Thursday, February 11, 2016

Shelving: My Lie by Meredith Maran

"We were fighting every power struggle in history -- herstory. In our battle, the spoils went to the victim. The crown went to the queen of pain." -- Meredith Maran from My Lie.

Those old enough might remember the repressed memory phenomenon of the late-80s and early-90s. Adult women -- and it was almost entirely women -- "uncovered" in therapy memories of past childhood abuse, sometimes even bizarre, "ritualistic" abuse. (I wrote a paper for my Journo 101 class on the "satanic panic" scare. It seems quaint now.) It's ridiculous to consider how many otherwise reasonable women could have accused loved ones of abuse based on the flimsy claim of "repressed memories," but it did happen, and it draws some pretty interesting parallels to what's happening now with campus rape scares.

Meredith Maran was one of those women, and her grief and regret is palpable throughout My Lie. I really recommend this, particularly for anyone disturbed by the professional victim trope of which feminism is no stranger.

Katha Pollitt, who was interviewed for the book, places much of the blame on therapists and prosecutors:
Out of that sense of solidarity with victims came the idea that those who claimed victimization were always telling the truth -- believe the women, believe the children. What got left out is that some of the accusations were constructed -- by "recovered memory" therapists, and therapists assumed all kinds of problems were proof of molestation, and the police and prosecutors in the case of day-care panic cases.
She goes on to acknowledge the harm and casualty done by mass delusion, but says that a lot of good came of it: victims of actual abuse are not as afraid to come forward as they were in the past. I'm sorry, but I can't accept imprisoning innocent people for the greater good. (Maran herself said something similar in an interview in Salon.). And I fear it happening now, with irresponsible Rolling Stone story "A Rape on Campus," to art critics gushing over "The Mattress Girl." Even on a smaller scale, women redefining or feel forced to redefine sexual experiences as rape in the name of ideology. The biggest victim is still winning.