Listen to the Girls

Listen to the Girls

Who cares what some girl has to say?

Literature is full of stories about girls trying to get someone to listen to them. Take Cassandra, cursed to spout prophecy no one would ever believe. Why? Because she wouldn’t hook up with Apollo. Or take the girls from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, powerless until they started pointing fingers as a group. Or the girls from Megan Abbot’s The Fever, overlooked and ignored until one after another succumbed to a mysterious illness. Even when girls finally get some attention, they are dismissed as hysterical drama queens. The message is clear—you can’t take girls seriously.

For the past week, we watched as nearly 200 women spoke in court about the unspeakable things Larry Nassar did to them when they were girls. For decades, many of these girls complained to their coaches, their trainers, and even their parents about the intrusive exams administered by Nassar. Some of them were too young at the time of first violation to understand what was happening. They only knew they didn’t like it. But the grownups patted them on the head and shushed them. They told the girls not to make a fuss. They warned them it would hurt their athletic prospects and it would be bad for Nassar’s career. Is there anything worse than stripping a man of his career, of his reputation?

Yes. Yes, there is something worse.

Someone could have put a stop to Nassar’s behavior back in the 1990s when the first girls spoke up. At that point, many of Nassar’s victims weren’t even born yet. Someone could have stopped Nassar before the number of victims swelled to the size of a small school. Someone could have sent him to jail back then, and found another doctor to treat these athletes. But that would have required someone to listen to the girls, to believe them, and to take them seriously. That’s something we don’t do. We don’t take girls seriously.

We take doctors seriously. We take movie studio executives seriously. We take news anchors seriously. But girls? Who cares what a bunch of girls have to say?

We have got to stop ignoring girls. We have got to stop pretending like they don’t matter. It shouldn’t take a chorus of girls to make a sound. It shouldn’t take a gang of girls to make a difference. One girl’s voice ought to be enough to get our attention.

Every single person who ignored these girls should be held accountable for allowing this abuse to continue. They should be brought to trial and prosecuted. They should be forced to listen to every minute of the testimony from these girls. They should lose their jobs and their reputations.

I’m glad Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail. I hope he lives a long time and I hope every minute is pure agony. Larry Nassar is a special kind of monster, but the people who ignored these girls and allowed his abuse to continue are monsters too. I don’t know what can be done, legally, to hold them accountable, but I hope they live out their lives in a misery of guilt and shame. I hope they hear the voices of Nassar’s victims echoing in their nightmares. I hope they learn what it feels like to be powerless, to be ignored, to be dismissed. I hope no one listens when they speak. I hope they become invisible.

And when these monsters die, I hope their final thought is: I should have listened to the girls.



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Tiffany Quay Tyson

THE PAST IS NEVER, a southern gothic novel steeped in local lore, is available now. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance deemed it an Okra Pick. Tyson's debut novel THREE RIVERS was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and now lives, writes, and teaches in Denver, Colorado.
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