You should probably read the books.
We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.
The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.
“But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”
The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked.
“So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”
→ a Dish reader
Wait … what? Girls are silly for just wanting to be friends, and the fact that they didn’t want to date you makes them oblivious to matters of the heart? Am I misunderstanding this?
Well, someone had to do it.
fill your blog with your own face
show off your arms, thighs, ass, shoulders
make pages and pages of your own teeth and hair
dedicate space to loving the cracks in your lips and the chewed parts of your fingers
and if you are called vain, then you have succeeded
in getting others to notice
how fucking beautiful and important you are
you know, sometimes you are trying on clothes and it makes you cry.
You’re standing there in the dressing room, half-naked in front of the mirror and this is the fifth piece of garment you’ve tried in the fifth store you’ve entered into and it still looks fucking ugly on you, or it doesn’t fit or it’s all wrong. And you know in your mind that it’s not your fault, that the garment should be made to fit you, not the other way around, but everything in that particular moment, in the hellish day you’ve been having (and it had started so well, too!) tells you otherwise. From the said piece of garment stretching awkwardly across your chest and pinching you under your arms, to the four others you’ve tried before that in that particular store, to the other ones you’ve tried in other stores, to the bright white neon light that flatters nobody and seems to be pointing at every single imperfection on your body from the stretch marks on your thighs to that zit you tried to cover this morning (and thought you had done a pretty good job at it), to the loud music playing through the speakers that you hate and that is giving you a headache, to the salesperson knocking on the door of your dressing room asking if they can help you and all you want to say is “yes, yes, please bring me one piece of garment, one shirt, or one dress, that fits me and that makes me look pretty. Just one, that’s all I ask”.
And when you get out of the dressing room, possibly after shedding some tears while getting dressed again and trying not to look at yourself in the oversize mirror (or looking too hard), you decide you might as well buy that awkward shirt you were trying because you don’t want to leave this store, like you left all the others, empty handed. You don’t want to go home and all you have in your bag are earrings, a book and maybe some chocolate, because you entered the mall wanting something new and pretty and fun to wear to your cousin’s birthday party.
And then you go home and you feel sad and weak and fucking ugly, but most of all you’re angry at yourself because you let it, all of it, get to you while you know you know better. You let the fuckers win and that’s horrible. And you vow that it will never happen again but you know it will because that’s the kind of society you live in. And while most of the other times you might exit the mall and give it a giant fuck you on your way out, knowing that you are as wonderful now as when you entered it full of hope, there are other days where you know you will find yourself again crying on the floor of a stupid dressing room.
I have a PSA for you.
I am 30 years old. I am a virgin (primarily by choice). I have never had sex with anyone. I have never been on birth control.
I’ve never been on birth control because I was brought up to believe that birth control was for “slutty girls” who want to avoid getting pregnant. Because I wasn’t having sex, and therefore didn’t need to worry about getting pregnant, I also never went to the gynecologist. Ever. Not until I was 29 years old and in so much physical pain that I literally could.not.function.
1 year, 2 gynecologists, 1 D&C and many, many pain pills later, I was diagnosed last week with Endomterial Cancer, and am now facing a complete and total hysterectomy. Not the kind where they leave some bits just in case, but the kind where they take a robot and completely and totally scrape out everything that was once intended to make babies.
And that is the best-case-scenario. If it turns out the cancer has spread, then I’m in for the hysto, AND chemo/radiation/etc.
If your daughter comes to you and wants birth control because she is having irregular periods, because she is having pain, because she is uncomfortable, or just because she FUCKING WANTS IT- it is your goddamn duty as a loving and nurting parent— TO LISTEN AND RESPECT HER REQUEST.
Things you may do:
1. Open a dialogue with your daughter about WHY she wants B.C.
2. Educate yourself about the benefits of B.C.
3. Discuss your (and her) feelings about sex and sexuality as it relates to B.C. (if applicable)
4. Volunteer to take her to a gyno, offer to make an appointment for her, or accompany her to the appointment if she wants you too. But respect her privacy if she doesn’t
5. Be open and understanding about the fact that she may tell you things you don’t want to hear or know.
6. Realize that her asking for B.C. does not automatically mean she plans to/is/wants to have sex.
7. Be uncomfortable about it, and about your discussions. It’s ok, she probably is too.
Things you MAY NOT DO:
1. Shut her down.
2. Condescend or pass judgement over her request
3. ASSUME she plans to open her legs to anyone that walks by.
4. Tell her she doesn’t need it.
5. Be verbally or emotionally abusive about her request.
6. Cast upon her your ignorance about what B.C can do.
7. Flip out without listening to what she has to say.
8. Refuse to take her to a gynecologist if she wants/needs to go
Here’s the deal parents, whether you want to believe it or not, birth control and reproductive health are not SEXUAL issues, they are HEALTH issues. And as someone who is 2 weeks away from the SOONEST oncology appointment to deal with a very terrifying issue- I will tell you that if you refuse to support your daughter dealing with her reproductive health- I consider you tantamount to a child abuser. Because you are denying your child access to life-saving screenings and medications.
No one ever took me. I didn’t even think about it. It was never an option. I never had that kind of dialogue and now I have Cancer. And maybe being on birth control wouldn’t have changed that- but considering I have never in my life had a normal period, I have to think it would.
