Confronting Internalized Sexism

I’m not shy about publicly proclaiming to be a feminist. Most of my social media accounts even have it mentioned in my bio. I am probably even one of those crazy feminists that turn most people off of the movement if I’m being honest. Occasionally I’ll even admit to pushing the pendulum to far the other way and being overtly critical of all men while placing all women on a pedestal. And while I recognize this, it’s hard for me to talk myself down sometimes.

Yet on the other hand, in my personal life and view of myself there are major inconsistencies. You see, I’ve always idolized the idea of being skinny. I love looking at beautiful, extremely thin women. I have always wanted to be one of them. Today I really sat down with myself to ask myself why that is.

I have nothing against women of any shape or size. I genuinely believe all women are worthy, valuable, and have the right to exist anyway they choose, the right to respect and equality. But I don’t treat myself as if I believe that. When it comes right down to it I’ve been lying to myself. I say I want to be thin for me, or maybe to be physically irresistible to a future partner, or for some abstract aesthetic. But when it comes right down to it, I think the real reason I want to be thin is because I feel I’ll have more value that way.

I am embarrassed and ashamed at the idea of what society will think of me if I’m not pretty, young, and thin. I imagine my life will be better if I am those things. I want those things for the power and perks I imagine them providing me. And while I don’t believe it to be right or fair, I live my entire life in accordance with the conviction that society functions on this principle regardless of what I think.

It is hard for me to accept that I have internalized the very sexism I speak out against. I am afraid to live by the courage of my convictions. Because of that I am endlessly torturing myself, trying to force myself into a mold I wasn’t made for. Not for myself, but to prove my value to others. A value I ultimately feel I lack naturally.

How sad. How twisted. How wrong.

It is time I face this damaging delusion I’ve held onto for so long. Because no matter what I’ll have to in the end. Beauty and youth cannot stand the test of time. These things are not what give me value. I am inherently valuable. Just as every other living creature on this earth is. No more proclaiming all bodies are beautiful, all women are worthy, while simultaneously hating my own body for not being good enough, thin enough.

My worth is not contingent on my size. My value is not linked to my age, my bone structure, or my body. If I truly believe this about all other women, it is time I start living this truth for myself. It is time for me to believe in my own inherent worth as a human being. It is time for me to love myself, respect myself, allow myself to simply exist as I am. In whatever form that may be. Now and in the future. It is time for me to lead by example, live by my beliefs. Society be damned.

Reproductive Rights

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In the recent political climate, I have started to become increasingly anxious about my access to reproductive healthcare and my rights in this country as a woman in general. Despite the progress we have made in the last few decades regarding gender equality, it seems like things are beginning to slip backwards as the conservative sects and corruption in this country push back against these improvements.

While the religious right may think that women view abortions like going to the dentist, I (and I’m sure most other women) have always been terrified of the idea. However, this was always a less terrifying alternative than having a child if by some unfortunate mistake I became pregnant. Although I never wanted to have to abort a pregnancy, the knowledge that that option was there for me if I needed it was always a comfort.

In the last few months, I have seen the state governments of Ohio and West Virginia start to chip away at that right. West Virginian’s voted that the state has no obligation to make sure a woman has access to this right. Ohio recently passed their “heart-beat” abortion bill that will prevent a woman from having rights over her own body as soon as a fetus has a detectable heart-beat. This can be as early at three weeks after conception, before most women are even aware that they are pregnant.

It sickens me to see our society telling women that they don’t have autonomy, that they don’t have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies. Even worse, to say more children must be born into this world to parents that do not want them or cannot afford to care for them, while there are already so many waiting to be adopted or living out their lives in the foster care system. I didn’t plan on waiting around for a terrible fate to befall me because of my gender. I’ve never wanted to have children, so I decided it was about time to make sure that I wasn’t able to anymore.

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be lucky enough to find a gynecologist that would be willing to sterilize a woman as young as myself, who is unmarried, with no children. I decided I may as well start asking around though. To my surprise, the gynecologist I only recently switched to last year agreed to help me!

I simply could not control the smile that spread across my face when she said that I was an adult and had the right to make decisions about my own body. “After all,” she said, “women don’t have to have children.” I could have cried with joy to know that this woman respected me and was giving me control over my own life. Better yet, she told me that my insurance would likely cover the costs of the surgery.

After reading about the simple procedure and contacting my insurance company to discover that they would cover 90% of the costs (leaving only around $400 for me), I scheduled my laparoscopic tubal ligation. The surgery took place one week before Thanksgiving. Never before had I had something to be so thankful for on that day. It was an outpatient surgery that took only around 15 minutes to complete. There were no complications and I recovered in record time, no scarring, no pain meds. After four days I was back to doing my hour-long H.I.I.T. workouts and advanced yoga practice daily.

I no longer have to poison my body with hormonal birth control pills. I don’t ever have to feel fearful after having a sexual encounter. I have never felt so joyous and free in my entire life. I hope so fervently that any other woman that wants to have this procedure done decides to ask her primary care physician or gynecologist. I hope that all doctors would be willing to respect a woman’s decision about her own body and reproductive health. I am eternally grateful to my doctor for giving me my freedom and my body back.

I wanted to share my story so that other women would know that it’s possible to make the same decision for themselves. There are so many good reasons not to have a child. I hope that other women that don’t want to have children will find reassurance in my story and know that they are not “heartless” for not wanting a baby. They don’t have to stand being belittled with the infamous “you’ll change your mind.” We are not objects to be used by men or humanity as a whole. My body is mine and mine alone.

Stay strong, sisters.