Name the Elephant
r@p3, s3xu@l @$$ault, part of the 97% …these are the phrases people online use to code their language so they don’t upset their followers, so their accounts don’t get taken down, so no one gets too uncomfortable because everyone is uncomfortable when someone, especially someone who looks like their granddaughter, their niece, their middle school crush, their dorm neighbor from freshman year says the words out loud: rape, sexual assault.
But fuck that.
I’m going to say rape and sexual assault. I’m not going to mince my words because my words don’t need cut down. If other women like me want not to acknowledge their pain with words, I will respect their peace, but when it is my turn to speak, when I want to eject this cancer from my body by calling it out and naming it, killing it and releasing it from my custody into the world, when my peace can only be born from this violent revolution, I will not be told to hush for other people’s comfort. I will not bow in fear to the elephant in the room by remaining silent. I will not censor myself because everyone else in the room is uncomfortable knowing I know the elephant’s name. I promise you it was more uncomfortable for me to learn the name than it is for you to learn that I do. I don’t owe you making myself even more uncomfortable, twisting and contorting myself back into the shape you want me to assume, just to keep you happy in your ignorance.
It’s like asking me to say it’s my “time of the month” in front of men because they cower at the word “period.” Fuck that and fuck them for being “pussies ” when they don’t even have to deal with having one. Fuck you for asking me not only to contend with the blood in my pants, but to do so silently and in shame. Fuck you for asking me to contend not only with that , but also your feelings, men’s feelings, because those too are apparently my womanly burden.
But alas isn’t that how it has always been? “Hush up,” you tell me, “About the blood in your pants because you might make my son feel bad. Hush up about the blood on his sheets because you might make my son feel bad,” you say as you strip his mattress. And you throw the bedding in the washing machine. And you wipe that last little bit of blood off your hands so they’ll be clean when you pat his face and tell him, “It’s okay, sweetie. Everyone makes mistakes.” And thus, that is all we are reduced to—us women, us dirty vile creatures: mistakes. Perhaps that is why no one wants us to name the elephant. There’s really no use in upsetting everyone over silly little mistakes.
Anastasia Simms (she/her) is a third-year honors student at Kent State University studying English, psychology, and creative writing. She works at the KSU Writing Commons, the Wick Poetry Center, Brainchild Magazine, and New American Press. Her work is published by or forthcoming in Red Cedar Review, an anthology by Lit Cleveland, and Outrageous Fortune Magazine. Anastasia hopes that her writing will positively impact others just as the written word has always done for her.