I love to watch BookTV on C-Span. It comes on locally on Saturday and Sunday where authors discuss their books. This past weekend, Roxane Gay discussed her latest book, “Hunger.” She is also the author of a book entitled, “Bad Feminist.” She is lauded as one of the “great” black intellects of our time. Gay’s book, Hunger, is about how she was gang raped at age 12 by male friends, causing such trauma that she turned to food. According to her, she wanted to make her body so unattractive that no man would ever again view her as desirable—not even desirable enough to rape. And so Gay, who is over 6 feet tall ballooned into an almost 600 pound woman while she fed her face trying to make herself “invisible” to men. During the same time that Gay was discussing her book “Hunger,” the show “My 600 Pound Life” was showing on another channel, so I flipped between the shows. While Gay sat arrogantly, using foul language to defend herself against the backlash of her making a mockery of her own flesh, another 606 pound woman was talking about how she needed to reclaim her life and move forward beyond similar damage that was done to her body, also following a rape.
Let me say this. If every woman who was raped decided to gain 600 pounds as some type of defense mechanism then a goodly portion of freshman college campus women would be morbidly obese. I would also be morbidly obese. I was choked and raped in 1972 while I was a student at the University of Michigan. I knew that no one would believe me because I knew my rapist. Instead of turning to food and gaining weight I found a way to move past it and not allow the invasion of my flesh to invade my soul. In the face of my rapist I refused to bow my head in shame. He was the criminal, not me. He was the monster, not me. I had worthwhile dreams to pursue, he did not. And so I girded up and moved on to a meaningful life.
I cannot suggest to anyone, male or female, who has been violated sexually how they should respond to being raped. I will say this–do not declare war on yourself. Do not continue to do to yourself mentally or emotionally what someone did to you physically. I cannot walk in another person’s shoes nor can I equate the level of my own trauma with what has happened to so many others, many so much younger, where the level of physical harm is almost unbearable. But what I can say is that turning to food or drugs as an escape mechanism to life trauma is a recipe for disaster. If counseling is needed to move past the trauma by all means get help and find a support network. Do not retreat into yourself, in shame and humiliation, and use rape as a crutch that robs you of a meaningful and productive life. The ability of human being to exact cruelty upon one another is as old as the human imagination for evil. If you think your trauma is unbearable, look at how others have survived. Look at the lives of women who were kidnapped, kept as naked sex slaves by monsters, but who survived to reclaim their lives and move on. Don’t give up on yourself. Of course you should desire to stop the epidemic of sexual violation. Use the criminal justice system to deal with those who defile women, but, the work of reclaiming yourself is yours and yours alone. As Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer once said, “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on.” What he meant was that that you cannot undo what has been done. Once the “moving finger writes,” time marches on and nothing will ever be able to change whatever happened during that instant in time. The incident is over and done, recorded and unchangeable. The human spirit is the most powerful and resilient force on earth. Do not dwell on the past. Get up, dress up, gird up, and move on.
Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.