Insidious misogyny slithers through the sultry summer streets shocking in its pervasive presence across history and homeland It's human nature to hate what is strange and unknown to you but to harbor such hatred for your mother, your sisters speaks volumes, shatters speakers The incomprehensible nature of holding down half of humanity the horror of how many have learned to hold themselves down as well subconscious self-hatred As I prepare to celebrate the land of the free my ears burn with the echo: I have less rights than a dead body a dead body has more rights than me A corpse cannot be violated even for the sake of another regardless of gender death is truly the great equalizer my only opportunity for respect I may have protected myself from the violence of forced birth but I cannot shield myself from the knowledge that my only worth is as an incubator Each day I must immerse myself in a world where I am not equal play nice with my oppressors as they penetrate every safe space even the sacred shelter of my body The egregious insult of a caged bird being told it has autonomy my new daily ritual of mourning the innocent, trusting spirit that once believed it to be true
A Woman’s Right to Choose
This past week, I met an amazing 16-year-old girl. She was charming, beautiful, intelligent, and interesting. Unfortunately, when I meet a kid, it’s usually because something awful has happened to them. This girl was no exception. Perhaps just exceptionally unfortunately for the story she came to tell. The fact that she had been through so much made her all the more incredible to me. She has no idea how much her bravery and resilience has moved me, and so many others.
This girl was subjected to constant bullying by her peers. It was heart breaking to see that she had really taken to heart the terrible things the other girls said to her. Although she was absolutely gorgeous and adorable, she genuinely thought that she was weird and ugly. The bitter jealously that surely inspired the harsh words hurled at her would result in a severely damaged self-image for the rest of her life. If this weren’t enough, her boyfriend was terrible to her as well. In addition to just being a general dirt-ball, piece of shit, he also drugged her and raped her one night.
The universe saw fit to withhold all mercy from this poor girl. After this heinous incident came to light, she discovered that she was pregnant. Understandably, being a 16-year-old rape victim, she couldn’t bear to go through with the pregnancy. Thankfully her mother supported her through all of this and took her into the nearest city, over an hour away, to get an abortion. After all that she had already been subjected to, she was traumatized yet again on her way into the facility. Consider for a moment the monsters that had the gall, the self-righteousness, the ignorance, to shout at this terrified, emotionally devastated, victimized, CHILD as she went to seek a legal, morally sound, medical procedure, that if not performed would have shackled her to her rapist for the rest of her life.
As my heart ached and my blood pressure began to rise, I waited in silence to hear what the CPS workers would say about this whole situation. My area is very conservative, so it’s never easy to tell who supports women’s rights and who doesn’t. Thankfully, all of the case workers believed that this young girl did the right thing. However, much to my chagrin, they seemed to only feel this way because she was raped. Otherwise, even though she is only 16, they would have demonized her for making the perfectly valid decision to have an abortion.
I simply CANNOT wrap my head around this. People seem to think the militant pro-lifers that make no exception for rape or incest are worse than the ones that do, but at least the former have some sense of logical consistency. All of these people try to pretend that the question is: Is this a baby, a human life, or not? If you’re truly against abortion because you believe every single zygote is a human being with rights, then what difference does it make how that life came to be? If your stance is that a fetus is a baby, it’s still a baby even if it’s the result of rape or incest. It’s not the baby’s fault. Why does this “life” no longer matter when the mother was raped?
No, this is where the true colors of pro-lifers really start to be revealed. For most of these people, whether they are consciously aware of it or not, the question has never been about the humanity of the fetus. It’s always been about punishing the woman. In the conservative mind, pregnancy is the price you pay for having sex. If that pregnancy happens out of wedlock, all the more reason the woman should suffer by being forced to raise a baby on her own, in their minds. They feel it’s “cheating” if women have the bodily autonomy to avoid this “consequence” of their “immoral” actions. Therefore, if you have voluntary sexual intercourse that results in a pregnancy, it’s a life. BUT if you became pregnant without consenting to sex, then it’s not a life, because you don’t deserve to be punished.
