I’m Opening An Etsy Shop For Repurposed Women

I was stumbling down the churning subway stairs, clutching my backpack tightly and trying to secure a pocket of air to breathe into. When I reached the landing, I saw them.

There was a clump of shower drain hair on top of her eyes.

Her eyes, two brown marbles pushed deeply into a wet clay face.

Her mouth, a setting sun releasing its last, tragic burst of energy.

A baby lay balanced on her stone-set lap. Its nose was sprinting; its eyes were sinkholes. Its fists were punching.

Attached feebly to ruler legs and draped disastrously in a torn t-shirt was a boy. His cheeks were ravines — encrusted with dirt, eroded by tears.

As we were critiquing the scrap heap of poverty set artistically against the wall, a wail escaped from the minuscule mouth that reverberated splittingly throughout the entire space. Immediately a cardboard breast was tugged out of the stained blouse, and the sounding siren was promptly directed towards it.

The subway on the other side of the tracks and I came to a screeching halt at the exact same moment. My mind began to race as my thoughts competed for the space my body had only seconds ago been given.

Is she really going to feed that baby now? With all of these people rushing straight towards her?

This place is disgusting. Is this the location in which a baby should be fed?

When was the last time she washed herself? Her breast must be filthy.

As I dug through my wallet for spare change to give her, I took some time to reflect on my reaction.

I am a proud feminist. I share all the Tumblr thread screenshots. I hold kitchen sermons about the right of women to equal education. It is me who charges, flags snapping, swords brandishing, into YouTube comments when I see someone had misunderstood feminism to be the euphemism for man-hating, free-bleeding, nipple-bearing terrorists. I wear tight dresses to the clubs at night with my shoulders back and my steps certain, daring someone to say something smart. Those are all things I proudly and frequently do. So it took me a few seconds to realize that I was not disgusted with Her for feeding her baby.

I was not prejudiced. I was not revolted. I was not even angry.

I had simply forgotten what a breast was for.

Thinking back on this incident a few nights ago, I had a revelation: Being a woman is forgetting what parts of you were originally made for because they have been repurposed so many times.

Our breasts are for showing off. They are for stuffing into padded bras, walking around in plunge-neck crop tops, contouring, surgery, and frantically hiding from the vulnerable, impulsive male masses.

(Feeding children, it should be noted, is not one of the aforementioned purposes.)

Our nurture is for taking care of people who mistreat us. A perfect example is my Auntie Chioma’s unique brand. Its purposes include rushing home to make sure her fully functional adult husband eats, giving her children money out of the secret bank account she keeps hidden from him for just this purpose, walking miles to the grocery store because he won’t lend her the car, and pleading with God every night to change him.

(Using that same level of bravery, perseverance, and care to run from him until her feet fold beneath her (neatly pleated like the napkins she puts out for him to wipe his curses on after dinner) is not included in this list.)

Our anger is for broken nails, gaining weight, and not getting enough likes on Instagram.

(Getting upset when men sleep with us and don’t speak to us for weeks afterwards is not one of the provided uses.)

Our sadness, our most purposeful feature, is for everything but us. It is for heartbreak, disaster, catastrophe. It stretches to cover the stylist clipping our ends too short and the kale not blending perfectly into our smoothies.

(Under this agreement, postpartum depression, forced marriage, and finding out we are not attracted to men is not covered.)

Our happiness is for Snapchat filters and texts back. Pinterest and wedding planning. Giving him a bouncing baby boy.

(Contentedness in finishing extremely elaborate Comic-Con costumes, discovering the best bike routes through the city, or getting a grant for a meticulously crafted research proposal, are beyond the coverage of this particular plan.)

Our hands are for holding pencils, but only the ones sold at makeup counters. Our sense of belonging is for squeezing ourselves into the crook of their arms.

Our feminism is for not shaving.

Our bodies are for rent.

Our sexuality is for men.

Our breasts are for bras.

Women are for others.