She Speaks: Lorena Bobbitt, Tonya Harding, and Monica Lewinsky walk into a bar…

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I believe that life is about experiencing an ever-widening spiral of truths. We grow up being told one thing, and because we are young we often continue to believe it even when evidence arrives to contradict it. But the spiral insists that we examine these truths with the knowledge we have acquired during our lives – and then suggests that we change our minds. The spiral grows: we think we know something, we are confronted with contradictory information, we change our minds. This works best when we remain curious and adaptable, and we can transform our learnings into teachings.

I was seven-years old when I learned that Lorena Bobbitt had dismembered her husband. For about two decades, that was all I knew. I remember the jokes and the gasps – we were kids and we thought it was hilarious and outrageous. The only update on the story that I heard throughout my life was that John Bobbitt got penis enlargement surgery at some point, which set off another round of terrible jokes. I don’t remember ever asking myself why Lorena Bobbitt (now going by her birth name Lorena Gallo) had done this. Media explained she was jealous, crazy. I assumed she was pissed because husbands are shit (I learned this ever-widening ‘truth’ from the absolute glut of media showing bumbling, insensitive, hapless and helpless husbands utterly relying on all-suffering and tolerant tv-hot wives).

I was eight-years old when I heard that Tonya Harding had bashed in the knee of fellow ice skater Nancy Kerrigan. I remember the latter’s screams, which were aired in the living room occupied by my siblings and I. I had broken my leg a year earlier – the sounds were eerily familiar. I remember wondering why Tonya would do such a thing – it wouldn’t have been fair, and I couldn’t imagine trying to win something without being fair. Another caricature: evil, ruthless woman. I didn’t know for another two decades that it hadn’t been Tonya at all who had swung the bat.

I was 12-years old when I learned about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The jokes were absolutely rampant on this subject – the content of too many SNL skits to binge in 24 hours. I remember thinking it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It was only an affair and I knew those happened all the time. She was cast in the role of home wrecker, sleeping her way to the top. When I think back, I realize I had thought the former president to be much younger than he was and Monica much older. I didn’t really understand why everyone seemed to think she should be so ashamed.

This column is inspired by the New York Times article, “You Know the Lorena Bobbitt Story. But Not All Of It.” Now I know that Lorena Bobbitt, the night of the incident, had been raped. When I learned this, my mind slowed and widened to accommodate this new information. Everything I thought I knew shifted to make space. It made sense, finally – women who experience systematic abuse at the hands of a supposed ‘loved one’ can exhibit signs of extreme dissociation. Abuse is traumatic. Traumatized people don’t respond in ways that we consider ‘typical’. Her action was a desperate attempt to disarm him: she knocked the gun from his hands; she kicked the knife across the floor. Now she is an advocate for women who experience sexual abuse and hopes to open her own shelter. My spiral widens.

The media portrayed the battle between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan as a bitter rivalry, with one party willing to do anything to win. I won’t downplay Tonya’s role in the assault – she apparently knew of it and approved, providing her husband withNancy’s location, who in turn passed it along to the man who committed the attack. Tonya, however, discloses extreme abuse and neglect in her childhood and repeated violence in her marriages (both to the same man). Traumatized people don’t always respond in ways we consider typical. The media portrayal of this issue completely skewed it beyond recognition and made it so my young mind almost-indelibly cast Tonya as the heartless aggressor. I was a child watching this play out. Was there no responsibility to me, witnessing this extreme violence followed by jokes and skits at the expense of these two battered woman?

When I watched Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk, The Price of Shame, I learned that she was 22-years old during the affair with Bill Clinton. She began as an unpaid intern, only earning a wage the same year the affair began. Bill Clinton was 27-years older than her. No one thought it was a completely unethical and obscene abuse of power? Americans are raised to believe their president is the most powerful man on the planet. What would a ‘no’ have done to her career? Why would the president ever put a woman only a couple years out of her teens in the position of having to turn him down? She would have been acutely aware of the repercussions. Might she have thought her career would be in jeopardy if she refused his advances? Should he not have been held to the highest standard of integrity and justice? The spiral grows.

