A few months ago, I was caught on camera during an intimate moment with a male companion in my family’s gazebo. At the time, my primary concern was being seen as promiscuous. After all, it was long past curfew, and the rain made my dress cling in ways I hadn’t intended. However, I now realize the larger issue at hand was my complacency in the presence of very problematic views by my boyfriend at the time, Rolf Gruber.
It would be easy for me to dismiss my ignorance as a result of my youth. I was only 16 going on 17 when the relationship in question occurred, and up until that point, the men in my life — namely my father and significant others — insisted on infantilizing me. Rolf regularly called me “little girl” and “baby.” He warned me against speaking with other men, and tried to turn me against my family.
I eagerly participated in this role play, and even found it stimulating at times to imagine myself as timid, shy, and scared of things beyond my ken. I want to be clear: I do not intend to kink-shame anyone, but wealthy white girls like myself have a history of hiding behind the role of the demure, helpless young woman to avoid accountability and risk. When the “innocent as a rose” trope leaves the bedroom and affects life in the public square, we have a problem.
After spending significant time with the nuns from my local convent, and after a transformative hike through the Alps, I realize I was deliberately avoiding politics to protect myself from the consequences of speaking out against rising fascism. The truth is, in the eight months I was with Rolf, I saw plenty of red flags — I mean that quite literally — and I chose to remain silent as a white woman to protect myself.
My inaction hurt the people around me and spoke volumes about my priorities. While our leadership was embracing state-sanctioned violence against marginalized ethnic groups, I was happily skipping through the town square singing nonsense.
As a well-connected daughter of one of Austria’s most prominent Naval captains, who was even decorated by the emperor, I could have used my privilege to sound the alarm many times. I chose not to. Instead, I spent most of my free time playing pranks on my younger siblings’ governesses. I’m so ashamed.
Paradoxically, in my choice to dismiss the dehumanization of my peers, I surrendered my own power as well. I selected partners irresponsibly, deciding to depend entirely on Rolf merely because he was 17 going on 18. I was terrified to face the world of men, where barbaric policy decisions were made by well-dressed bachelors over brandy digestifs. I believed I needed someone older and wiser telling me what to do. Well, not anymore.
I want to apologize unequivocally for my willful ignorance to the suffering of minorities at the hands of the State. I denounce in the loudest possible terms any affiliation with Rolf Gruber.
(I also feel it’s important to make you all aware that Rolf is still currently working as a telegram delivery boy in Salzburg and the surrounding areas, and I believe he is using that platform to spread hate and violence. I implore you to use a different delivery service for your telegrams moving forward.)
In the last few days, a lot of people who saw the leaked footage have come to my defense. And while I appreciate your attempts to appease my guilt by pointing out that I eventually broke things off with Rolf, the truth is we both simply let it fizzle. In my breakup, as well as in my politics, I chose to be passive. I should have done a lot more, and a lot sooner, to fight for justice.
So many of us have been stuck in Act One of this musical we call life, laughing at marionette puppet shows and goofing off on the patio while our rich, emotionally-distant fathers throw balls for their girlfriends. It’s time to open ourselves up to Act Two, the part where the fascists begin a coup, and we have to cancel our music festivals and change our way of life. Now is that time, and I wish I’d started my role in the resistance a lot sooner.
Please join me in marching, from our gazebos to our town squares, in the struggle against violent, discriminatory policies. We mustn’t let racist, power-thirsty leaders tear us apart, demonize our fellow citizens, and destroy our favorite things.