Updated: Dec 1, 2022
Your life belongs to you. You. Independent of what anyone else thinks or believes or wants, your life is yours. You decide what passions to pursue. You decide what you will and will not do with your body. No one else has more authority over you than you. You have sovereignty.
I wish this was the overwhelming message I’ve received about my life from our society. It’s not. Just the opposite, in fact. I have struggled for days trying to figure out what to say, where to start. This is about religious liberty. This is about the death throes of the Patriarchy. This is about the lure of the false sense of security that authoritarianism offers. All legit, but they felt too preachy, too much like a lesson or a lecture. Plus, rule number one of a Powerstory: you are the main character.
So, I have to be the main character here. I have to tell my story. I am lucky, I guess you could say, to be beyond my childbearing years. The overturning of Roe v Wade will not prevent me from having an abortion should I need or want one. But in my mind, it’s beside the point. The punch I felt to my gut about Roe v. Wade wasn’t about abortion access alone, it was about what the ruling meant. It was about the reshaping of liberty. It was about my very existence as a woman.
It’s been a rough road for me as a woman, although many, perhaps most, women have had it rougher. I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly boys, and I was taunted and bullied by them horribly well into my teens. I was told as a young teenager that I shouldn’t talk about the things I talked about because “boys don’t like smart girls.” I was sexually assaulted by a “friend” when I was 18. In college I was told I had no place pursuing science because women were too emotional to be good at it.
As a young teacher I was sexually harassed by the male students in the high school where I taught, they would catcall and whistle at me when I walked from my classroom to the office. When I shared what was happening with my administrator, I was told I should be flattered because “Ten years from now they won’t be whistling, and you’ll wish they were.” I discovered my male colleagues who told me to “lighten up” about the sexual harassment were telling their students that I was so uptight because I needed to get laid. I was chastised by my boss for not taking my husband’s name.
In my forties I was told by another boss, along with the three other women also in their forties, that he would never hire another woman in their forties because “they think they know so much.” Don’t get me started on what I went through any time I bought a car. My insurance rates were higher because I might have a child someday. My birth control was not covered when I was younger, and it was expensive on my meager teacher’s salary. I learned to keep my cleavage covered so I couldn’t be labeled as “asking for it.” I learned to be wary of walking by myself at night. I learned I got better medical care from female doctors who would take my concerns seriously rather than chalking them up to “stress.” All in all, pretty run of the mill patriarchal crap.
If you’re a woman reading this, you’re probably thinking “yup, been there” or “you got off easy.” As a white woman, my privilege has protected me from the worst of it, but patriarchy sucks, my friends, it sucks. The society I have been raised in has told me in countless ways that I don’t count – because I am a woman. I’ve bucked the messaging throughout my life, starting with the purchase of a t-shirt when I was nine years old that read, “When God created man, SHE was only joking.” At ten, my shirt read, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
On one hand, this is funny, on the other hand it is tragic, that I felt the need at such a young age to become part of the resistance but become part of the resistance I did. I started telling off the boys in my neighborhood. I earned a degree in science. I spoke at a conference on sexual harassment in public schools, landing my name in the Washington Post. I parted with a controlling boyfriend. I divorced a man who wasn’t interested in my equity. I marched for the ERA and women’s rights. I quit jobs with sexist bosses. I got an abortion that was in the best interest of my own life, because my life matters first.
I got involved with Powerstories to elevate women’s voices. I demanded my seat at the table. But with the Roe v. Wade verdict, I felt the seat get pulled out from under me. The overturning of Roe v. Wade means that women do not have right to the same level of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as men. That’s what it means. Women will be forced to breed whether they want to or not, like livestock. Women will again die from back-alley abortions and non-viable pregnancies. The responsibilities of pregnancy will rest squarely on women’s shoulders as there is no legislation being put forth to hold men to any level of accountability. Of course not. In our current society, men are first class citizens (if they’re also lucky enough to be white, straight, cis-gendered and preferably Christian).
Women are once again being asked to take their place two steps behind, to cede their lives to their fathers, their husbands, their religions – bowing to original sin. Women are being asked to acknowledge themselves as the weaker sex, incapable of making appropriate decisions. And if Clarence Thomas makes good on his promise and birth control is next, women are being asked to accept that their sexuality exists solely to serve men and secure the species, not as an expression of the fullness of their own humanity. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking a hard pass on that offer.
To quote the Eagles. “I will not lie down. I will not go quietly.” Fifty-six-year-old me has no intention of letting ten-year-old me down. My current t-shirt says, “And you thought I was a nasty woman before? Buckle up, buttercup.” The Patriarchy may be trying to pull the seat out from under me, but I’m not letting go. Because letting go is not an option. Going back is not an option. There is only to go forward. Patriarchy must be toppled.
Women across the globe need to regain their rightful place at the table so they can give to the world the vast bounty they have to give. Humanity’s existence depends on it. Find a way to get involved. Donate. Volunteer. Run for office. Use your voice. Look for ways to empower women. If you’re a woman, take your seat at the table and don’t take no for an answer.
If you want women to have true liberty and sovereignty, buckle down. If you’re trying to stand in the way of that, buckle up.
Previously published at: https://positivelypowerstories.com/