And I’m not talking about morality here. This isn’t about his marriage, like my calls for Tony Clement’s resignation are not about his marriage. This isn’t an issue of family values. This is an issue of power and control. In each and every scenario, there were men in positions of power over women who used that power to rape, harm, and exploit. And the story was spun beyond recognition to make the woman the guilty party – and not just regular-guilt but irredeemable, caricaturesque guilt. I am not suggesting that men do all the cruel things and women are endlessly angelic (I add this caveat for the inevitable ‘whatabout’ers that arrive in the comment sections of my columns). But I am revealing that absolute power does corrupt absolutely, and who, in our current society, holds absolute power?

Well, perhaps not ‘absolute’ anymore. And thank goodness. Because the more I read and learn and experience and grow, the more I see that, indeed, the things I learned even five years ago have been turned on their heads to uncover deeper and more meaningful truths. I am grateful for this because I exist to lead with love, create, and share my voice – and I want to learn, I want abuses of power disincentivized, I want to see monopolies of power eliminated, and I want women in decision-making roles when they are the best for those roles. No joke.

I hope that we can all look deeply into the ‘truths’ that we assimilated before we learned discernment and apply a new, more rounded and generous understanding to them. It is not a negative thing to say, “I did not know that,” “I never saw it that way,” “That information wasn’t available at the time, but now that it is, I’ve changed my mind.” Stubborn resistance to new information in order to save face is something that children do. I used to insist on pronouncing words as I read them, with emphasis improperly applied, because I thought I knew what was right. Now I say, “How do you say this word?” and kind people explain with only a little smugness. The spiral grows – so should we.

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Kathleen May

Photo: Kai Rannik

Kathleen May is a writer, speaker, and activist. Her work in our community includes co-founding the long-running Huntsville Women’s Group, being a Survivor Mentor in the pilot survivor-to-survivor program through MPSSAS, co-facilitating instinct-unlocking workshops for women through I Got This, working as a host and community producer of Herstories on YourTV, volunteering with Women’s March Muskoka, and her role as a front-line counsellor at a women’s shelter. Kathleen is a 2018 Woman of Distinction for Social Activism and Community Development and also received the Best Author award for her 2018 submission at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, a fundraiser for literacy services. Her dream is a sustainable women’s land co-operative in Muskoka.         

 

15 Comments

  1. Kathleen, your insightful article brought to mind a recent news story. The location is irrelevant: The salient facts are that a teacher struck a 10-year-old, disabled student, and basically received a slap on the wrist as punishment (no suspension, no fine, an apology to the School Board; but none to the student/parents). The teacher continued in her same class. Now, to your point, this is a case in which the initial action/reaction requires no re-evaluation as the spiral widens later in life.
    .
    How do the student witnesses, and particularly the disabled child, react to something like this? They are both confused and traumatized. Somebody who they looked up to (in many cases, probably idolized) did a bad thing with impunity. Firstly, they learn that it is O.K. to hit. Secondly, they learn that adults are omnipotent and to be feared. And finally, at such a young age, they take their initial step toward becoming adult abusers.
    .
    Honestly, this story broke my heart. Although the child didn’t have to be disabled for the truth of the preceding, I even suppose that some students felt that to be the reason for his “punishment”. Stigma can start at a very young age.

  2. Thank you Kathleen. So many of these stories remain untouched on the shelves of most of our minds. I confess to not having listened to Monica Lewinsky’s Ted talk or followed up on the Tonya Harding story. Thank you for knocking them off my shelf. There is always more to any story. And our culture is always evolving. It is good to re-examine things from the past against today’s evolving standards.
    It is seldom a matter of who is 100 % right or wrong but understanding the entire stories. It does not change accountability for ones actions but when we realize how easily that could have been us or someone we know, it is not so funny anymore.

  3. Once again, as always, the media’s passion for sensationalist reporting makes headlines and it is a considerable period of time before we hear the real, full story! One more reason to ignore the majority who can’t seem to report and accept the actual truthful facts of a story that gets printed to the public. “False news” seems to have become the call of the day, and shame on us all for initially believing it and allowing it to happen. The backlash on the three examples would have been horrendous for those suffering through it.

