I participated in my first true act of patriotism on November 12, 2016. I marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, from MacArthur Park to the Federal Building. I marched with 8,000 other women and men. I attended the march on my own–I didn’t go with a group of friends, I didn’t meet anyone there, I didn’t bring my husband along. Months before I flew to DC for The Women’s March, I knew that this was something I needed to do on my own. It was and is a solemn exercise for me, a private act of public defiance.
I had never participated in anything like this before. The first election I voted in was 2008–and I voted for the winning party. I grew up middle class. I practiced a mainstream religion. I’m white, and I’m straight. There weren’t a whole lot of marches happening in Brandon, Florida while I was growing up…or at least none that I was ever aware of.
But there I was. 72 hours after election day, I hadn’t gone a full day without crying, and I was marching through DTLA. I donned my Purple, Yellow, and White sash my dear friend gifted me (straight from Susan B. Anthony’s house!) and silently paid homage to the women of the past who marched before me.
As we began to march, we began to chant.
Build bridges, not walls!
The people! United! Will never be defeated!
This is what democracy looks like!
Not my president!
Say it loud! Say it Clear! Immigrants are welcome here!
And then …
I heard the women around me chant “My Body! My Choice,” and without missing a beat, every single man around me yelled “Her Body! Her Choice!”
And I stopped.
I stopped marching.
I stopped chanting.
I stopped breathing.
My body now a delta, I sobbed.
(I need you to hear me. I am not about to go on about abortion rights. This is not that post or conversation. Please stay with me.)
In an instant, moments of male harassment flashed before my eyes. That time in Walmart when a stranger “accidentally” pushed himself against me when I was only 10 and I was too afraid to tell anyone. The time I saw my father stare at a woman as she walked by and then said to my brothers “look at that!” The time an ex-boyfriend told me that if I got fat he wouldn’t be able to love me. I remembered the time my mom wouldn’t stay in a hotel because the doors wouldn’t lock properly and the men in the lobby had looked at us leeringly. I remembered each friend who shared her rape story with me. Each friend to whom I gave mace. Each friend who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a relative. I remembered my mom teaching me not to leave my drink alone at a party before I had even had my first kiss. Before I knew what being in love was–I knew I needed to protect myself from men.
Her Body! Her Choice!
It doesn’t matter what your opinion on abortion is; this statement, yelled by men and in response to women proclaiming their own agency – this is huge.
There has never been another point in my life, where I have been surrounded by men, where I have felt not only safe–but RESPECTED and SUPPORTED.
I have lived 28 years. I have been a sex object for more than half of that time. I’ve heard dirty jokes about women and serious conversations about God’s purpose for my womb. But I have NEVER heard men–strangers–stand alongside of me and proudly proclaim that the use of my body should be entirely determined by me.
Her Body! Her Choice!
What should have been a moment of joy was again a moment of despair. Because I am not only a feminist. I am a Christian. And it took 28 years, 3,000 miles between me and my home, and Donald J. Trump to get elected before I felt this level of support and respect from men. A respect I should have felt first in church.
Her Body! Her Choice!
Dear Christian men (and women), you need to step it up.
I’m not asking that you support abortion–this is so much bigger than a single issue. It is not even about abortion. I am asking that you support the women in your life, and the agency they should feel over themselves. I am asking you to help create an environment at the church and at home that promotes respect and regard for women and their bodies.
Because your sexists jokes aren’t funny, and they are blasphemous from the pulpit. Your sideways glances and unwanted advances are not charming. The conviction you have over birth control should only personally influence your contraceptive decisions. And, when preaching about modesty to youth group – let’s remember that modesty aside, 91% of rape victims are women. The responsibility does not lie with women, the responsibility lies with the abuser. Wearing a turtleneck doesn’t save women from rape.
And furthermore – your silence on this is deafening and indefensible.
We need to hold boys, men, pastors, and leaders accountable for their actions. We need to teach and preach RESPECT for women and RESPECT for their bodies. My body, made in God’s image, created to create life, is not a pre-existing condition. I am not a womb to be filled, or a “help-mate” for a man.
We, as the church do not do a good job of reminding woman the authority they have over themselves and the place that they hold in God’s creation. However, we’ve become masters at trivial pursuits like reminding girls to wear a one piece to youth camp, and not to hold hand with boys. We’ve made an art out of vilifying teenage boys and objectifying teenage girls and disguised it as Holiness.
Growing up, I didn’t hear a lot about respect for women preached. But I did hear a lot about the crucifixion of Christ. It wasn’t until a friend of mine shared her rape story that it occurred to me that the Passion of the Christ speaks to women on a level most men can’t understand. Because- and let’s be honest here- the abuse, mutilation, and ravaging that Jesus faced on the cross, all done without his consent, – is something women know all too well.
Her Body! Her Choice!
This is how I’ve been connecting with Jesus lately. The stories of abuse, the long walks to my car at night, the blatant disregard for women in the AHCA, Jesus can understand this. Suffering, fear, and hopelessness – this is the Cross. And it is through the Cross that these things are transformed. I wasn’t planning on writing on this topic this week. I don’t like posting things I haven’t worked on for a while. This is raw, this is unfinished, this is all over the place. But I’m still working on that transformation part.