June 24, 2022

By Caroline Hesby, TIWP Student

yesterday I had a conversation with a friend who’s trying to get birth control. I stood next to her in line at a counter-service restaurant, exchanging the side-effect horror stories that have passed by our ears, deciding between haunting hormonal changes or unwanted pregnancies, bearing the weight of choosing a doomed fate, just because we want to date, knowing he could f*ck a million women and walk weightless down the street. we sigh, share a disappointed laugh in the name of celibacy. they don’t even have to think about it, I say. a female frustration fills the space of the car, a simultaneous drop in the stomach, a surrendering of muscle, a blank, foggy stare.

today confirms what I feel as a teenage girl surrounded by the degrading, dehumanizing whispers of male peers: that I am woman, and I am seen firstly as woman; firstly as female; as uterus; as mother; as expected mother; as only a mother; something to bed; something to wed; a Saturday night; an option; as waist; as slut; as womb; as wife; as weak; as baby-carrier; as vessel; as a means to an end; as sinner; as less-than; as object to be kept pure, innocent, until useful; as machine–before I am just person

it’s a world where the tragic stories of millions of women are still swept under rugs, under male voices, under pressures and under lies; a world where birth trauma silently haunts mothers; a world where confident, capable women must give up dreams to fall to a future that was chosen for her; a world where sex-education is discouraged, and the same naive children are punished and ridiculed and unsupported once the consequences of the adults transpire.  

today a girl my age has her future ripped away from her: a future that dense layers, generations of women fought and died for; today a girl my age is looked in the eye and told that her autonomy is meaningless-has been deleted, was never hers, and never will be, that the hours she spent head down in her textbooks, head up in the hallway, blinking tears away from prejudice, from shame, from abuse, that the jobs she worked after school, that the times she was brave and the times she persevered, that the times she was told she could not but she did—have dissolved into dust at her feet, and all that remains is the outline of her body, the shadow of her abdomen, the mocking laugh of her oppressive fate.

yesterday I drove in silence with my friend to the sound of our favorite music and the noise of the busy streets. loudest was the silence after we detailed the laundry list of Nexplanon, IUD, birth control pill side-effects: gain 60 pounds, lose your hair, lose any speck of libido that hadn’t already been liquified by merciless men, lose sleep, lose self, lose and lose some more. a protective task that feels pointless, this pile of bricks sitting on a girl’s shoulders, the fear, the guilt, the pain, the pain. I didn’t want to break her heart more but when we locked eyes I knew she heard my defeated whisper that this battle would never be victorious for us. that men will roll over like sacks of potatoes, ugly and heavy, with empty words and careless hearts, cruel ignorance and betraying indifference–and we must tip-toe around sex like a field of nails, hoping not to be stabbed, flesh hesitating to relax amongst the blades, untrusting of trust; that in this two-part act we walk alone. 

today I understand that the battle was already over and our uteruses sat bleeding on a metal stake in the ground slathered with the handprints of measly old men. today I understand that when I stand in the eyes of males I am hunted: chased in a daze of hunger, chased with intent to be killed.

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