Thoughts on Womanhood

Leymah Gbowee

Mark Bryan-Brown

A few weeks ago, I read an article about Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Leymah Gbowee, in which she asked “Where are the angry American women?” She was referring to the politicization of reproductive rights and contraceptive access, and as I read the article, my mind was all over the place.

First, I will be clear and straight-forward with you. I’m a proud, thinking, researching liberal. I’m firmly pro-choice, even though it’s a choice I couldn’t imagine making for myself. I have a child. I had him out of wedlock. I had the CHOICE to have an abortion, but I didn’t because that’s my prerogative. I CHOSE to keep my baby. That’s the beauty of the expression “pro-choice:” inherent in the name is that there is a CHOICE. I’m not even going to discuss the religious/moral frameworks, because that’s an individual matter – if a woman has an abortion for whatever reason, that’s her cross to bear.

Now back to Gbowee’s talk: after reading this article, I thought of the various pieces of legislation which seek to remove contraceptive access and abortion rights.

-Mississippi’s proposed and failed personhood amendment which would criminalize miscarriage because it would deem a fertilized egg a person. The invasiveness of this proposal was just absurd to me, because when an egg is fertilized, it’s not guaranteed to implant itself on the uterine wall, so technically, an inability to become pregnant would also be a criminal act. As such, it would effectively outlaw birth control because it inherently alters the uterine environment. It’s impossible to enforce, though, because some people’s uterine walls just won’t take fertilized eggs every time. Furthermore, compounding the trauma of miscarriage with a criminal trial for a family that was actually trying to have a child is monstrous.

-Pennsylvania’s proposed bill (alongside a handful of other states) to force trans/endovaginal ultrasounds on women who seek abortions. Not a standard ultrasound that you rub gel on a woman’s lower stomach and roll over it with an odd little wand. No, they stick this wand INSIDE a woman’s vagina. They stick. a foreign object. into a woman. I hate to be extreme, but it sounds a lot like rape to me, and before you say, well, they made the choice, that’s like saying, “well, she decided to spread her legs to the stranger holding the gun to her head instead of taking the bullet to the brain.” To add humiliating insult to injury-by-violation, they call it the “Women’s Right to Know Act.” Like a woman making the decision to have an abortion doesn’t know. Most women who seek abortions (60%) are already mothers. They’ve been there. It’s insulting and demeaning on so many levels.

But there are people fighting for our rights.

Unfortunately, they often face a firestorm of pushback.

-Obama’s provision that religious institutions have to provide health coverage that offers free contraception set off conservatives, despite having already been law during the Bush years. While people love framing it as a war on religion, it’s really a fight FOR women. Women who are employed by certain schools and hospitals (yes, many hospitals are run by religious institutions) don’t necessarily subscribe to those faiths, so to have that faith forced upon them by way of denying them a particular type of health coverage impedes HER religious freedoms AND reproductive rights. It’s not about opposing religion, because remember the whole “separation of church and state” thing? Yeah. That. This is that. This is that moment where the state prevents the church from acting against the state.

Hilariously enough, while woman’s access to contraceptives via insurance is under fire, Viagra is covered by insurance. I could talk about the idiocy of this for hours, but in short, this tells me that a man’s ability to impregnate a woman is more important than a woman’s choice not to become pregnant. How terribly backwards have we become?

However, the worst part is that these decisions are being made without us.

-Women aren’t being allowed to testify in or even included in reproductive rights hearings. It’s like legislators who don’t know how to use email writing laws about internet regulation.

Oh.. wait…

(btw, that last link there is a little nsfw – it’s animated, but ya know.)

Anyway, it all got me to thinking and synthesizing other information I’ve read or knew, and you know how dangerous we women are when we think.

1. When a person or a group of people feel as though they are powerless or are losing power, they empower themselves by imposing power on others. Think Hitler and the Third Reich – Germany was weak, so what did they do? Oppress Jews. Slavery isn’t/wasn’t just about man-power. It’s about control.

2. I saw this infographic, and something clicked:

Marketing Zeus: The Purchasing Power of Women

Women are an economic powerhouse. We control most purchases and consumer actions. As members of a capitalist society, we virtually run the show.

3. A large part of the conservative voter base (poor, uneducated, white) is dwindling. As the collective minority population continues to grow, the GOP is losing its powerful base. Granted, there are still many minorities who vote conservative, but the general idea is that (and I’m so sorry I can’t find the article or perhaps it’s a book and that’s why I can’t find it? that was discussed on NPR about this very idea) this election is a last grasp at power for the GOP, because by the next election, the population will have shifted into a minorities-as-majority state. I may be summarizing that all wrong, but I do know this: Latinos constitute the largest swing-vote population in the country. We’re incredibly important.

So here’s the synthesis part, and it’s also the part where I sound something like a conspiracy theorist, but just bear with me:

Republicans are losing power.
When people lose power, they force power on others.
Women’s rights are being systematically removed or at least diminished.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a party of dying power asserting what little power it has left onto a group of people that it finds helpless.

But that’s where they’re wrong.

Women are powerful. Women are important. Women are more than vessels, and it’s about damn time we’re treated as such.

Unfortunately, I can foresee my own backlash in writing this. By being angered by these actions, I’m labeled as “emotional” and “irrational,” despite the clear logic of my arguments, and it’s because I’m a woman. I say this because I’d rather beat people to it in the comments, and every now and then, I enjoy saying “I told you so.”

However, at least I can say I’m not the only person who thinks this way.

So be loud. Be vocal. Vote. Assert the right to womanhood, because it’s a sad day when an unimplanted egg has more rights than the woman who may be forced to carry it.

I’ll leave you with something I wrote the other day, and it’s really rare that I share poetry – in fact, it terrifies me. More terrifying is that it was written as a performance piece, for which I haven’t built up the nerve to perform except in the class for which it was written. But thank you in advance for allowing me to share this with you. It means so much to me that you are sharing in something so personal and meaningful to me.

I am free. I AM free
And THAT you cannot take from me,
Try though you may. I have my own strength:
My knowledge is my power, and you couldn’t fathom the lengths
You’d have to take to even challenge what I have.
You can’t know my understanding because you don’t know what it means to under stand.
No sir! Freedom is in me, and it cannot be revoked.
Your ignorant words, your theatrical scripts only serve to provoke
The FURY of the people you need the most,
But still you’ll reduce us to less than a host.
And in a way, you’re right: we are vessels,
But you don’t understand what we carry: POTENTIAL
And hope and knowledge and most importantly, power,
And we know that you want it from the way that you cower
Behind your podiums, pulpits, bullying altars.
But we hold the purses, and stand without faltering.
You think we’re dangerous now? Push harder to see
Just how dangerous a woman really can be.
I am free, sir. I am free.
My body, my soul, they belong to me.
My mind, my words, my voice I always will be,
And THAT you cannot take from me.

Comments

  1. I whole heartedly agree, no man should be able to pass legislation on a right they will never have. Women should be the only ones deciding what they do with their oown bodies. For high risk pregnancies where it’s literally the choice between this mother will die if she continues to carry this baby (and the baby might not make it either btw), or she can abort now before it has formed and save her own life. How can they possibly say that it’s not murder to even force her to carry that child and kill herself? Doesn’t that also constitute as suicide?

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