Still Learning: Confronting Myself on ‘Naming the Unnamed’ Within

Sometimes, when something hurts me, it takes a while for me to feel it. I’m the kind that won’t even realize I’d been so affected until much later, years after, and at random. 

Sometimes, what I’ve suppressed never comes to light at all.

Usually this is because, “I don’t know where to put it.” Slow to process, quick to Proceed Past, I’m always moving onto the next thing before I’ve even finished the first. And if one of these things should get stuck in the “forgetting”, the “suppressing”, it’s rejection will likely bring it back up.

Finally found, it causes a shake—a paling, like I’ve seen a ghost. For some time, casting the world in the glare of its light, it is all that I can see. 

And yet, I have still found myself safest in these moments of confrontation: of ejecting what could not be swallowed. Then, at least, whatever monster I’d been creating deep in the heart of my unconscious has no more chance to hide; it is then that I see myself with the power to face it and call it by its name. 

It’s a balancing dance, one strength making up for the lack of another until finally I have an expression for what I hadn’t even known I was hiding. 

So, it is within this context (and that of a promise I made in a previous post) that I have chosen to express my thoughts surrounding a moment that has found me again, which I cannot put aside. It is a thing I haven’t felt I had the words to solve, but now, I see that it is not a problem in need of solution—it is more an exploration that needs to see itself through. 

It needs to process. 

I do. 

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It starts with the memory of watching a video found deep in the comment’s section of a popular forum: a linked video that I promise to comment with below should I ever find it again (I looked).

Frame-by-frame, it depicts a feminist rally in the 60s or 70s or perhaps earlier. As I watch, a lighter-skinned woman begins to speak from a stage above the crowd. She’s smiling, and fiery, and introduces the event’s next guest. 

Standing tall, arms raised, onto the stage walks a Latina advocate for woman’s rights. To a boisterous crowd, she begins iterating her desire for equality through a new lens: Her Own. Listing statistics of misogynistic injustice relevant to her experience and her communities, she proudly calls on even those feminists present to do better. 

And strangely, the mood shifts. 

Within a minute, maybe two – it seems to happen so quickly – the second woman’s voice is silenced. The first runs up on stage, a new mic in hand (or maybe it’s the same mic, turned back on, I won’t presume to accurately recollect the whole exchange that followed), her voice carrying out over the crowd (to paraphrase a longer string of mumblings):

“You can’t bring those problems here—they aren’t ours.”

Even reading the recollection above leaves me stunned. It seems so easy for me now to call out the erasure and be sickened by it–the dissonance between a common goal that becomes seemingly frayed among the crowd. I am stirred by my belief that shining the limelight does not send the rest of the audience into darkness, and could at the time think: “what that white girl did was wrong!” 

But if I am to think honestly, too, back to the young Jessica who hadn’t read the narratives of women from Baghdad, or Egypt, or Vietnam, or Pakistan—who trusted entirely the words of the largely white populations around her—it is easy to see myself in her, my light-skinned counterpart hypocritically doing just the opposite of what she’s fighting for and covering up the voices of women who aren’t being given an equal chance to speak. 

It is therefore just as easy for me to want to suppress that past self, who felt so strongly that it was her job to mediate and ‘keep everyone comfortable’, even at the expense of her own morals. 

Even when it was only her who felt out of place. 

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Here, I think, it becomes a bit clearer why this video had gotten stuck in my subconscious in the first place, only arriving now: 

I don’t always have the strength to confront those parts of me which need prodding. It’s so much easier, as I said, to just let it slide by, to lose myself (in this case) to the outrage of that other woman’s erasure, thinking with certainty that I would have Never (capital N) done what the woman rushing on stage did. 

But with renewed strength, and grown a bit from those days of strange, unconscious exclusivity – from that narcissism that can come with having white privilege – I have started to turn around and face these hidden moments, afraid but unwilling to do anything but stand up to my colonial self (all covered in guilt), listening with open ears the silenced woman say:

JUST DO BETTER. 

So even though I sometimes still find myself trying to capture those other stories, trying to assimilate them with my own forceful mind-view (how original: a colonial woman…); now that it’s all out in the open, I can see it fully, and fight back remembering:

I’m still learningJust do better.

I had said before that it was because of a promise I made in a previous post that I decided to confront the issue above instead of pushing it back down again. 

In that post, I talked about being inspired by the stories of 15 strong women who are being featured in an upcoming stage-show in Surrey, BC., and how they inspired me to begin speaking again with conviction about what I think and believe, supported by the many hands of these and other “Women who Named the Unnamed”– incidentally the name of the upcoming performance. 

It was thinking about these women – from other cultures entirely, whose stories have sparked within me a fire I won’t put out – that the memory of that video came back to me. I thought–will people think this of other stories too? Of the stories of these 15 women who have become so near and dear to me?

I just couldn’t handle it, thinking that some might identify these important perspectives as somehow not part of “ours”–as not part of the full narrative of human activism or equality. But in opening that door I had to see myself as one of them first.

Which is why I had to start there, at the roots: with healing my own past on the subject. For too long I have strived for perfection, and now, I am open to being imperfect, flawed, but am altogether motivated to uncover the ‘unnamed’ within to free myself in becoming the activist and advocate that I have long desired to be. 


If you’re curious about the event mentioned in the above article, here are all the details you need. Be there with you in spirit:

EVENT INFO

Women Who Named the Unnamed
Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

Saturday, September 28, 2019
6 – 9 PM
Centre Stage
Surrey City Hall
13450 – 104 Avenue
Surrey, BC, Canada V3T 1V8
Phone: 604-591-4011

Buy your ticket online at this link:
tickets.surrey.ca
Tickets $25
Box Office : 604-501-5566

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