The Defiance of Being a Woman
For the entirety of election season, I intentionally stayed quiet. I avoided using this platform to pronounce my personal position or my pick for President. Largely, I just didn’t have the energy to engage in the nasty, hateful, uninspired squabble that unfolded, namely in 125 characters or less. More pedantically, this election wasn’t about politics, so sharing my political views, attempting to discuss the issues facing our nation or engaging in respectful, productive debate seemed not just fruitless, but silly.
However, THIS issue. The issue of being a woman, a gay, a Muslim, a…insert anything other than white male in an America now run by an administration that clearly finds all of those things annoying, at best, and worthy of annihilation at worst. This issue I MUST speak about, and I fully open up the table for intelligent discourse.
Let me start by saying there was a time when I would not have understood the need to March. In my early 20’s, I was the valedictorian of a STEM program at a Level I Research institution I attended on full academic scholarship. I fought equally competent, highly competitive peers to get a coveted spot in my graduate training program in a field where 95% of my colleagues are female. If anything, we were proudly touting reverse sexism. At that point in life, I had encountered little, if any, resistance based on my gender. I was proud to be a woman, yes, but I didn’t think much about it and would have bucked any insinuation that it necessitated fighting for.
Given that background, I understand the position of many women who feel the March was a self-serving, self-indulgent cry for attention. In a country where we are not made to wear burkas or stoned for sex outside of marriage, and where we are lawfully made to go to school whether we want to or not, what’s to bitch about?
Then, I got a job, became a crisis hotline counselor, earned the trust of friends who had been raped, and tried to help a woman end a much desired pregnancy. I was trapped in a bar, kissed without my permission, insulted because of and to spite my intelligence. I walked through abortion protesters to get to work just to tell a woman that her beloved baby on whose conception she and her partner spent their life savings, would die within weeks if not hours of delivery. I became an adult woman, a powerful woman, yes, but I lost the belief that the world would smile upon me in the same way as my male counterparts. I realized that the world, while having much to offer, always has a price.
I recently wrote about quitting my job. In the process of notifying his team of my impending departure, one of my colleagues expressed his disappointment that I was leaving. He admitted that I was underutilized and, kindly, suggested that I would be an asset wherever I landed next. He ended his comments with “…that is, of course, unless her husband told her to get back in the kitchen and give him some babies.”
What. The. FUCK?!?
That one comment, more than any other I have overheard, overlooked, or overthought in the past 13 years of my career makes me the most angry. And it makes me want to March.
This world is not fair. It is not equitable. It is not for the faint of heart. It is for the warrior.
Yes, we have unparalleled rights as women in this country, but we stand in a unique position to understand the subtle, subversive, silent nature of an oppression that stems from a dangerous power differential. We also stand as the most faithful and dedicated warriors in a fight to protect, defend, and support all of those whose oppression is far more overt, albeit no less destructive. Women March because we understand the importance of allies and because we always leverage our power for those whose voice is smaller, weaker, and more pained than ours.
The defiance of being a woman is the daily assertion that you are a warrior. And the beauty of that defiance is your war may be entirely different than mine. Your war may be wrangling a 3-year old up and to the breakfast table while attempting to shower and brush your hair so you can go work for 10 hours to support your family. Your war may be learning how to allow your body to be touched again after it was accosted by a man who showed it no respect. Your war may be fighting for recognition of your skills and contributions in a professional culture that seats you behind the table instead of at its helm. Your war may be coping with the decision to end a pregnancy, regardless of the cause, in a society that calls you a “baby killer.” Your war may simply be coming home safe from the bar, whether or not you were drunk, and regardless of what mini skirt and hooker heels you decided to put on your body.
I want to build a uterine wall. I suggest that men pay for it or don’t come a visiting. I expect it will make people angry. I obviously don’t care. I think it is in the best interest of the country, even though the vast majority of men are not rapists, wife beaters, or misogynistic pigs. That seems irrelevant. But wall building appears to be the thing to do these days, so I want one too.
Women are warriors. And marchers. And all are welcome to stand beside us or behind us. But, whatever you do, do not stand in front of us. You will become road kill.