Every once in awhile I read the book everybody else is apparently reading, and in finally checking out Educated, by Tara Westover, I am clearly late to the party with comments. With nearly four thousand Amazon reviews and 45 weeks on their best seller list, the world has already agreed that her story of finally escaping from family dysfunction to join the wider world is gripping. Like everyone else, I read it in short order and last night went down the rabbit hole of reading all the one star reviews—apparently written by her family and their supporters—and the dozens of comments on these reviews from people who refused to let these pseudo reviews stand.
This searing memoir is not so much about religion as it is about patriarchal family dynamics, and it made me think about something that's been bothering me ever since Donald Trump got elected, namely, who are these women who voted for him? Who thought it was fine for their daughters and granddaughters to have for President a guy who brags about grabbing women's sexual organs? Who are these women who somehow still support him, the ones who went on TV during the Kavanaugh hearings and said how scared they were for their sons, because, goodness, look how easy it would be for some trashy girl to take them down with a false claim of rape?
What?! I have two grown sons and I would never for one minute worry about that! Number one, they would never do that. Number two, when women gather the courage to speak up about abuse, I believe them. My default reaction at such an accusation would be to grab my son and demand to know what was up.
But this is how the patriarchy works. It's almost always men who commit these acts of abuse. When women are involved, it's usually because some man is bossing them into it. And then—this is the worst part—when some woman tries to report the abuse, there are always women ready to stick up for the man, turn against the woman, effectively telling her to sit down and shut up. Don't make waves. Don't embarrass people. It's not enough to have the Boys' Club firmly in place, the women must help support it.
That's how it worked for Tara Westover. In spilling the beans about her father's obvious mental illness and her brother's horrific abuse, she broke the big rule: Don't Make the Family Look Bad. While her mother and her sister (also victims) had at least briefly seemed to side with her, in the end they did not have the nerve to stand up to the Patriarchy. It was easier to just say, "I'm with them," and put all emotional energy into justifying casting out a sister. The appearance of the FAMILY to the outside world and the support of its male members took precendence over the daughters.
But Tara Westover's bravery in speaking truth to power is exactly what we need to heal our nation and the earth itself. We do not need women like Senator Susan Collins, who entertained abuse survivors in her office for days on end and pretended to listen to their stories, let them pray en masse out in her hall, then got her hair done, put on a spiffy suit, and stood on the Senate floor for forty-five minutes explaining why she was delivering her vote to Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. I hate to think of the further trauma this horrific betrayal delivered to all those women who pleadingly told her their stories.
I am cheered by the new female members of the House of Representatives. They make me hopeful for the future. We need brave women not afraid to speak up.
Count me as an early supporter of Elizabeth Warren. I have been wearing my "Nevertheless, she persisted" T-shirt to the gym ever since she thrilled us by refusing to sit down and shut up. I have no patience for this "But is she electable?" business. All it takes for her to be electable is for us to vote for her. I believe she will kick butt and clean house, so please join me in supporting her.