This morning, my niece Debbie shared the GoldieBlox campaign to give GoldieBlox a viral marketing boost so it can attract customers within the giant, overwhelming pink Barbie aisles at Toys 'R' Us.
I am here so Debbie and Stephanie and Meredith -- and Kara and Taylor and Hayley and all of the younger generation can grow and thrive. My students -- all of them. Kiele and Victoria and Shellie and Amelia and all of them.
And their children, and their children's children.
My mother was one of the most talented artists of her generation. My father was a genius and one of the strongest men I ever knew.
I came from a long line of powerful women; at last, my mother married a man who was strong and worthy of her.
None of this I knew growing up. I only knew my mother died when I was three months old, and my grandparents raised me.
And in this, again, I was so fortunate. My grandfather was the best man anybody ever knew, or could hope to know. I was raised in Redlands, one of the greatest small towns in America. My grandmother, for her faults, was a caring, watchful parent.
She warned me -- she always warned me -- of what others could be like. I can't say I understood these warnings. Why, who would hurt me? No one would hurt me, would they?
My first waking to the real ways of the world came 11 days after my 21st birthday. On this day, a Sunday morning, quite lovely and clear, I was raped by a named chair of literature from, not my own college, but one nearby, another of the Claremont Colleges. And no storybook rape this. He first hit me in the head with a heavy glass cigar ashtray. For this, I should thank him because I don't remember the details of the following two hours. When I woke, I saw death in the man's eyes. I knew he was going to kill me. I saw my body in a shallow grave beside a desert highway. I had the presence of mind to pray to my Lord Jesus and it did give me comfort.
To this day I will not know what made him turn aside, what made him let me go. I bear the scars and will take them to my grave. The white spot on my chest is a cigarette burn.
I won't say I thought I was "special." I just had no inkling that someone might want to hurt me. As in really hurt. As in rape, beat, bite, burn -- kill.
So in this, it can be said this man did me a favor. I never made that mistake again.
This man gave birth to the "me" that is today. And one step after another into recovery I have taken.
That's all it is, really. Just putting one foot in front of the other. This was far from the worst thing that's ever happened to me. The worst that ever happened to me was losing my baby son Anthony on January 11, 2005. I am a writer and cannot say what it was I felt on that night. That is what Hell is, only everlasting and forever.
So now I have a daughter, a precious, beautiful, wonderful daughter, Meredith. I have my nieces, Debbie and Stephanie. I have my students, all so unique and wonderful and precious to me.
And this is why I'm here. It would never cross my mind to not value each of them so highly. To not delight in their joys, appreciate their talents, be endlessly fascinated by what they are, do and can achieve.
But everyone is not like that.
And this I know. Some do not care about these things. They see only what they can use, deceive, take advantage of.
Once again in our field, we are lagging indicators. We have yet another story of contempt and abuse. At last, it is getting some traction. People are talking, paying attention.
People use words. They say "rape culture." They say "patriarchy."
I say something that every person I believe will understand: "Wasteful. Unprofessional."
Let me tell you who I was prior to the man raping me in 1983, and let's see if you say, "Hm. Wasteful."
I was a four-year National Merit Scholar at Scripps College, and I was a strong contender for a Rhodes Scholarship and a Watson Fellowship. Considering what I've been able to accomplish since, even with a 15 year break in my academic career, maybe those who either gave me those awards or had a point in considering me for those awards may have had a few things right.
I'm lucky I survived the aftermath of the rape. In fact, I believe it is only the hand of God that laid over me and protected me. Because I was hellbent on killing myself in one daredevil activity or another for at least the next five years. I didn't care. I valued my life not at all. I wanted to take every risk imaginable. That's a part of post-traumatic stress. Read up on it.
So, for one man's sick sexual pleasure, that our culture considers a "fair trade." Tell the victims of the Long Island serial killer that it's not considered a "fair trade." Tell that to the 100+ victims of Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer. Tell it to the parents of the young, gifted children horrifically murdered by Atlanta child killer Wayne Williams. All their hopes, dreams, gifts, talents, destroyed in moments of horror by vicious, selfish beasts that our society cannot seem to control and does not want to look in the face.
And what does it matter if the body is not destroyed yet the soul is killed? This is the silencing.
This is all the brilliant, talented, creative young artists who never had a chance because they made the foolish choice to try to do work outside the "accepted" norms for their race or gender. And here is where good old science fiction comes in.
Just as I was fool to not understand I was nothing but a 110 pound piece of long-haired blond meat to the man who raped me, apparently inspired by my two consecutive years of winning the Pomona College writing prize, so too are they nothing in the eyes of the gatekeepers, who would sell a publishing slot to those who gave the best oral sex. To those who flattered, to those who offered something, or far more insidious, to those who told the expected tales. The ones the gatekeepers believed they could and would sell.
You know. Like girls want to play with Barbie, boys with G.I. Joe.
And woe to the G.I. Joe in a skirt and heels.
This is all changing. Yeats, the madman. "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."
I am a Bible-believing Christian, daughter of a Jew. I know that when Anthony died, I only survived because He carried me. I know what Christ's message is.
And we have to listen to it. We have to live it. We have to be it. And we can no longer conscience monsters in our midst for our own convenience and ease. Because we waste -- too much fire. Too much light. Too much life.