a monthly feature by Amy Alexander
There’s Many Dangerous Things That Can Happen in a Bed
I am meditating on quilts. How I took them for granted when I burrowed down into one made by my great grandmother. I appreciated them more when I looked at my sleeping son beneath that same heavy hug.
My son beneath a quilt made by my great grandmother, Lucille Case Pratt.
But it wasn’t until I read the book “Alias Grace,” by Margaret Atwood, that I truly grasped the significance of quilts. This was a passage I read repeatedly, each time with my breath caught in my throat at the thrill of such insight:
The winter quilts were of deeper colours than the summer ones, with reds and oranges and blues and purples; and some of them had silks and velvets and brocade pieces in them.
Over the years in prison, when I have been by myself, as I am a good deal of the time, I have closed my eyes and turned my head towards the sun, and I have seen a red and an orange that were like the brightness of those quilts; and when we’d hung a half-dozen of them up on the line, all in a row, I thought that they looked like flags, hung out by an army as it goes to war.
And since that time I have thought, why is it that women have chosen to sew such flags, and then to lay them on the tops of beds?
For they make the bed the most noticeable thing in a room. And then I have thought, it’s for a warning. Because you may think a bed is a peaceful thing, Sir, and to you it may mean rest and comfort and a good night’s sleep. But it isn’t so for everyone; and there are many dangerous things that may take place in a bed. It is where we are born, and that is our first peril in life; and it is where the women give birth, which is often their last.
And it is where the act takes place between men and women that I will not mention to you, Sir, but I suppose you know what it is; and some call it love, and others despair, or else merely an indignity which they must suffer through.
And finally beds are what we sleep in, and where we dream, and often where we die.
But I did not have these fancies about the quilts until after I was already in prison. It is a place where you have a lot of time to think, and no one to tell your thoughts to; and so you tell them to yourself.
-- Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace
We are two weeks past the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford regarding Brett Kavanaugh. She remembers him trying to rape her. He has no recollection of ever having seen her.
The senate, as it turned out, did not believe Ford. They placed Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court rapidly, and without a real investigation.
As that realization moved through me, I sank into a deep depression.
I could feel those of my sisters, too, those of all genders who have been survivors of sexual assault and who wish desperately to end rape culture. There is a rising, bitter acknowledgement among us that this is how things always have been; how things always will be.
Atwood, speaking as the character of Grace, says to her male psychologist that he might only think of a bed as being a peaceful thing. But that is not true for everyone.
The assault Ford describes--and I believe her, to my core--took place on a bed, after all.
Women--or Womxn, more fairly, for there are many who identify as such--live in a different world from the one inhabited by men. They are taught, strictly and from an early age, not to speak about the way they live in the world, but to act as if the default way that men experience life is also the way they experience life, day after day.