18 June 2016

new fiction: where she stands

Gold-capped Mason jars filled with cut green beans line the kitchen countertop in orderly rows. On the table, a crate of new peaches, the irrigation schedule, and a stack of pink flyers: Resurrection Rummage Sale. July 14-15 Friday and Saturday at Our Holy Redeemer. Bernadette finishes the breakfast dishes and starts packing the decent hand-me-downs into paper bags. Her mother takes up the kettle to pour water through the coffee funnel.

"Marsha Neederman has some books for the sale," her mother says. "But leave me the truck so I can pick up another load of hay. Jay will be here inside the hour." Her cup full, she stirs in some sugar. "And drop those flyers by the grocery. They’re going to hand them out at the register.”

"Mom!" Ginny's wooden clogs bang down the hallway. "Where's my red notebook?" She swoops the cup out of her mother's hand, holds it to her lips, hands it back. "Hot, hot, hot."

"Not in that skimpy thing, Ginny Lynn Walters." Their mother adds milk, takes a sip, sets the cup on the sideboard. "We're not those girls," she says. With a basket of clean wet sheets on her hip, she heads out back to the clothesline.

Ginny rolls her eyes at Bernadette. Her lashes are dark with mascara. "Shoulders are the new vagina," she says.

Bernadette hands her a red spiral notebook marked
American History. "Don't be crude."

~ from Where She Stands by Sherri H. Hoffman. Available online at The Columbia Review, Vol 97, Issue 2, Spring 2016.

I find it interesting timing for this story to make its way into the world just as the Stanford swimmer’s rape conviction and mediated sentence are in the news, followed by the pleas from his family to dismiss and excuse his crimes. Reassign guilt and/or consequences to his victim. While my story,“Where She Stands,” isn't specifically about rape, it shares at its roots some of the assumptions that empower and institutionalize sexism and male privilege.

The story’s setting is intentional. I moved to a small rural town as a teenager and lived there through high school. From the cities and military bases of my childhood, I arrived with idyllic visions of a place in the country where you could swim or fish in the local river, or raise horses and a garden in your own backyard. Those parts of my naive vision became true, and during those years, the good times were really good.

But rural isolation doesn’t protect girls from being bullied, intimidated, shamed, and/or assaulted by boys secure in a culture in which they are privileged. Whether it's the kid who always sits next to you to cheat off your work or the bully on the bus. The boy who inspired the character of Lane once told me that he would often watch me ride my bay mare in the surrounding fields through the scope of his rifle. Said it as if that was a good thing. As if I should be flattered.

 No matter the setting, it remains for #everywoman to find her voice in truth. Draw the line against even the smallest forms of oppression, prejudice, and inequality in order to make a difference. 

 The unnamed woman who survived the sexual assault by the Stanford swimmer chose to address her statement at his sentencing directly to him. Her complete statement is long and powerful, and I expect the repercussions will continue in the days and weeks to come. Responding to the light sentence, the woman said, “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.” (Buzzfeed News)

Hit it out of the park, as it were. With a vengeance.

~ sherri

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