This abhorrent logic is also the reason the question of life is never posed to fertility clinics that have freezers full of fertilized eggs that will be quietly disposed of. No one is demanding that these fetuses be implanted into a woman and birthed. When a fetus is separated from a woman, no one cares. Because it’s never been about the fetus. It’s about controlling and penalizing women.
So returning to this brave little girl’s story, a few questions remain that I would have liked to ask these CPS workers and everyone that thinks this abortion was only okay because she was raped. Before all of this, the rapist was this girl’s boyfriend. They were dating. She freely admitted that she had had sex with him multiple times before he drugged and raped her that night. There is no way of telling if this conception happened because of one of the consensual encounters, or because of the rape. Statistically, it’s probably less likely to have been the latter. What then? Was the abortion okay, or not? What the hell difference does it make if the fetus was there before or after the rape? It’s absolute madness to imagine that detail is relevant to the morality and legitimacy of her decision. Yet, to millions of people, it is an important distinction.
I don’t know what will get through to people about the topic of abortion, but I hope that at least one person reading this has come away with a deeper understanding of the complexity and real-life significance of this issue for women. I also hope that if anyone who has protested outside of a clinic before is reading this, that you feel utterly ashamed of yourself. Let this be a lesson that you have no idea what someone else’s story is, nor do you have any right to make such an important decision on their behalf. With the treat of banning abortion resurfacing in the United States, I believe it’s more important now than ever for people to share their thoughts and stories about this devastating reality so many women face every day. While I am no less passionate about this issue because of it, I am so inexplicably grateful that I was lucky enough to have a doctor to perform a sterilization procedure on me at such a young age. I knew it was only a matter of time before this right was stripped away from me, and I won’t be a human incubator. Like so many women who have come before me, I would rather die. Surely we will come to realize that there are many more woman today who feel the same when women once again start dying from botched abortions in back alleys. Pro-life is just a dog whistle. It means anti-women.
Rape by False Pretenses
There are laws on the books for theft by false pretenses and larceny by false pretenses. They are defined legally as: obtaining title and possession of another’s property by misrepresenting a fact. As a woman myself, and someone who works with teenage girls regularly, I would like to see a new law enacted to enforce criminal liability for rape by false pretenses.
I was recently reminded of this concept by a girl who came to talk with us a few days ago. She disclosed sexual abuse by a man who initially she had liked and wanted a relationship with. (Not that it really mattered given that she was 15 and he was 20.) Anyway, essentially he led her to believe that he wanted to be with her and have a romantic relationship when he actually had no intention of doing so. He manipulated her emotionally so that he could abuse her sexually. This is unfortunately not an uncommon story. I myself have at least a handful of similar experiences from my adolescent and young adult life.
I can say from experience how traumatic these experiences are, especially when the majority of society does not hold the abuser responsible in these situations. Just as rape used to be mainly viewed as the fault of the victim not “protecting themselves” well enough or “asking for it”, being tricked into sex by lies is something that “I should have known better” than to fall for. And for a long time, I also felt like I was to blame. Not only was I taken advantage of, but I also felt stupid, even though all I did was trust someone who I thought was my friend/future partner.
Looking back, I genuinely don’t know how I was supposed to have assumed that these men were just pieces of shit. I really had no reason to suspect that until they fucked me over, quite literally. Over and over again I was forced to swallow a lesson that roughly went: don’t ever trust anyone, especially men. I learned that it was my job to close my heart to the world, rather than expect to be treated decently as a human being. And it absolutely breaks my heart to see young girls internalizing that same toxic message.
Just like most victims of abuse, I was extremely embarrassed to tell my story to other people. I feared that instead of sympathy, I would receive judgement and be labeled a fool. Even now I question myself about it. In college, I met a couple different guys on dating apps. We talked for weeks, they expressed their desire to find a romantic partner explicitly, although I feel the context of a “dating app” (not tinder) was false pretense enough in that regard. Yet after we went on a few dates and things crossed the sexual threshold, I was ghosted and gaslighted. If there was any response at all, it was something along the lines of feinted surprise and “I was never looking for anything serious.” I was once even fed a bold-faced lie by someone I had worked with and been friends with for an entire year. He knew I only wanted to be with someone who was also vegan. He promised to become vegan so that we could be together, and I believed him, because (silly me) I thought he was a decent person. Lo and behold, after we had sex once or twice, he was gone without so much as a “goodbye.” He even blocked me on Facebook.