  4. Agreed, Kathleen. It is important to constantly re-think as more truthful accounts become available.

    Instinctively, I understood, even at the time, that Lorena Gallo Bobbitt must have been in extremis of some kind. Women do NOT normally do such things. That rarity is what made it sensationalist food for the media vultures to feast on–never mind the whole truth. It is unconscionable that the media constantly slants information by leaving out pertinent details (and sometimes, they even outright lie, by making up “facts”). It is an abuse of their power to inform–an absolute lack of integrity. They become propagandists for the highest bidders. John Swinton, a social and labour reformer of the late 1800’s (who was formerly the editor of the New York Times during the Civil War) discussed the corruption of the New York press, by moneyed interests, during a bitter diatribe before a union meeting, shortly before his death in 1901:

    https://rense.com/general20/yes.htm

    Some media apologists (read liars) have attempted to discredit the quote as the context was not always correctly conveyed–but Swinton, who had certainly been in a position to know, did indeed say what he is quoted as saying. He characterized the New York press as “prostitutes”–willing to pervert their role for money (or “mammon” as he termed it).

    This isn’t particularly new of course–twenty centuries ago, the New Testament cites “the love of money” as “the root of all evil”. What we see as the evil “fruit” reported by some, finds its origin in the desire for power and control over others–thus the “love of money”–for the power and control that money provides. Even though money is a relatively scarce commodity, it provides for pleasure that satiates fleshly appetites. That preoccupation takes up the majority of the time and attention of the masses, and also often causes a hardening of the heart toward those in need. But, when those desires for pleasure have been utterly satiated, as they are for the super-wealthy, the minds of those bored men and women can turn to the desire for power and control of others–or even their outright destruction. Billionaire, George Soros said once, on nationwide television, that he often felt “like a god” when he used his money to fund his [often-nefarious] projects.

    That desire to destroy the innocent is a deeper evil which the entire Bible details throughout. It runs the gamut from Cain’s murder of his innocent brother to the execution of the entirely innocent Jesus. Satan is a real spiritual being. He is not only mankind’s enemy, who inspires the desire to “steal, kill and destroy” in his human followers, but he is the adversary of the loving Creator God. As such, Satan’s ultimate defiance of God comes in the form of his desire to destroy the innocent. That is where the sadistic urge to rape finds its source. It is also the inspiration for “full-term abortion for any reason” (where the baby is killed and removed from the mother’s uterus, right up to the moment of natural birth) recently cheered by “feminists” as it passed in the New York state assembly. There are 13,000 of these “late-term abortions” performed during the 3rd trimester of pregnancies, every year in the U.S. (supposedly to “protect the life of the mother”). This is in spite of the objections from obstetricians that only a very tiny minority of them are done for that actual purpose. The new law in New York ends that hypocrisy and shows to a shocked American populace the horrific truth of late-term abortion. Taking that outrage one step further, in the same week, “post-birth abortion” as recently suggested as an option by no less than the Democratic governor of Virginia, raised its even uglier head. Then it was revealed that Governor Northam’s campaign for governor received two million dollars from Planned Parenthood–the largest provider of abortions in the U.S. There is apparently a lot of money to be gained from selling the blood and body parts of the pre-born. The current Democratic attacks on Northam for wearing “black face” makeup in college are probably being waged to try to cover up the Planned Parenthood reaping of funds from the federal government and then turning over a “finder’s fee” to Democratic candidates. To paraphrase, money power corrupts, and the unlimited money of governments corrupts absolutely. The ultimate outrage and irony comes from noting that the Virginia legislator, Democrat, Kathy Tran, who proposed “post-birth abortion” also, on the same day, proposed legislation to protect a parasitic worm from being exterminated. So bugs should be protected from being killed but babies should not, eh Kathy? Through the horror and trauma of late-term abortion, women not only have their bodies suffer a rape of sorts but their minds as well. In addition to being an outrage, it is an extreme irony that “feminists” could conceivably propose such things. Who will protect women from “feminists” I wonder?

