Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
As a feminist mom of teenage girls, this is the post that lives in my mind at all times. As a daughter and granddaughter of a mother and grandmother who have always been marginalized by what lies between her legs, I am offended. As a woman who has been judged, juried and punished for being feminine and curvy, I am livid. As a woman who has been sexually harassed and abused by men and afraid for as long as I can remember, I am done. As a woman who thinks and feels and sees and exists, I am outraged. This is my open letter to men on misogyny, abortion, sex and equality
For as long as I can remember, I have walked through the world feeling in danger. In danger of being touched, groped, raped and even assaulted by men. Worse still, I have learned to survive. To make myself small and quiet when I needed to which if you know me, you know is not me. I am not alone.
When strange men on trains, on planes, in clubs, at school, at church, online, at frat parties, walking home from school, playing at a friend’s house, while shopping, while eating, while working, breastfeeding, playing at the park with my children, while living my life and even while sleeping have forced their crude remarks, wandering hands and themselves upon me, I had to learn to escape with the least amount of damage; not unscathed because, as any woman knows, that is impossible. So I made a decision, a long time ago, I refused to raise my daughters to make themselves small and I myself will never again make myself small…because they (my daughters) are watching.
I refuse to raise my daughters to hunch their shoulders, hide their bodies in baggy clothes, feel shame for being attractive or saying no. Not today misogyny. I would not raise them to consider anyone other than themselves when getting dressed. No one else’s opinion on what they wear, their size, shape, hair color, makeup or sexual prowess is any of their business. I taught my girls that they are equal to men and, let’s be honest, in some ways, they’re better. Most importantly, I raised them to respect themselves and their own thoughts and opinions over anyone else’s. That being said, they were taught that everyone else is entitled to their opinions about life but those opinions have no effect on our lives.
My girls know what consent is. I taught them to say no loudly and habitually when they want to. Their body is their body, not mine, not yours and not some random dude who can’t keep his toxic masculinity and hormones in check, not even their husband or boyfriend. Believe me, toxic masculinity comes in more forms than just a rapist in a dark alley or skeevey dudes at the clubs, these men can also be your boss, your priest, your friend, the old man down the road, the boy next door and the guy who’s supposed to protect and serve your community.
I’ve fought the school on dress codes and refuse to have my daughters wear baggy clothes just because it’s too distracting to the boys. Why aren’t clothes that fit enough? Sorry, breasts and butts happen. We all have them.
I’ve fought public opinion on my daughters wearing bikinis when they were toddlers because someone had the audacity to say I was sexualizing my toddlers. No, you pervert are the one sexualizing a child. That’s a “you” problem. I was simply buying a suit that was comfortable for my tall child. Covering her belly button is not more important than preventing discomfort or causing infections. As teenagers, I stand by that statement. What women are wearing is not a concern for men. If it offends you or overstimulates you, overt your fucking eyes. Stop policing us. We don’t police you. Stay in your lane.
I’ve taught my daughters that sex is beautiful when they are mature enough to handle all that comes with it. We’ve talked about sex since they started asking. It’s not dirty or bad. They are not naughty for being curious. I don’t preach abstinence. I talk about respecting their bodies, themselves, their partners and waiting until they are ready.
I tell them that sex does not equal love. Sex is sex and someone can love having sex with you and not love you at all. I’ve taught them about birth control and responsibility, taking it themselves and demanding it of their partners. Sex with someone you love is beautiful and sex with yourself is cathartic. We don’t slut-shame so I’ve even taught them that we don’t judge and criticize other people’s sexual choices.
I am pro-choice and I’ve raised my girls to know why. It’s not that I am pro-abortion or that I’ve had or would’ve ever chosen to have one. It is that I respect women and their lives and it is every single human being’s right to be in control of what happens to their own body. You can argue that you are pro-life because you believe every single life is precious but if that’s your reasoning, what about the life of the girl or woman who finds herself pregnant (for whatever reason, the reason is irrelevant…women should not have to qualify the choices they make for their own bodies to anyone else, especially men) and is not capable of raising it, taking care of it, wanting or loving and providing for it in the way that she wants at that time?
If you are pro-life only for an unborn fetus, then you are not concerned with life (because you have disregarded the woman’s) you are concerned with moral superiority and inflicting your beliefs on others. It’s a power struggle not a pro-life issue. If abortion morally offends you, simply do not have an abortion. Period. While we’re on the subject, can all the politicians please GTFO of our uteruses?
Whatever your belief is, the consequences rest with the woman having the abortion and it’s between her and her God. She will have to live with that choice forever. There is no way around that. If you think the decision to have an abortion is one a woman takes lightly, you’ve never actually asked a woman who has to make that choice. Her decision has no immediate or direct effect on your life. It’s not your business to decide and making abortion illegal will not stop abortions, it will only stop safe abortions which means they will put women’s lives and their future reproductive health in jeopardy.
My girls are free to make their own choice on which side they choose to support because I respect them, their intelligence and their right to choose. If my daughters ever find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, I will do what any parent should do, I will counsel, love and support them in whatever decision they make for themselves. But at the same time, it’s my responsibility, as a parent, to teach them about respecting their bodies, loving themselves, pregnancy prevention, sexual safety and knowing the difference between love and sex.
Don’t misunderstand, I am not promoting teen sex, promiscuity, unplanned pregnancy or abortion. I am simply saying that these things happen and, in case no one was paying attention, it takes a man and a woman to get pregnant but only the girl or woman is left with the immediate responsibility of raising, caring for and providing for the child because we are the ones who carry it. Men can walk away and pretend it didn’t happen and some do. Men are not the ones paying for the consequences of one night for the rest of their lives, women are.
So until men can be held equally accountable for women’s reproduction, they should have no say in what we do, how we behave or what we choose to do or not do with our own bodies. Women are not property, nor inanimate objects, we are not born to provide care and pleasure for men…we are simply born to live and pursue our own happiness, just like every man.
It’s enraging enough that we are not given equal pay, equal voice or equal respect or rights as human beings. The world teaches little girls that doing anything like a girl is bad, weak and less than. It teaches girls to be quiet, be amiable, smile more and accept the places they’ve given us. Little girls need to be encouraged and empowered to use their voices, stand up and be everything they dream of being without the worry of being oppressed and reduced to their sexuality. Our girls are more. We are more.
This is not about me bashing men. This is me protecting and standing up for my daughters and every other child. These things I am teaching my daughters; need to be taught to our sons as well. Things will never change until we all work together to change the way things are; we have to stop accepting misogyny (in all its forms) as just the way it is. I don’t want my girls to feel scared and afraid of men and boys and I don’t think your boys want my girls to feel that way either. It starts now by refusing to let one more girl make herself feel small and quiet just to feel safe living with girl parts in the world.