not Womyn: Womb-one

It’s a bit ironic that MichFest was the first large national event/organization to use the spelling of “women” as “womyn”. This was not done just to be clever, edgy or rebellious–spelling the word differently just to be different. The “e” was changed to a “y” to remove the word “men” from within the word referring to female humans. We didn’t want “men” involved–even in our name. Perhaps that’s one point: MichFest has ALREADY changed its name (long before the Trans controversy) to mean something other than “regular woman”. So Fest could be construed to not be implying that Trans aren’t women–just that they are not womyn.
Personally, I think that instead of WBW we should begin spelling womyn as womban/womben–pointing out the major significant difference between the sexes. We can get pregnant. That fact has shaped my existence in a male-dominated system from my earliest experiences–not just “femininity” or my resistance to it, and not just rape, but also the potential consequences of the rape I have suffered. I understand that “womyn” was chosen over “womban” or “womb-one” because in the 70s we were fighting to NOT be reduced to just our wombs. By choice, I have never given birth nor do I ever expect to use my womb–but the fact that I have one has shaped my experiences in both negative and positive ways. Being a carrier of a womb is a particular way to be human that transcends gender. It is an aspect of embodied sexuality that can’t be reduced or reproduced by reassignment or performance.
It also clarifies questions of genuine intersexed individuals. The question would be, “did you grow up believing you had a womb?” And living among the class of individuals who believe they had a womb (whether this turns out to be false or not) even if this womb is later removed or lost due to health or injury (as opposed to rejecting yourself as a member of the class of humans who carry wombs) would be the relevant issue. Not “womb checks” but the expectation that we would be honored for our unique experiences and given the dignity to meet together with others who have shared those experiences as womb bearers.
But, as womb bearers are the most denigrated humans on the planet, I don’t see much hope of ever being given this respect by those who grew up to either (a) believe they were/are inherently better than anyone born with a womb; or (b) hating being in the denigrated class of wombed individuals so much they choose to have themselves surgically removed from that class.
But, perhaps, it is time that WE step up and give ourselves the honor we deserve for carrying the responsibility of bringing new humans into the world or carrying the responsibility of choosing NOT to bear new human life. Either choice is made in a human heart, with a complex balancing of ethical ramifications. Just being female, we carry that huge responsibility: to bear new life or NOT to bear new life.  Perhaps it’s time we respected ourselves for it.

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You Know there’s a Jerk that Pushed Her

Sonia Johnson once said that the most radical thing we can do is to LOVE ALL WOMEN. We don’t have to like each other, or let anyone hurt us, but if we want to live in a better world, a place to start is to learn to LOVE ALL WOMEN. By that, I think, she means to come from a place of basic compassion and expectation of good will.

An analogy I’ve come up with is that if you are on a crowded bus and someone suddenly lurches into you and steps on your toe, you might be angry at them. Your toe hurts and their actions caused it to hurt, and you’re not having the best of days, so you might lash out at them. You want them to take responsibility for the pain they caused you. But what if you had seen that someone shoved them into you? What if, instead of the person who stepped on your toe willfully abusing you, you saw that they were rudely shoved into you by someone else? Who would you be mad at now the person on your toe or the jerk who shoved them?

In my view, patriarchy is that jerk shoving all of us into each other, especially all women. When a woman, in her pain from all the shoves she’s received in her life, lashes out at me, I don’t get mad at her I GET MAD AT PATRIARCHY. Patriarchy makes us ALL hurt, in pain, angry. Sometimes we even think we are angry at each other. Sometimes you even find yourself angry at me. And I do stumble. We all do. We let each other down and that hurts the most because we expect better from each other. We open up and trust each other the way we’d never trust some jerk on the bus. But when we fail each other–when I fail you–it’s never just we who fail. Always remember there’s a jerk behind us pushing us around. Always remember that we were pushed. Patriarchy is always there, inside each of us, pushing us to hate ourselves and each other.

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Another analogy. Bulls don’t naturally fight in bull rings. Picadors repeatedly stab them with swords to goad them into fighting with the matadors. This bull refused to fight, even though his back is bloody from the many painful swords still hanging from it. When the matador realized the bull was refusing to fight him, it changed the matador’s life. This picture was taken as the matador was experiencing this profound transformation. Look at the compassion in the bull’s face. That former matador now fights to end the practice of bull fighting.

And so, I pledge to you, my sisters, that even when you cause me pain, I will try to see through your actions to the real cause of both our pain: patriarchy. Even though it’s going to hurt like heck. I know you will hurt me. And I may often fail, but I will try to remember those thousands of wounds patriarchy causes each of us, each day, and to get mad at PATRIARCHY not you. I might say, “ouch! you’re on my toe,” but I will try hard not to express that as anger at you or, if I can help it, to add to the wounding you already carry. I will try to help each of us see that you were shoved into me, even if neither of us can see the jerk who did it. You did not cause me pain.

And I will fight for all women–women in this group and women not in this group–because no matter what the picadors or matadors of this world want me to feel, I choose to feel compassion for ALL WOMEN. Starting with myself. I will try to forgive myself for the pain I’m in, and through the haze of that pain, I will do my best to ask, “can I help you?” Because I know there are swords in your back, too.

So I say to you:
I WILL NOT FIGHT YOU.

I Will fight FOR you.

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