If you’ve ever been in an accident, you know about that moment pre-impact when your body naturally tenses up in response to the impending collision. That feeling, when everything is moving in slow motion, and your head is filled with alternative scenarios and “what have I done?” – THAT is the feeling within me that has slowly been building under pressure since the late hours of November 8th.
Today, the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, that same question is blasting repeatedly in my mind: “What have I done? What have WE done?” Last night, as I was lamenting my lack of participation in the Women’s March on Washington, my husband looked at me and said “Well, no worries. We voted. We tried.” It’s true. I voted. I voted for Hillary. What more could I have done? Where did we go wrong? And then the flood came…
I remembered being very young, sitting in the dressing room with my mother as she tried on dress after dress after dress. She was looking in the mirror, grabbing at bits of flesh, desperately trying to rearrange her post-partum body, half-heartedly “joking” (was it a joke?) that I was to blame for her stretch marks and her size 12 pants. She used words like “fat”, “ugly”, and “cellulite” over and over again. I’d thought she was beautiful. Was she not beautiful? Was I mistaken? Was I also fat and ugly?
I remembered my first interactions with bullies. A boy in 4th grade said I sounded like a boy. In the 7th, I was intentionally tripped during the mile-run in gym class because it took me too long. In 9th grade I was “too fat” for shorts and the line of sweat running down my back was pointed out in class after I’d raced to make it before the bell. The snickers in band class when someone whispered that the way my hair fell made me look like the head of a penis. Being dumped for another girl who would “look better naked while sprawled across the hood of a car.” Being called a “slut” for the first time.
I remembered my escape to college, where I’d hoped things would most certainly change for me. The sexual assault in my dorm room, being held face down on my college-issued dorm mattress, inhaling those who had slept soundly on it before me, silently paused for perhaps my one and only prayer, my roommate ignoring what was happening.
I remembered waking up in the middle of the night, next to my ex-boyfriend, who was trying to pull my panties down without waking me. Pretending to be asleep so I could see just how far he would go. Feeling the violation and realizing it was not going to end with just touching. “Waking up”. Being told I’d pulled them down myself. That same man later distributing a naked photo to his friends, MY friends, our mutual friends…strangers…for the purpose of shaming me. Only much later, being informed of the picture’s existence by an acquaintance.
I remembered, after giving birth to my son, and experiencing a very rare post-partum stroke, my life hanging by a thread, being asked if I’d “lost the weight”. Having to use the stroke as an explanation for why I still look like this.
I remembered that despite all of these things, I had managed to chug along. But most of all, I remembered not saying a word.
The harsh reality is, my plight is not unique. Many women have similar stories to share. It isn’t even unique to my race, sex or gender. But somehow, SOMEHOW, it’s over-looked and ignored. Those who commit such atrocities against us are glorified. In high school, they were popular. In the workplace, they are viewed as “go-getters”, “strong”…even presidential. I wanted desperately to believe that once the people heard about Trump’s disregard for women, the LGBTQ community and minorities, there would be some pause. On November 9th, I cried because again, I felt the burden of my biological form.
Throughout my life, I did not get to decide what happened to my body. Feeling good about myself was not an option. I was defined by my image.
When my husband told me I’d done what I could…that I’d tried because I voted, I became angry. Angry because I realized that by not saying anything, I’d contributed to the problem. I’d taken the blame, fully, and unequivocally. But nothing that happened was my fault, and the only person in control of my body is me.
Believe it or not, the collision has not yet come. We are losing our access to contraceptives, we are losing our reproductive rights, we are losing our right to breastfeed and the resources that are currently in place to protect it, we are still making less than our male counterparts, and there will be federal tax cuts to organizations focused on preventing violence against women. But we need not and should not simply brace for impact. The time for action is now. March! If you cannot march, donate! If you cannot donate, volunteer! If you cannot volunteer, share! And if you cannot share, at the very least, please listen.
And always remember, you are not alone.
One Nasty Woman