Dear Sister(s): On Brett Kavanaugh, Kindness and What Women are Imagining

Dear Sister(s),

The refrain trills on. You plug your ears but cannot not overhear:

“They get their mortgages paid, you know, those women…”

“I feel bad for his daughters.”

One croons “Kavanaugh” to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.”

“Con job.”

“Thirty-f—ing-six years old…”

“Boys will be…”

You had to hear that. You. They don’t know what you did not tell for 15 years. They do not know so much, anything really.

My fight, Sister(s), is nearly gone. I feel myself folding. CNN is a crucible—can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Then a young man, a student I taught years ago, texts me: “How is your sister doing? I know these last couple of weeks have probably been very hard for her.”

You, Sister(s), spoke your story at our university’s Take Back the Night event a decade ago. He remembered. He texted to ask after you. 

This one simple, beautiful text and I unfold; knifed open, a crater in me bubbles with fear, vulnerability, desperation, sadness. 

With rage.

I picture scenes of violence. I picture Hulu’s second season of The Handmaid’s Tale, when a handmaid pitches a bomb into the Rachel and Leah Center, massacring dozens of Commanders. I picture the rebellious scientist in Christina Dalcher’s new novel, Vox—injecting the cruel, male governing body with the very agent they intend to use to silence all women and girls. I picture the two hundred women in Nagpur, India who butchered – inside a courtroom in 2004 – the man responsible for continuous rape and brutality. Until that day, police had protected him.

Volleying between catatonia and outrage, I allow this new vivid space to blossom. It comes at 2 a.m., at dawn, while eating egg salad at lunch. This one text of kindness and remembering has touched me deeply. It has set off something like a tsunami of emotions.

This is not so simple as hyperbolic gratitude for some lone male who has not infuriated America’s women. Rather, it is a reminder that kindness does not cost a lot, that kindness is available to everyone—to the Senate Judiciary Committee, to men who have raped in the past and have owned it and changed, even to Lindsey Graham and his cronies. It is available.

Kindness is available. It’s so damnably available. 

I tell myself my rage will pass because it has always waned in the past. I believe my rage will pass into a form of action because I’ve kept steady eyes on my heroes: Gloria Steinem, Ellie Smeal, Michele Kort, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Eve Ensler, Hannah Gadsby, Charlotte Bronte, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wollstonecraft, Lorde, Alcott, Gilman.

You get it.

But what can I offer you, my Sister(s)? Hugs, cards, flowers, texts?


No can do, not today. But what I can offer is a fight.

When things seem impossible, banal, incendiarily masculinist, I can be there to fight, to march, to write, to shout, to teach. These down times, these middle-of-the-night cognitive rampages, they will transubstantiate into embodied action.  In the meantime, I am an arm, an ear—a heart that bears your years-old pain.

“To love…is but to imagine well,” says an unlikable male character in R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries. I appropriate his words, though he is a miscreant, in order to breathe, in order to exist in this miasma of patriarchal entitlement.

I am imagining. Oh, Sister(s), how I am imagining.


Donna Decker is Associate Professor of English at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. She is also Director of the university's Women in Leadership Certificate Program.