back up and start fighting the way she did.
The man who tried to take away her dignity and voice during high school is now in a position to take away the voice and rights of millions of women across the nation. We will not stand by and allow the rock to smother us all. We are with Ford. We are here with her. We are pushing with everything we can.
Christine Blasey Ford has ignited a fire in me that none of my prior feminist idols had been able to light. She is a real person, not an idol. She is a professor, a mom, a wife, a woman. She could be any of us. That was what stuck with me.
I am grateful to Ford for being our Sisyphus because we are now here with her to push the rock up the hill. As I walk across the stage on Thursday at graduation, I too will raise my right hand and take the oath of resistance.
Jessica Melnik is graduating on Thursday from Hopkins High School.
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