Consent and Identity: The Importance of Knowing Myself

by Rachel Cohn, 2019 Strong Women fellow
Rachel Cohn

Coming into this meeting with the poet Caroline Rothstein about consent, I was prepared to have a difficult discussion about the reality of sexual abuse and rape culture. However, this meeting with Caroline pleasantly surprised me. We learned that you cannot give your consent to something without fully knowing who you are as a person.

Caroline speaking to the Strong Women

Caroline told us her struggles with finding her own identity in the form of beautiful poems. She spoke about the hardships she faced every day and the struggles with being a woman in society today. She spoke poetry about sexual abuse and her difficult eating disorder.

Caroline Rothstein

However, to me, the most noteworthy poem was about how despite all these burdens, she still showed up on the other side a strong woman who knew her strong identity. The words Caroline said truly spoke to me and it felt as though she knew me better than I knew myself. I was on the edge of my seat just wanting her to keep chanting about what she was passionate about, for I was also passionate about the same things.

Writing

After that, we had the opportunity to write our own poetry and I found it much easier than I anticipated. Our poems were about being Jewish and women or about being a Jewish woman. I had so much to say and found it inspiring that everyone else did as well. It was comforting to be in a room full of people who have the same beliefs and values as I do.

While I came into this meeting eager to learn about consent, I ended up learning more about identity and the importance it plays in knowing whether or not to give consent to something. Caroline was extremely empowering and I was grasping onto every last word she said. Although this meeting went much differently than expected, I am so grateful for that because what we talked about in this meeting, identity, and being a Jewish woman, are all so important to me and things that I will never stop caring about.

 

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