The older I get, the more I become aware of this war on women. It’s quiet, demure– the way I’ve always been told I should be.
I recently told my three-year-old daughter about “tricky people”–it happened accidentally. I was reading an article about a gymnast’s father who had to tell his daughter about “tricky people” after the Larry Nassar case came about. My daughter simply asked what I was reading. And my gosh, the closer I look, the closer I see tricky people, tricky instances, tricky accepted norms that are outright attacks on my daughter’s personhood.
Seventeen-year-old me sat in my high school psych class and offered up hopefully that maybe a pregnancy resulting from rape could be like a rose at the end of a thorny stalk. This idea is fraught with childlike innocence and sickening privilege, but also something more. Somewhere within me was the belief that I should be nice at all costs. I only wanted nice outcomes; I only wanted black and white. I only wanted good. The idea of something being tricky? Seeming good, but really bad–it hadn’t taken form in my high-school conscience in any real way. The idea that the world was in fact all shades of gray–some I could see, and some I could not–wasn’t compatible with my upbringing.
I can rattle off five people close to me who have had abortions. I unknowingly, at the time, also put myself in that category. I had an ectopic pregnancy, and the numbers kept climbing–it would need to be aborted; my OBGYN–a hero in my life–called me and delivered the news over the phone. She hugged me tightly in the middle of covid after the shot they gave me to abort the pregnancy. The news was already teeming with reports that Roe v. Wade was in question. I asked her with tears in my eyes if what I had was an abortion. It sounds like such a stupid question, but I genuinely didn’t know.
“Yes, absolutely. A medically necessary abortion.” I had no idea. A 35-year-old woman had no idea that ending an ectopic pregnancy that would result in massive internal bleeding was classified as an abortion. This isn’t to say abortion was unwittingly forced upon me. It’s to say that women are unbelievably under-educated on our own health and bodies. We are told things in offices, in classrooms, and even in the church that I love that keep us misinformed and small. It’s been a male-dominated world that doesn’t reflect our experience as women for far too long. I refuse to see a male OB/GYN anymore; it’s not because I don’t think there are great ones. It’s because I place high value on being represented by a woman who knows the unbelievable complexities and strengths that lie deep within women. I want to be seen by a woman who looked a once male-dominated field in the eye and said, “I’ll do that.”
I see it all around me now. Little girls in dance classes are donning dominatrix-style costumes on their bodies, full makeup, and hairpieces. Why? Why in the world are we signing our girls up in droves to be consumable objects? Things to be desired, gazed upon, turned about in our hands to judge and evaluate and determine their worth outwardly–all the while diminishing their incredible brains. My husband and I were watching a terrible dating show the other week, and he suddenly noticed that women’s bathing suits are just underwear made from a different material. And who do you suppose made that decision? And my gosh, have we as women conformed.
Worse, we turn against each other, vying to be the best looking, the most conforming to these precedents that were made with little consideration of our personhood. I hope the last thing my daughter lists about herself is that she is beautiful. I hope she loves her body for what it does, not how it looks. I hope she knows, with every fiber of her being, that she is the boss of her body. No one gazes at her and evaluates her worth. Whether it’s twirling on stage or in the case of a supreme court. No one tells her what to do or who she can be. No one sits in a room hundreds of miles away and makes a law about her body without even knowing her name.