Is That A Wiggle or a Broken Hip?

Posted on Feb 5, 2016

Is That A Wiggle or a Broken Hip?

©2016 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer




When I published my first novel in 2005, a dear friend of mine pointed out to me that it seemed to have escaped most people that the book was basically a wide-open vagina, that it was, in its deepest purpose, a feminist cri-de-coeur. He also pointed out that the reason that the book was not noticed as such was that to most people strong articulate women are fucking terrifying. I did not know this. Or, to be fair, I knew I terrified certain men and certain women — I’d seen it on the faces of people and in their body language — but I didn’t know it was a generalized thing. I didn’t know how bad things were for women, and for men. The central story of that novel is rape. The rape of a girl obsessed with an ancient rape story, and also, as a allegorical corollary, the rape of the earth. In these themes, my story is a kind of historical novel. Perhaps that is glib but I think you see my meaning.

Rape adheres to the body. This is why it is an age-old aggression.

I’ve been suffering this last year from Achilles Tendinitis. That is to say, I have Achilles Heel, for real. It hurts to walk and I haven’t been able to run for more than ten months. The physiotherapist noticed that when I stand, I lock my knees up. “Oh,” I say. I soften them and a gush of tears come with that softening. What we hold in the body. Later, she notices that I toe in a little, and shows me how to walk. At 50 I learn how to walk. I notice two things: 1. It feels like I am wearing diapers when I walk properly, and 2. I remember that in grade three or four the boys used to sing at the girls, “Is that a wiggle or a broken hip?” So. I used to walk properly as a baby and I stopped around the age of ten, when the boys noticed I had an ass. I have not wiggled my ass in forty years. And now, as a result, I have Achilles Heel.

The body is the first mechanism of defense. And relationships are complex. We live in a complex. Right now as I write, a lengthy, three month, court case is going on involving a man who is purported to have assaulted women and those women accusing him of assault. I never knew this man, except as a celebrity, a smooth drone on the radio. Most times I turned the radio off when he came on, not because I knew, but because I knew men like him. I won’t get into the details of my own personal story. It’s my story, after all. It’s all coded in the novels and stories I’ve written — the writing helps, and even if I once thought it might heal, it does not. What it does is show me the symptom. It reveals, like a dream does, the nugget of information I might need to look upon.

Anyway, I have started to wiggle my ass, again. I forget and then I remember, so I go from tight to loose, from tight to loose. The sway of my ass makes me feel massive — like a giant. I do not know the parameters of my own body anymore, assume I am making a spectacle of myself. And I have been dreaming about prosthetics. I am reconstructing myself, so I guess it is normal that I dream of arm extensions, and huge prosthetic legs that let me careen through the woods. When I walk properly, my ankles don’t hurt in the least.

In the news, as well, but less amplified has been the story of a teacher arrested for assault and interference on a minor, and then re-arrested for possession, accessing, and making child pornography. This teacher taught my children for a total of seven years. Horrible, I know. What is worse is that for some time, the school knew and did next to nothing. One of my boys confides in me that he was afraid he might be in one of this teacher’s movies. He says, “This is so messed up. What if he molested his own children?”

When these stories are shared among women, someone will inevitably say: What the fuck is wrong with men? Well, men are ill. Our society produces men, of course. Women’s bodies produce men, even while they are produced by men. We live in a vast psychological complex. I wish I had a solution.

We profile these “types” of people. We do not know how close we come to them in our everyday life until someone — a young girl in this case — dares to speak. This speaking is bodily. She is speaking not just with her voice but with her whole person, every cell and scrap of flesh. She is basically a target for dart practice, and some of these darts she will throw at herself. That is the nature of the complex.

The lawyer for the accused celebrity is a woman. Many people, women included, say she is a feminist. She is certainly a strong, confident individual. No doubt. She cross-examines the accusers in ways that seem fifty years out of date. By her cross-examination, she seems to articulate that they wanted it, that they produced the violence, and then when it happened, they came back for more. A feminist friend of mine said to me, “How has she missed that the relationship between the abuser and the abused is complicated, and is often about nurturing the beast.” I have no doubt that she has read the news, that she does know, deeply, that sending a selfie in a string bikini is not, in fact, “asking for it.” But she also knows that the age-worn story is so embedded, and so familiar, and so damn easy to swallow, that it will work. It will suggest the accusers are re-narrating the story of their lives.

Law is about winning, not about truth. This lawyer is a very good lawyer. She makes me want to throw up, nonetheless.

In my house, we’ve been talking a lot about sexual misconduct, about men and women, about asking for it, about feeling safe, about the limits of men, and women. I told my husband that whatever else this three-month trial succeeds or fails in achieving, that it would surely traumatize many many victims of abuse. I am one of these people who feel themselves traumatized. There are probably many women and men around me who are feeling distracted, hijacked, and bodily tightened by this trial. I do not anticipate a good ending to this story. Maybe I am already protecting myself against the possibility that the bad story — the wolf does eat Red Riding Hood, recall — is the one that gets freely transmitted. That women will be held up to a standard that men (especially high profile men) rarely are. That is to say, we are again and again and again being asked to curb our persons, to not wiggle, to not be free with ourselves. We are asked to regulate ourselves against the very real possibility that our male friends will not be able to.

This is not biology. This is story.