Now let me quickly clarify, I’m not saying that you should be forced to be with someone after you’ve had sex. It would have been a totally different story if these men had just told me they didn’t think things were working out or they decided they were no longer interested in me. That’s fine, not every relationship works out. But when a sexual act flips the switch from kind, attentive, affectionate to silence and gaslighting, that’s obviously not the same thing and is emotionally damaging to the one left with whiplash, wondering what just happened.
I realize that these situations would be extremely hard to prosecute, but I would still like there to be some type of legal acknowledgment of the fact that this is not okay! This is manipulation, this is sexual and emotional abuse. I fully believe that if someone only agrees to sex because you have lied about your intentions, then it is rape. And while I do think the specific men I’m referring to knew what they were doing was cruel and wrong, I don’t think they would have considered it rape. Both young men and women need to be taught about this. They need to understand early on that this is not an acceptable sexual encounter. It certainly isn’t consensual if one party is being lied to.
I’m curious to know what others think about this matter. Do you think it’s rape? Do you think there is any way, legal or otherwise, to hold someone accountable for this type of behavior? Have you experienced anything similar in your life? Have you ever intentionally misled someone in order to receive sex? Did you think it was wrong? Why or why not? I would love to open up a respectful, honest dialogue on this topic. So please share your thoughts. I’m very interested in hearing any feedback you have to offer.
White Male Privilege
As I sit in my office today wrapped in a blanket, scarf, and thick sweater with my heat blasting behind me, I can’t help but think about the small instances of male privilege that penetrate every day life for all of us. My office is super small. There are never more than five employees here at a time, and the majority is always female. Most days it’s just me, our female therapist, and our male interviewer. Despite the fact that the women are all freezing each and every day, the single male employee has no hesitation about controlling the temperature in the building.
We’ve given up on turning the air conditioner off for the most part because he just turns it right back on as soon as we walk away. Even this week, at the fucking end of October, the air conditioner was blasting in our meeting room. He sees us shivering and desperately trying to wrap our entire bodies in blankets, and he just laughs at us lightheartedly. Now, don’t get me wrong, this man is not someone I would consider a sexist. He’s a lovely person and has a lot of respect and admiration for women. He’s even said he believes women are better than men. But this only emphasizes the seriousness of my point. Sexism is so pervasive and ingrained in our society, that it isn’t even noticed. I’m sure he hasn’t even considered for a second how outrageous and unfair it is that he should be the only one who is comfortable at the office. It only seems right and natural that men get their way, regardless of how many woman are inconvenienced.
It also saddens me to realize that because the majority of our employees are women, we could strongarm him into submission if we wanted to. But women are used to this kind of bullshit. It simply isn’t worth the conflict. We’ve learned to just accept that this world, and even our own workplaces, aren’t made for us. We prefer to suffer in silence rather than face the alternative of being called aggressive bitches for standing up for ourselves. (Not that my coworker would say that. Although I’m sure he’d be irritated.)
It really kills me inside that there are so many women that don’t consider themselves feminists or even who think feminism is outdated and unnecessary. They aren’t even able to see their own oppression and second class citizen status in their day to day lives. They have internalized this sexism so much that it just seems normal, right even. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the news about the oppression of minorities, bigotry, and racism. Of course I think this is an excellent thing that is much needed, but once again women’s rights are put on the back burner.
I’ll never forget how shocked and infuriated I was to learn in school that black men were given the right to vote before women. This will always remain in my memory as the perfect example of the unacknowledged plight of women. Obviously I think black men should be able to vote, but women were not deemed eligible for that same right until four amendments and 50 years later. My stomach turns just thinking about it. Black men went from being looked at as animals, beasts of burden, farming tools to more worthy and respected than women. It makes me wonder why no one else seems to notice this inequity between the fight against minority oppression and the oppression of women.