    For the most part, women do not rape, but they often enable it. They enable it when they look away, or worse, blame the victim. How many times have we heard of women who permit the rape of their own children? Women enable it when they obligingly sexualize their little girls for “beauty” pageants. There are whole stores in some cities devoted to “sexy” attire for very young girls and boys. Some women enable the rape of young girls and boys when they make them available to wealthy and powerful pedophiles in Hollywood. These are crimes that occur there everyday and are attested to by numerous victims. Some pedophiles, like Kevin Spacey have even admitted to their crimes. He has apparently escaped incarceration by threatening to bring down the entire sordid pedophile network that exists in Hollywood. But the truth is starting to spill out. Speaking truth to power is a movement that will not be stopped. The best that the corrupt can hope for is that they will confuse issues by using their liar lackeys in the media. As further truthful revelations come out, you can discern who the media prostitutes are by the hysterical shrillness of their voices in denouncing the truth-tellers and their message.

    A number of years ago, I remember reading about Bill Clinton’s violent rape of a nineteen-year-old English girl, Eileen Wellstone, while he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University there. It was apparently reported by a U.S. State Department employee, at the time, but was subsequently hushed up, for the ostensible reason of avoiding condemnation of the Rhodes scholarship program’s selection of candidates. The rape may be the reason why Clinton did not stay at Oxford to get his degree. Because of this prior knowledge, I wasn’t surprised to hear of Clinton’s rape of Juanita Broderick, the abuse of Monica Lewinsky nor his 26 trips aboard the private plane (dubbed the “Lolita Express”) of convicted pedophile billionaire, Jeffrey Epstein. There were girls as young as twelve aboard those flights to Epstein’s “pedophile island”. These are facts that are well-established, but the utterly controlled, oligarchical mainstream media (there are only FIVE media conglomerates which control over 90% of what we see, hear and read) looks away–and so do we.

    • Karen Wehrstein on

      Kathleen wrote: “But I am revealing that absolute power does corrupt absolutely, and who, in our current society, holds absolute power? Well, perhaps not ‘absolute’ anymore.”
      .
      Yesterday I watched a goodly part of an American Congressional hearing on C-SPAN — the House Judiciary Committee questioning acting attorney general Matt Whitaker. These committees always have members from both parties, but the party who holds the majority in the House has more members. Questioning by the members alternates between parties until the minority party runs out.
      .
      So towards the end it was all Democrats, and it was just beautiful to see. An African American woman grills Whitaker. Then another one. Then an African American man. Then a white woman who says LGBTQ issues are “close to her heart”. Then another African American woman. The last is a Hispanic woman. There’s a white man or two in there. (I’m sure I’m not getting the order right but you get the idea.)
      .
      None of them stood out because none of them were token anything. It was heartening at a deep level.
      .
      For a graphic illustration of how Democratic Congresspeople so much better represent the actual American population than Republicans do, see here: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/14/congress-diversity-democrats-republicans-photo .

      • Karen,

        Misinformed people will often vote for those who have little regard for them and even less concern for their troubles. Thus, the number of women who voted for Democrat, Hillary Clinton in spite of the fact that she was an enabler of the sexual deviancy of her husband toward women and girls. Most African-Americans voted for her in spite of her documented racism (she called young, black males “super predators” and it is reported that she called African-Americans “useful idiots”. She even said that she counted Sen. Robert Byrd (former KKK Grand Master) as her “mentor” in the Senate! One would think that would be enough to disqualify her in the sight of African-Americans.

        As for the DNC’s swing toward socialism, Americans would do well to remember that Vladimir Lenin said, “The goal of socialism is communism.” If the Democrats ever get back to controlling the entire Congress and the White House, that drive toward socialism/communism will end the way that socialism/communism always ends–the cruel oppression of the people.

        For proof, all we need to do is look at the “Yellow Vest” protests in the heavily socialized France. Yellow Vest protestors peacefully protest the confiscatory taxation that is feeding the socialist beast of their own government (in addition to lining the pockets of European politicians). And for that, they get beaten, by the police–huge numbers have been violently rounded up and jailed. Others have been sent to hospital and some even killed.

        Yesterday, a protestor lost his hand, as he picked up a live police “flash-bang” grenade (similar to a large fire cracker in explosive power) to toss back at the police. It exploded–blowing off the protestor’s hand. The same thing happened to another Yellow Vest protestor back in December. The leftist mainstream media here doesn’t even report on the Yellow Vest protests, let alone show the police abuse of the protestors. All for daring to protest the policies of the globalist “socialist” central bankers (remember that Hitler called himself a “socialist”). The European central bankers were the real power behind Macron and put him on the throne of France. Europe is becoming the “Fourth Reich” of the super-wealthy fascists of Europe.

