Reflections on the political and personal consequences for myself and other women of the election of Donald J. Trump as president.
Journal entry, November 17, 2016, edited and expanded December 2, 2016
In “Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work,” Louise DeSalvo examined the impact of Woolf’s experience of sexual abuse at the hands of her half brothers. DeSalvo argued that Woolf’s suicide can be directly connected to her terror over the rise of Hitler in Europe, representing to Woolf the abject powerlessness she had in the household where she grew up — not just because of her sexual abuse by her half-brothers, George and Herbert Duckworth, but because of the autocratic, patriarchal rule of her father, which enabled the abuse.
Woolf herself suggested that World War I and fascism (she committed suicide in 1941) were the natural outcome of the patriarchal family. DiSalvo suggests that Woolf’s anxiety over Hitler’s anticipated invasion of England contributed, via its allegorical connection to her experience of sexual violation, to Woolf’s final depression and suicide. Perhaps the most significant contributing factor was that Woolf was reading the later Freud, where he questions the reliability of childhood memories of incest and rape, believing it not possible that so many of his patients could have actually had those experiences, and instead attributing their stories to fantasies growing out of internal sexual drives.
Woolf had earlier come to terms with her memories, but upon reading the later Freud she began to seriously doubt her mind, thinking perhaps she had “made it all up.” This intense self-doubt caused her to believe that she is inescapably “mad.” The only way out of her madness and the terror Hitler represented to her as the archetypal patriarch was suicide.
I wasn’t sure about that. It sort of made sense, but it seemed a bit of a stretch.
Now I understand. My anxiety increases every day with news about Trump’s appointments to his cabinet — where to make up for Trump’s inexperience, experienced far right politicos and neofascist…