One theory I have is that the two types of oppression look different. In a lot of ways women seem to have it pretty good compared to other minorities. We are seen as valuable by our oppressors. However, we are valuable as slaves were to their masters. We are valuable as objects, trophies, and commodities, not as human beings. We are baby incubators, house maids, etc. Although we are still beaten, raped, and killed that is somehow mitigated in the eyes of society because the perpetrator often “loves” his victim. We cannot be ostracized, and unlike other minorities we don’t have to face the constant fear of complete genocide either. Men simply humor our existence out of necessity. However, as far as all the other forms of discrimination and oppression go, we are right up there with everyone else. In some ways this makes the disdain and hatred of women even worse because men resent the fact that we are needed. They hate us, in part, for being capable of something which they are not, creating life.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons far more women are vegan/vegetarian than men. Women are able to more easily empathize with other animals, because we see ourselves in them, we are not very different at all, in fact. We are tolerated purely for male consumption. We are just flesh, only useful to the extent that we can offer sensory pleasure to men. We are forced to learn how to survive, even utilize, the existing structures of a system built in opposition to us. And just like animals, the continued oppression and abuse of women has fallen behind concern and awareness for the treatment of male members of minority groups.
I don’t know how this issue will ever be adequately addressed, especially when so many women are all too ready to submit to their oppressors and take for granted the rights our sisters have fought for. I suppose I just had to write about this today out of sheer frustration. I might as well use my voice to speak up on this issue while I can, and while I am able to use my youth and beauty to garner a bit more attention from my male overlords. I am all too aware that as I age, my value will continue to diminish in the eyes of the world. And that is a sobering thought.
Thank You Letter to an Amazing OBGYN
Dear Dr. Dudley,
It has been nearly two years now since I met with you for the last time. You may not even remember me. But since then, you have no idea how often I think about what an amazing doctor you are. I am immensely grateful to have met you and that I was able to trust you with my body and my medical care. I am also overwhelmed with gratitude that you respected me enough as an individual to honor my decision to go forward with a tubal ligation even though I am so young and have no children.
Just yesterday, a new coworker was talking about how she had to fight to get the same procedure for years, even though she was married with two kids at the time. She was still given the excuse that she was too young. Eventually her doctor agreed to do the procedure but would only consent to one particular version and didn’t allow her the autonomy to choose for herself.
After having such an amazing experience with you (the first doctor I had consulted about the procedure) I genuinely thought all the rumors I heard about doctors not allowing women to make those kinds of decisions about their own bodies were just that, rumors. I was so comforted, believing that must be a thing of the past, that society had grown to respect women more. When I heard the personal testimony of other women in my life, that comfort vanished.
My heart cries out at the injustice these medical professionals are doing to their female patients. I cannot imagine the pain of discovering your own doctor doesn’t respect you enough to let you decide what’s best for your own body and life. At the same time, hearing about other women’s experiences first hand makes me all the more thankful I was able to meet you. Words cannot express the peace and empowerment you have given to me. I will never forget it.
Since my procedure, the nightmares I once had about being pregnant, the fearful days of anticipation before starting my period, the burden of birth control side effects, all of those things have vanished completely from my life. I have never felt more at peace with my body. Although, my feelings about having children of my own has not changed, I would still prefer adoption in the event they do someday.
I thought you would be happy to know, despite not wanting my own children, I do have a new job that allows children to be a very big part of my life. I am currently working at a non-profit called Harmony House in Ohio. We are a child advocacy center, and I am the child and family advocate. My job consists primarily of explaining our process to the kids and their parents and then playing/talking with them in the waiting room while their parents meet with the other professionals.
When I met you I didn’t have much knowledge or interest in kids. Now I get to meet the most incredible, funny, smart, resilient kids every day. It is such a joy to be able to help them and offer them the understanding, respect, and love that many are not receiving at home. While parenting is not a good fit for me, child advocacy has given me the chance to still contribute to the betterment of future generations and experience the joy children bring to the world. I have also managed to find a loving partner who is completely supportive of my decision to not have children. Like me, he prefers our fur-children anyway.
I just wanted to reach out to you and say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wanted to make sure you knew that my mind has not changed. I am still grateful every day for all that you have done for me. I hope that you are happy and doing well. I know working in healthcare has been especially difficult these last two years. You are in my thoughts and I wish you the absolute best.
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. ♥