        Communists and fascists have the same goal–to have total control of the masses–to enslave them. Mostly, today, they prefer to use more sophisticated technology for the enslavement–but when pushed, they will use violence and even genocide. Look at the millions who have been killed by the communists in their own countries: Mao’s China; Stalin’s Soviet Union; Pol Pot’s Cambodia; and Castro’s Cuba. The Castro brothers were somewhat less effective in killing their own citizens (only about 100,000 to date) but it is genocide nonetheless.

        Currently, Venezuela, under the grip of socialist/communist “President” (read dictator) Maduro is being shored up by the usual totalitarian suspects–China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Turkey, the Canadian NDP, and a bunch of N. American, “leftist” intellectuals and N. American trade unions.

        Conservatives in Canada and the U.S. are in support of Juan Guaido the President of the Venezuelan legislature who has called for free and fair elections. Meanwhile, Maduro’s pet mercenaries from Bolivia are being used as death squads that murder and destroy Venezuelans at the behest of Maduro.

        In this case, Trump and conservatives (who support Guaido) in the American government and here in Canada, are on the side of the angels. Your beloved socialists favor the demons.

        • Who’s keeping score, Erin? The absolute numbers don’t matter; the percentage does. Canada need look no further than the attempted “cultural genocide” of its aboriginals. I don’t have the percentage at hand (but I’m sure that you do): In any case, more than 6000 died in the residential schools; and countless more hanged themselves after the schools were closed (some as young as 10). One year, Thunder Bay ranked number one in Canada for its hate crimes; all against aboriginals (and mostly deaths). The Thunder Bay Police stood idly by, and after each death (murder), reported within hours that “no foul play is suspected”. Never give Canada a pass on our disgraceful past.

          • Rob,

            Who says I “give Canada a pass” on the evil policies of the past toward indigenous people? It is an exceedingly ugly mark on what is otherwise a reasonably decent record– when one compares it to other nations. And who says “absolute numbers don’t matter”? When millions are destroyed, it has to have the cooperation of great numbers of the citizenry–it is not the depraved actions of a minority who abuse their authority. While it is true that even one innocent life lost to injustice is one life too many, the wholesale destruction that almost always occurs in totalitarian nations takes injustice to a whole new level.

            What makes you think that communist nations don’t practice “cultural genocide”? The Chinese Communist government currently has “cultural genocidal” policies in place against the Uyghur Muslim populations of western China. They have real genocidal policies against Chinese Christians, the Falun Gong and other religious groups.

            The fact that you and I can criticize our country speaks volumes about the difference between this nation and totalitarian states.

  5. I realize that this is new material and can be overwhelming for the majority of people who get most of their information from the mainstream media. By way of explanation about the truth that often does not see the light of day, it is important to know that the mainstream media routinely “spike” stories (journalism-speak for reportage that the owners of the media do not want published). The globalist billionaires who hold controlling interests in the five major media companies (officially, there are six but the Sumner Redstone family own a controlling interest in two of them). The six companies are: General Electric (which, in turn owns, Comcast, NBC, Universal Pictures and Focus Features among others); Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (which owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post among others); Time-Warner (which owns CNN, HBO, Time Magazine and Warner Communications among others), Disney (which owns ABC, ESPN, PIXAR, Miramax and Marvel Studios); the Redstone family’s Viacom (which owns MTV, Nickelodian, BET, CMT and the fairly new acquisition of Paramount Pictures among others) and finally, CBS (which owns Showtime, the Smithsonian Channel, NPL.com and 60 Minutes, among others). They also own publishing houses along with many newspaper chains and magazines as well. The media conglomerates do trade media properties on a frequent basis, as well as consolidating them, so some if this information may be old. If you are still interested, Gordon, ask a question and I will attempt to answer it. I will also research the answer if warranted.

  6. Extremely well written piece by Kathleen May – informative, well articulated and balanced.
    It is important for all men to recognise many of the issues raised by Kathleen and for parents (fathers and mothers) to provide guidance to sons on what is and is not appropriate behaviour.
    Misogynistic and/or abusive behaviour is unacceptable and must be quickly identified and dealt with assertively.
    Thanks to Kathleen for her narrative.

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