If your daughter trusts you enough to tell you that she wants to look into birth control- that is a fucking GIFT and you should be grateful.
If your daughter trusts you enough to tell you she wants to look into birth control and your reaction is to respond with fear and judgement and cowardice, then I invite you to read my other blog. The one where I talk about my pain and discomfort and regret. The one where I talk about being 30 FUCKING YEARS OLD and having Cancer because nobody every bothered to take me to a gynecologist until it was too fucking late in the first place. Feel free to check in daily, I have 2 weeks to my initial oncology consult and my physical condition isn’t improving in the meantime.
And I won’t apologize for my anger. I won’t apologize for my language. I won’t apologize for this lecture. Because the person who should have taken me— is dead. And I am having to indoctrinate myself into this, I am having to do this at least 15 years later than I should have. Because she never bothered to tell me anything except that birth control was for “sluts.”
If you love your daughters, TALK TO THEM. They need you.
A message from a commenter:
I don’t know if you know this, but Adrienne Rich was a collaborator on “The Transsexual Empire: the making of the she-male,” which was a hugely transphobic book that characterized trans people as men disguising themselves as women to undermine the women’s rights movement…so I have felt a bit uncomfortable with the quotes you’ve been posting in honor of her death.
(I wasn’t sure if you wanted your name on this, because you sent it as fan mail, but I wanted to be transparent here, and I think that this is discussion is worth engaging. Feel free to send another message if you want me to use your name.)
I have heard, since Rich’s death, of her collusion in “The Transsexual Empire.” For those not familiar with the text, here are a number of excerpts that show exactly how fucked up it is (note: rape and transmisogyny abounds). I don’t really want to link to Feministe, but in the comments, there is more discussion of Rich’s involvement in this text, as well as her personal transphobia. Most of it is apologism.
As the commenter says, this book hinges on the idea that trans women are “really” men and (poorly) adopt the guise of womanhood as part of men’s project to dominate culture. If any part of that is not repellent to you, please unfollow, thanks.
This book has been extremely damaging to trans women, not merely invalidating their identities and denying them access to women’s spaces (which are spaces for healing from the sexism all women experience), but by engaging in exactly the kind of dehumanization that allows trans women (especially of color) to be raped and murdered at catastrophic rates, then mocked for their pain.
Honestly, I never know what to do when it turns out that someone I admire espoused dehumanizing views such as these. There is a desire not to align oneself with that thing, of course, but there is also an investiture in the person, in what they represented to you yesterday, and the symbolic culture they were apart of. So one can either decide to throw out this figure that was so influential, or, often, to discredit or decontextualize the critique (“all she did was say something. Raymond might have taken it out of context,” “that was a long time ago,” “I just don’t see her as transphobic”).
I think this second track resonates in part because most voices in the mainstream (EG, privileged voices) have fucked up, often badly and publicly. It is a mark of their privilege that these failures do not mean the end of their public careers, but instead often bolster them. It is a mark also of my privilege that I have the option to consider her collusion in this text as secondary to the positive work she did. I want to resist the impulse to disregard her transphobia, I want to examine how a woman who loved women, who was Jewish and anti-Zionist, anti-prison industrial complex, anti-militarism, who was thoughtful and deliberate about her own whiteness … a woman who was all these things could still harbor transphobia, and how this fact could be largely covered up or considered unimportant for much of her life. Less discussed, too, are the criticisms of many women of color to Rich’s discussions and formulations of whiteness and her “anti-racist” designation.
I am a slow processor. It will take me time to integrate information about Rich’s transphobia. Right now, my heart still hurts at her death, because I have that luxury and privilege to remember the parts of poems that felt like they were for me, felt like she understood me, because, as a queer, white, female-designated-at-birth person, she was probably speaking to me fairly often. There is a lot in her poetry that feels expansive to me, and attempts to integrate the idea, again, that those moments that seemed so open were in fact not is difficult. I’m actually going to quote Rich (“Blood, Bread and Poetry” 1986) here, because I think she says it perfectly, thought perhaps that is a great irony.For many marginalized people, every text is like looking in the mirror and seeing nothing, every text a reaffirmation of their bodies as contested ground. So for a woman, a poet, an essayist to understand this and still miss the point… the disequilibrium is astounding.
When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.
For right now, I’m going to pause the Adrienne Rich stuff in the queue. I hope other people will share their thoughts on this. Are there possibilities for rehabilitation and re-claiming of Rich’s work, or the work of other racist/sexist/transphobic people? Is that the wrong project altogether, and does it mean instead that we must continue to look for way to invest in alternative representations (the Arkh project comes to mind)? What do you do with the knowledge that someone whose thoughts nurtured you oppressed others?
I’d like to open up this discussion here, too. I did not know this about Adrienne Rich and it saddens me enormously that this is the case.
Wonderful post from VP.
Rape expands beyond men raping women, but this message needs to be spoken over and over again.
It does - and I’m super-aware of this - but the vast, vast majority of rapes are men raping women. I get kind of miffed at women-only survivor centres, because there were times when I needed support that I couldn’t find, but the focus on men raping women is fully 100% understandable.
This needs to be said at every orientation week, every welcome-back assembly in high school, occasionally on the street corner…