A Shit Of One’s Own
With utmost respect for Virginia Woolf.
But, you may say, we asked you to write about women and their rights — what has that got to do with a shit of one’s own? I will try to explain. When you asked me to write about the rights of women, I sat down on the toilet and began to wonder what it really means for a woman to drop a deuce. And it occurred to me that when she is doing number two is perhaps the only time when a woman can be completely, utterly, and needfully selfish, and only in this state is she capable of being her truest self. Let me explain further…
Presuming you’d like me to say a few words about women and shitting (my presumption, not yours), this might mean writing about women and the shits they take, or women and the shit others give them, or it might mean women and how shit can be seen as a metaphor for their very being, or it might mean that the three are inextricably mixed together and that I should consider them in that light.
When she is doing number two is perhaps the only time when a woman can be completely, utterly, and needfully selfish.
But when I began to consider the subject in this last way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion. I should never be able to fulfill what is, I understand, the first duty of a lecturer to hand you after an hour’s discourse a turd of pure truth to wrap up in a roll of Charmin and keep on the mantelpiece for ever. All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one point — a woman must have time and a bathroom of her own if she is to shit, and shitting is the underlying activity from which all other acts of identity spring; and so, in solving the question of how a woman is to shit with full agency, we might come to a conclusion about her ability to live her fullest life. I am now going to do what I can to show you how I arrived at this opinion about women and shitting.
Here then was I (call me Rachel Klein, Rachel McClain, Rachel Thompson or by any name you please — it is not a matter of any importance) sitting on my toilet a week or two ago in blustery March weather, lost in thought. To the right and left magazines of some sort, GQ and Vanity Fair, perhaps, glowed with the color of their glossy covers, Channing Tatum or Jennifer Lawrence gazing up at me from the tile floor upon which they sat. Outside the bathroom my children wept in perpetual lamentation, their hair about their shoulders, their dirty socks sprawled all about the living room floor. And yet, despite the chaos occurring from without, a peace overtook me there on my porcelain throne, an impenetrable barrier set between me and those who would have me labor tirelessly on their behalf. There I might have sat the clock round lost in thought.
In solving the question of how a woman is to shit with full agency, we might come to a conclusion about her ability to live her fullest life.
Thought had dropped itself into the bowl of contemplation. It floated in my welcoming brain for one glorious moment, but then, like clockwork, was interrupted by my husband’s banging on the bathroom door.
“Are you okay?” he asked with mock concern. I looked at the time on my phone. I had literally been in the bathroom for less than two minutes.
“Of course I’m okay,” I replied, irritated at having my reverie interrupted when it had scarcely begun.
“Okay,” he replied. “Because the kids are asking when dinner’s going to be.”
“I’m on the toilet,” I replied, attempting to maintain a modicum of linguistic delicacy regarding the situation in which I found myself.
“Oh…” he said. Then, after, a brief pause, “Okay well but could you hurry up?”
And so I return to my initial point: that a woman must have time and a bathroom of her own in which to shit. And yet, we are generally afforded no such luxury, and this we might trace back beyond the demands on our time and labor to the cultural anxiety produced by the idea of a women defecating at all. Men can proudly brag about their poops willy-nilly, to anyone who will listen, but a woman who shits in a broken toilet on a first date feels the need to wrap her dook in toilet paper and carry it in her purse for the rest of the night. Why this strange denial of such a biologically undeniable fact? The reasons are manifold, but primarily boil down to the fact that men just don’t like to think about it, and women have been trained to keep it from them. And not just on the basic, biological level, wherein men would like to imagine that nothing smelly, sticky, and vile could come out of that body which they objectify so covetously, but moreover, that the very idea of a woman producing waste calls to mind her body’s most basic need — as it is of all bodies — that of taking things into it, using the good parts of those things, and separating out and expunging the bad. Yes, shitting, at root, is about discernment, and in that regard, about agency. And the full agency of women men simply cannot abide.
To have a bathroom of one’s own means to have a place, free of interruptions, where one may take the time necessary to expel the unwanted waste of one’s intakings. The need for this uninterrupted time and space should be immediately apparent on the simple level of human dignity, and yet so many women find themselves regularly interrupted while doing their business — by their family’s needs, by their partner’s demands, by a world that expects them to be both selfless caregivers and ambitious careerists, virgins and whores, fantasy and reality — such that we are impelled to believe that it requires more than simply a closed and locked bathroom door to deflect those who would have the woman quietly squirrel away her turds in some special secret compartment to be released efficiently (perhaps in a single, odorless cube) at the end of the day without disrupting her constant laboring for the sake of others.
Women, more than men, who mindlessly spread their bodies and wills across pretty much any space and scenario in which they find themselves, need a place — a special bathroom that is their very own — and the time — uninterrupted by the needs of others — to methodically release the smelly, vile, but altogether natural waste of their day to their fullest satisfaction. Only then will they feel true agency over their bodies and their lives.
A woman, more than her male counterpart, spends her day discerning between the good and the toxic in her world.
For what is the root of agency but to discern between the good and bad and, upon discernment of such fact, have the power to flush away entirely that which is bad? To be able to take in the various data and experiences and interactions of their day and sort the earnest compliments from the sexual harassment, the fair critique from the misogynistic microaggression, the honest and authentic engagements from the asshole on the train who always tells her “she’d be prettier if she smiled more”? A woman, more than her male counterpart, spends her day discerning between the good and the toxic in her world. It is an exhausting proposition, not unlike shitting itself sometimes, and often her clearest thoughts come to her only after such harrowing ordeals as she had faced throughout the day, when she is alone among her perfumes and soaps and magazines and the one good towel she always makes sure is clean when she needs to shower. It is then, quite often, that the physical and emotional expelling of unwanted byproducts occurs together in a triumphant and private display of personal power. Indeed, without this quiet, uninterrupted time to perform this necessary function, the woman can begin to feel a loss of control over her very life.
And this, more than anything else, addresses the necessary question of a woman’s essential powers. Whether she is a poet or a dancer or a CEO or a stay-at-home mom who always bakes the thing that sells out first at her kids’ PTA bake sale, affording her the time and space to divide good from bad, that which she wishes to retain from that which she wishes to expel, makes her feel more human, more connected to her body and, by extension, her soul. For the angels do not create, but can only live in a state of static perfection. It is only the human being, with our messy corporealness, that can create both ugliness and beauty from the ruins of our rotting flesh — and, sometimes, truly, who is to say which is which?