The Disneyfication of Hope

I have young grandkids and after your pussy grabber-in-chief won, I kept thinking, ferociously to the patriarchy, You can’t have them. You can’t have them. My cri de coeur. I’ve cowled them in my love and their hearts beat with my genes of resistance, and their mother’s resistance, but there is nothing we can ultimately do to keep them away from pink. They will be swathed in the colour of their vulvas no matter how I protest. They will be Disneyfied. If it doesn’t happen at home, it will happen at school, their friends will put dunce hats with veils on their heads and impart the message that they would be happier in life as princesses than astrophysicists, that they will be happier looking good than thinking well.

Yes, I know we are reclaiming pink. No, I will never be able to. No, I disagree that we should.

I remember the sniggers when Chuck Berry took the little girl he was raping across state lines. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis marrying a 13 year old, my mother twining her fingers through the phone cord, titillated. I held myself as if I needed to pee. Later, I loved both their songs and when I danced to them, I felt complicit. News about what happened to girls and women made me feel that familiar duo of rhapsody and ickiness in my genitalia. The songs were a sure seduction. The feeling of complicity with Picasso, with Gauguin, with Ghomeshi, with Cosby, while consuming their art, though private and deeply tucked, is sticky. It gets on your internal organs like honey or caramel sauce and after you touch your heart or your spleen, you have to go scrub your hands.

Around the time the young teens were raped by stars, my kid sister and I tried to rescue a killdeer we thought had a broken wing (her sharp song, the tissue-y sound of her wing dragging in the grass): a man in a trenchcoat handed us his tightie whities in which to wrap her, me never guessing there was meaning in his sudden appearance. I wasn’t old enough to realize those were his own used underwear I was trying to entice a bird to climb into. I was trusting until he stroked himself, when my nascent skeevy bell rang.

I was bald and I was bullied.

My brother earned double doing chores.

He’s a boy, everyone said, over and over as they gave him privilege.

I learned to be small. To have no hope. To not scrap. To accept. To be less than I was. To not analyze. I learned to do the patriarchy’s work of my devaluation for them. Eating disorders are a patriarchal success. Cutting is a patriarchal victory. Dermatillomania is a patriarchal win.

I heard about my future with a dead flatness: a white veil and kids, secretarial school to have something to fall back on if I married a loser.

When Richard Speck murdered eight student nurses in Chicago in 1966 a few days before I turned twelve, it was the first time I saw the mothers truly scared. Five or six aunties crowded into the kitchen. My mother wore turquoise pedal pushers and a checked sleeveless shirt; she was about to start school as a nursing student. She knocked a wooden spoon on the rim of the bowl of potato salad. I could see in the mothers’ round eyes what they realized that day, because they couldn’t hide it: they could be prey.

I could not stop reading the issue of Life magazine that talked about it. Evidence, evidence: Crime Detection Laboratory. That woman who lived, Cora Amurao, made me crawl under my bed and cling to the exposed bed springs waiting to hear Richard Speck’s step on the stairs.

It was summer. I wore baby doll pajamas and short shorts and my legs stuck to everything. I fanned myself with anything, with pictures of Richard Speck and the dead student nurses, even. Obedient, obedient.

I babysat my newborn twin cousins and their older sisters. I sat at the counter in their kitchen after bedtime while the knob on the door turned, and I froze.

What if the door hadn’t been locked?

What if he had walked in?

Why couldn’t I call for help?

I was almost a teenager.

Anything might happen. Anything did.

The things I could tell you. The secrets I could share. The ways I was a girl in this world. The ways I wasn’t a girl or a woman that would become more pronounced.

Here we are. Here we are. I’ve got baby grandchildren. I’m old. I’m genderqueer. I’m disabled.

There are children to protect from a childhood like mine. I refuse to go backwards. Let’s say it together: You can’t have them.

Not today, motherfuckers.

And not tomorrow.

Jane Eaton Hamilton is the Canadian author of nine books, including the novel “Weekend.” Their work has appeared in the NY Times and Salon, and is upcoming at The Sun.

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