I had a new-to-me experience today: Today I felt fear as a persecuted minority.
It is surreal to me to write that. I am a white, middle-class, Christian, straight, cis, property-owning, American-born woman. I’ve experience misogyny, sure. But I have never felt persecuted. I have the luxury of living an unexamined life if I so choose.
But today, I sat as fear washed over me. I did not feel safe.
Two major events combined to make me feel this fear. First, reports from Russia that Putin has signed a bill that decriminalizes domestic violence. The details of this bill are chilling:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a controversial law decriminalizing domestic violence as long as it does not happen more than once a year.
The new law makes the first offense of violence against “close persons” such as relatives or children an administrative offense, punishable by a 30,000 ruble fine ($500) or arrest for 15 days.
I drive by the Women’s Support Services office on a regular basis on my way into work. I used to volunteer for the 24-hour domestic violence hotline. I’ve heard the stories of women, in their own voices, late at night. I learned about Tracey Thurman, who, in 1984, successfully sued the Torrington, CT police (a town about a 30-minute drive from my house; I went there this week to have my teeth cleaned) for violating her civil rights for ignoring her reports of the harm her husband continually inflicted on her. I remember the work WSS did to advocate for a state statute to make strangulation a felony. The statute was enacted in 2008.
I know that Russia is not the United States. Not yet, anyway. And I know that there are plenty of countries in which women have a particularly hard time (oh wait! The United States is on that list!). Given the role Russia has played recently in our news cycles, and given our new president’s professed fondness for Putin, this hit close to home.
The second was the Republican Senators’ vote to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions to the position of attorney general.
Sen. Warren was reading a letter written by Corretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., opposing the nomination of Jeff Session to a federal judgeship in 1986.
Dear Senator Thurmond:
I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.
I regret that a long-standing commitment prevents me from appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However, I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions’ confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this letter be made a part of the hearing record.
I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.
Coretta Scott King
After the Republicans voted to silence Sen. Warren, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico read King’s letter into the record. No one objected.
I feel that efforts are being made in diverse arenas to silence the voices of women.
I plan to attend a rally in Albany, NY, to support Planned Parenthood on Saturday. And I plan to keep writing.