Lydia M. McDermott

Lydia M. McDermott is a rhetoric and composition scholar and professor at Whitman College. She is also the Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking.

Women's Write In

I am sitting at my academic library under a sign that reads: "Write-In; Women Write for Human Rights!" All around me are other women and men who are working with words in the face of a new misogynistic president to create hope for human rights. I feel warm and fuzzy looking around. I recognize my friends, my fellow professors, my students, and I acknowledge faces I do not know but that I now know I have something in common with. Tomorrow, many of us will be participating in our local women's march in solidarity with those sisters marching on Washington DC.

As a writer, a writing instructor, and a writing center administrator, I need to believe that writing matters. I know that I am currently in a safe bubble where my intellect and my skills are valued and I have academic freedom to express my opinions and beliefs. I write now because I can. Many women before me and many women even now have never been valued for their ideas. They have been a pussy to grab to those around them.

Many years ago, I visited Paris during Bastille Day. What a public party! There at the Bastille, there was live music and hoards of people dancing and drinking, even setting off firecrackers. I was enjoying myself, dancing with a female friend, when a man I did not know swept me into a dance. I found that action flattering, if presumptuous, and he was a good dancer after all! After he swirled me back to my friends, another anonymous man, whose face I never saw, grabbed my pussy as he walked by, just because he could. He walked on and I stood in shock.

This is not the only moment in which my body has been violated by a man because he could, but it stands out to me in juxtaposition to the dancing, which felt innocently flirtatious, and yet was of a similar kind of entitlement. It also stands out to me because of the literal grab, which our new President defends. It also illustrates that the problem of the grab is not specific to the United States.

I stood in shock because I realized in that moment that access to my body by men was presumed, whether it was access to grab by the hand and pull into a flirtatious dance (something oh-so-Hollywood and oh-so-Parisian in my twenty-something mind), or access to grab by the pussy and just walk by as if nothing had happened. I wonder how many women were grabbed in the same ways that evening.

As I move away from this blog, I will work on an article on transnational rhetoric surrounding midwifery. I do not use my pussy to write this, despite the connotative possibilities. I am more than my genitalia. And I reserve the right to grant and deny access to any part of my self to any other person, despite the new president. The truth is, though, as safe as this space feels, as much as my intellect is valued and my freedom safeguarded, no place is completely safe for any woman when the President asserts his right to grab pussy because he can.