Some call it the Inner Critic. Some call it the Editor. Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance. Once upon a time I called it Oscar – grouchy and impossible to please. At other times I’ve called it Nagini, like the serpent in Harry Potter that whispers cruel poison that no one but me can hear. This week, however, I discovered that it has another name: Rush Limbaugh.
Everyone knows that Rush is a verbally abusive jerk. It is his chosen form of “entertainment.” In the past, I’ve just ignored him, pretended he didn’t exist, made sure that at no point would I ever be found within hearing distance of his voice. That’s what the program scan button is for on the radio. If for some reason that doesn’t work, the off button never fails.
Over the past couple of weeks, however, Rush has created such a maelstrom that I’ve been unable to escape it. First there was the uproar over his comments about Sandra Fluke – a well-educated, well-spoken young female law student who wanted to speak up for something she believes in. Because what she believes in is women’s reproductive rights, she found herself square in Rush’s crosshairs.She’s a “slut.” She’s a “prostitute.” She wants us to pay her to have sex. She should record and post videos for our enjoyment. It was ridiculous – ridiculous, mean, misogynistic, and crude. It was his attempt to reduce this woman, and anyone else like her who might dare use her voice in the public arena, to nothing more than an object to be bought, used up, and discarded. We don’t have to pay attention to objects, you know.
Then this week he moved on to attack another articulate, outspoken woman: Tracie McMillan, a journalist and author of the new book, The American Way of Eating. Of McMillan he says the she is just an “authorette,” another one of the “young, single, white women” threatening Americans’ freedoms. He belittles her work and her talent, adding the –ette to show how he doesn’t consider her a real author.
As I’ve found myself drawn into these stories and the furor they have created, I’ve wondered why. Why does this feel so personal that it has captured my attention now? I don’t listen to Rush! I don’t give credence to his vitriolic words or opinions! Why now?
I realized that it’s because his words and his attitudes, are so familiar to me. These are the words and attitudes of my Inner Critic, my Editor, my Resistance, my Oscar, my Nagini. “You aren’t worth anything. Why should anyone listen to what you say? You’re a nobody. Your ideas don’t matter. You should be embarrassed. Don’t even try. Shut up!”
As this poisonous attitude has paraded across the public square recently, I’ve noticed something for the first time. These words don’t have to have the last say – in my life, in my voice, in my writing, in my courage, in my efforts to make a difference. Everywhere I look, I see women and the men who respect them speaking up to say, “This isn’t ok. Leave her alone. Let her speak. We can learn from her. She is precious, valuable, and worthy.” I hear the truth. I feel the surge of power. I am encouraged to take a risk.
No, these words do not have to rule my life or my writing. Yes, I can ignore them anytime I choose; only I’ve learned that sometimes I don’t need to ignore them. I need to hear them, to allow them stoke the fire inside me, to mobilize me and my like-minded friends and colleagues to rise up to action. Somewhere out there, women are being attacked and they are buying into the message they hear that they aren’t worth anything. On their behalf, we must speak:
“This isn’t ok. Leave her alone. Let her speak. We can learn from her. She is precious, valuable, and worthy.”