I grew up with brothers. We held epic battles in the yard with Nerf Guns. I wore their clothes. Not just jeans and T-shirts, but their actual clothes. I’d sneak into my older brother’s room when he left for school and put on whatever I found. Dresses were stupid and Barbie’s were really only useful as hostages for GI Joe. I had girl friends, yes, and I did wear dresses to school (on occasion). But really, I wanted to be one of the boys. They were cool.
If we were in the car between the hours of 10AM and 2PM, we were listening to Rush Limbaugh. I thought he was funny. “Femi-nazi. Ha ha.” It was hysterical that one time he called a 13-year old Chelsea Clinton a dog. Because women who aren’t hot sex symbols (one of the few acceptable things to be if you’re not lucky enough to be born with a penis) are dogs. Ha ha.
I learned, by observing, I’m sure, that boys will be boys, but good girls say “no.” And if you don’t say no, you’ll get pregnant. In high school I still wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t get pregnant by making out while reclining (fully clothed) in the front seat of my boyfriend’s truck. And I wasn’t convinced I wasn’t damning myself to hell for allowing that to happen in the first place.
In church we were taught that the man is in charge, the woman is to submit. A good husband, a good father, listens and considers everyone’s opinions, but he makes the decision. And that’s the end. Submit. Obey. Do what you’re told.
I was a child the first time a man told me, by force, that my body was not my own. That I was an object to be used. That what I wanted, or didn’t want, didn’t matter. But maybe, I thought for a long time, maybe it was PARTIALLY my fault, because I can’t remember whether I said “no” or not. It took about 15 years and hundreds of therapy hours to realize what a lie that was. It’s a hard lie to completely disbelieve, though. I was an adult when it happened again, when I wasn’t given the chance to say “no.” Luckily, if that word applies here, I knew what it was and I could call it by name and know that it was never about me being good or bad.
I am not trying to paint a picture of my life, especially of my childhood, as terrible. I was a happy kid, really. I mean, yes, the abuse was shitty, but I was happy OTHER than that. I loved my family, they loved me. I played with my friends and my brothers. I loved being a tomboy. I wanted to go to church, to youth group, to choir. I liked being there.
But a lot of things go into shaping the view you have of yourself, and of the world. And it’s not all things that happen *to* you, it’s also what you chose, what you believe. So I think it’s easy to see, from these selected stories, why I felt, for the longest time, that being a girl was pretty much the crappiest thing to be. I dunno, maybe being gay, black, and a girl would have been worse. But, I was only born one of those things, so I can’t really compare.
Periods were gross and meant I couldn’t do all of the things I wanted to (no matter what the Kotex commercials claimed). Boys didn’t want to play with me, once the boy/girl distinction became more obvious. And when the REAL boy/girl stuff started happening, I wasn’t girl-y enough for them to like me the way I wanted. I fought with other girls for attention, for the right to fit in, and it never worked, for any of us. Girls who went out with boys were easy. Girls who didn’t go out with boys were losers. Being pretty was more important than anything, but there was never a “pretty enough” mark. Ever.
It never occurred to me that any of this wasn’t normal, wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I figured it was all just part of the way life was. I never, ever, really thought about woman’s rights. It was a silly idea. Psshh. Women have rights. We’re just the same as men, really, even if we don’t get paid the same. Even if we get called names when we have (or want) power. Or are not pretty enough. Or want to have sex with our partners. Or or or or or or.
I went on Gay Pride marches long before I ever considered myself….you know….a feminist (I can still hear it, “femi-nazi” – the idea that it’s ugly to want equality). That one was easy. I mean, they couldn’t even get married for Pete’s sake. Clearly they need support for their rights more than these attention seeking women.
But enough is enough is enough and I am so done with this.
There is too much going on that is sending us backwards, that is taking away the rights that were so hard won. Mandatory invasive procedures, requiring “proof of rape,” asking women carry dead fetuses until their bodies naturally expel them, denying access to contraceptives (which, unlike viagra, provide many secondary medical benefits to women suffering from cysts, migraines, endometriosis, etc..), giving corporations the right to fire women who take contraceptives, and more and more and more and more and it never seems to end. They keep coming up with new and innovative ways to tell us what to do and when to do it.
It’d be so easy to get lazy and say this is just about abortion, or a political argument to further polarize Republicans and Democrats, but it’s so, so much more than that. At first it seemed funny to me, all of these ludicrous stories because, come on, you can’t be serious, right? But they were and are serious and it’s not funny. Yes, I’m angry, but I’m also hurt. These laws and bills and their creators are using their power and their words to hurt me, hurt us, and it’s not OK.
I have been unable, or unwilling, to say “no” before. But I’m both able and willing now. No. No, you cannot tell me what to do, what to think, what to feel. No, you cannot take away my right to speak up, to fight back, to feel, to choose. No, you cannot make me feel small, feel less, feel scared, feel dumb. No, you cannot make my choices for me, tell me what’s “best for me.”
None of us on this planet deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.
And if thinking so, let alone saying so, makes me a femi-nazi, them I’m going to wear the badge with pride. And I will march, with women (and men who love women) all over the country for our right to be heard. I deserve to stand up for myself just as I much as anyone else I stand up for.
** I was inspired to write my own Feminist Testimony by reading this one over at Girls Gone Child. Go read it. Now.
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