Happy Birthday, Mom

The women I know today are drifting above their bodies, watching the men of power tightening the shackles around their waists.

Today, the United States congress has spoken.  It did not just vote for Kavanaugh.  No, it ruled that women’s bodies are not their own.  Today, congress voted that women are subhuman.  Today, congress stole our bodies as we floated above ourselves, watching the men drown us, listening to their deafening laughter.

Those who say they are against regulation are by no means truly against it.  They want to regulate women like clockwork.  They want to bind our wrists together behind our backs and pin us to the ground.  They want to set us up in shop windows like mannequins, they want to steal our voices and our wombs and our free will.  And so together, the women of the United States float above our bodies, where we are free to weep, free to scream, free to move, free from men’s fear that eventually, we will rise above them and treat them like they treat us now, because the only form of power they know is oppression.

If men did not fear women, none of this would be happening.  If women were as useless as we are told, if our capabilities were a laughing matter, men would not be so afraid.  They would not have to tie us down to keep their power.  They would allow us to run free, to inhabit fearlessly every inch of our own bodies, because we would pose no threat to them.

If women were truly lesser than men, men would not have to oppress us to keep their power.

My message to my fellow women today is this: There are a great many of us that will outlive Kavanaugh, that will outlive Trump, and that will spend our whole lives fighting for an inch of equality.  My heart goes out to the women who fought before us and did not live to see us vote, attend college, or wear shorts.  And I want to thank the women who picked up the slack long before I was born, and who continue to fight alongside us, not so much for themselves anymore, but for the young women, the little girls, the generations yet to come.

And specifically, I would like to thank my mom.  Today is her birthday, and Kavanaugh’s confirmation is really some birthday gift.

When I was young, my mother was my Girl Scout leader.  She taught me how to hold my head high, she taught me to radiate confidence, and how to scare all the misogynist men with one sidelong look.  She taught me that I am Medusa, with a head full of snakes, and when I said I wanted to be a princess, she gave me a pretty dress and some sovereign power.  I grew up with a quick tongue and a smart mouth, and whenever I wasn’t speaking, I put my hands on my hips like my mother always did.  I wore the swimsuits I wanted, the shorts I wanted.  I grew up wearing whatever I felt like that day, short or long, crew neck or scoop, and my mother stepped in only to color coordinate.  I never thought anything of it back then, but now I am grateful.  My mother let me live every day of my childhood in my own body.  Even on the days she floated above hers, fighting for its custody, fighting to feel the thrum of her own heartbeat and the fire in her veins, my mother made damn sure I fearlessly occupied mine.  She took the world by force for me, holding back every last message it spat at women in disgust, trying to tell us that our bodies were not our own, that we were not really human, and stowed them away within herself as she sunk deeper and her spirit circled above, hoping that I would never know what it was to exist outside of yourself.

Well, Mom, now I know.  I know the weight you carried to protect me.  I got the first whiff of it when my cousin was born five years ago with fire-red hair and the stubbornness of a mule.  I felt my heart sink for the first time when I explained to her one summer evening by the swing set in the backyard that she didn’t have to choose, that she could become a mom and an astronaut at the same time.  I felt it as all of us women in the room quieted down about the election as she stumbled downstairs from her nap, flaunting bedhead hair and bright rainbow leggings.  Because when she looked in the mirror, we wanted every last fly-away in her hair, every crooked curl, to belong solely to her.

And all I can hope is that she never feels the downward pull that women everywhere must endure, that she never has to explain to a man how feminism can benefit men too, and that she, and she alone, will control her body.

I do not believe, by any stretch, that it will happen, as I’m sure you never once believed that I would get through high school without learning what it feels like when your heart drops into your stomach.

But nevertheless, you persisted.  And you inspired me to do the same.

Happy birthday, mom.  Thank you.

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