The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs. Joan Didion
Fuck this is a hard one. This means that if I want to feel good about myself, to respect who and what I am, I have to find the willingness to accept responsibility for my own life…it cannot be otherwise.
This also means that failure to find that willingness or refusal to accept responsibility for my life, results in me feeling horrible about myself and not being able to, or find, anything respectable about myself.
Seems like a tall order.
But Joan knew what she was talking about, most especially when it came to being female.
There are so many ways to not respect yourself as a woman. So many ways we accommodate, and allow others to take responsibility for our actions and lives. So many of us fall prey to the idea that someone else is responsible for us, a man, a job, our children, society. But in the final analysis, we have to find the willingness to see that our lives are ours, and what we do with them, how we spend our days, who we allow into our bodies, hearts and minds, how we proceed through the world, that is all on us.
This doesn’t mean that we aren’t derailed often. And all too frequently violently. It is happening now as the Supreme Court rolls back our sovereignty over our bodies. It is easy for us as women to see and feel that somehow our lives are not really up to us, because all too frequently, they aren’t. Men take things from us. Sometimes women do too. But mostly, it is men. This is not a condemnation of all men. There are many, many good men that want only to love us and spend their lives with us. Raise families with us. Partner with us to curate a shared existence that is better joined.
But this is not always the case. Less than 100 years ago, we women were chattle. We were possessed, controlled, owned even by men. This isn’t my opinion. This is fact. So we are only beginning to have this rare but amazing idea that men have entertained forever…that we are responsible for ourselves. Society has not always granted us that. And if we stood up for ourselves and claimed it anyway, there were often (and still are) dire consequences for us. Like death.
I agree with Joan though, she was right. It is in this willingness, and I would argue ability to accept responsibility for one’s life, one’s happiness, one’s actions, that is the wellspring of value and self respect. When that is taken from us, refused us, denied us, then how can we really ever have any respect? And it doesn’t end there…how can we ever respect the people who took it from us?
I am so fearful of what will happen to women as the Supreme Court decides our fate and destinies. I am horrified that nine people in black robes who are really just puppets of the left and right now. Gone are the intellectuals that were free to think and vote their conscience, their higher conscience that could and would defy politics. Our country is divided and even though I am pretty sure women make up the majority now, we are being carved up and served on platters to the patriarchy that still reigns supreme despite the date, the progress and the time.
I am angry. I am distraught. I remain hopefully delusional about what the supremes will really do to all of woman kind. This hits me hard right now. As I have a teenaged daughter who is starting life with ideas that will likely change her entire life. She will not have a right to choose what ultimately happens to her body. What will that do to her? How will this warp her development? How can I explain to her that she is in charge of her body when the supreme law of the land is taking that away from her? If she cannot prevent herself from being harmed in this world, why can’t she at the very least be able to take care of herself, her body?
How can we live in a world where any one can believe that I have the right to tell you what to do with your body? The living host for all of us. How can I ever be the decider of that for you? Why have we let mostly men in black robes, men of questionable ethics and schemes make decisions about body parts, motherhood, female sovereignty? How can any of this be happening?
I do not like this world. How can I look myself in the mirror anymore knowing that my host for life, is up for grabs. My decision to be a mother, pregnant or not, decided by someone other than myself. How can I ever have self respect when this most basic and fundamental right is being removed from women everywhere? How can something that was once decided to be a fundamental right, now be something else? Something less than fundamental? How? Why? Fuck, I am so upset.
Women will die again but I guess that doesn’t matter. The lengths we have gone and will go again to assure that we have and maintain this most fundamental agency over ourselves, this fountain of self respect? How can our willingness to shoulder the burdens and blessings of being female be so mistreated and thrown in our faces? How are we to find respect in any of this?
I didn’t mean for this post to be about abortion. It isn’t really ever about abortion. It has been misclassified as an abortion rights issue. It is not. It is a woman rights issue. It is about our ability to control our bodies. To have access to medical care so that we can lead healthy lives, to that if we decide to get or remain pregnant, we can be good mothers to the children (men and women future) and do our part to populate the planet with beings that are awake, compassionate and alive? How can we be expected to do that when we are being told that we do not have rights over our own bodies?
I am at a loss. I am desperately sad and clutching the self respect that I have worked so fucking hard to obtain, maintain and now buoy so that I have something to give my own daughter. I am despondent. I am defeated, but only for a moment. Because I will not go back in time to a place where woman were the property of men. Where they can beat us with sticks that were smaller than their thumb. I will not live in this world. I won’t, I can’t. I will not.
I am not sure what happens now. I guess we wait to see if what was leaked is accurate or just more political fodder to stoke our passions and feelings into a frenzied mess. It feels to me like that is all that politics is these days…liars all committing grievous acts all in some sort of misguided plot to win…win what? Humanity? I really see so little humanity in humans these days.
I do not know what I will do now. But I do know that I will not do it quietly. I will not go back to being property, to my life being under the supervision and direction of men. And yet, even as I say that, even as the words hit the screen, I know that this has always been the case. We have been and always are at the whim of men. Men who use their strength and power to keep us down, hurt us, rape us, kill us, and now make us have their children. It makes me feel crazy. It makes me fearful and angry. So very, very, very angry. But, I know that anger unattended only hurts me. So I will be deliberate in my anger. I will be intentional. I will be thoughtful and I will curate a future for that anger, a rising up that will surely cause something new to happen. Self respect cannot be taken when I wholeheartedly accept with wild female abandon that this life, my life is 100% mine. And no one, not men in black robes, or men who hide in the darkness waiting to pounce, and not men who walk beside me and say all the right things while subversively cutting me down, not any one of them will ever stop me from believing that I have the fundamental and inalienable right to decide who and what enters my body, and what is ever allowed to grow there.