women

To the Women…

The drive home from my aunt’s house last night was full of laughter, my grandma and her daughters recounting the time she and Pop-Pop horrified them, using a ripped blouse as inspiration for a pre-date prank.

“Sometimes the Devil just gets inside of you, and you have to go for it!” Sassy Maggie said.

We laughed until we cried, and I just felt so warm inside, the visceral kind that reaches your toes and your bones simultaneously.

I had been surrounded by such strong women all day, women who have survived lost love, lost children, divorces, economic hardship, and the day-in, day-out patriarchal bullshit I’m still putting up with today. And luckily, because we’re strong, we’ve surrounded ourselves with men who build us up; men that know that if they don’t, they’ll be kicked to the curb because we have each other–the women–to pick up the pieces.

Our society is divided by race, sex, and religion more than ever, but I don’t see that in my blended, matriarchal family. And though I’m so thankful for the men in my life (aka some of the strongest feminists I know), and my friends, and my love, and my puppies, and the general blessings of a white, middle-class (i.e. PRIVILEGED) American, I’m still the most thankful when I look around the kitchen in my Grandma’s house in the stark light of a November morning and see women of three different generations relating over and over again. About drugs. About music. About family. About sitting inside together on Black Friday in support of a young man in Ferguson instead of shopping for more shit we don’t need. About making today about someone else.*

It doesn’t matter if we were born in 1921 or 1950 or 1987. Because women are the strongest when we sit together over coffee, realizing that no matter how we differ, we are stronger and better together.

I am so thankful for the women who taught me to rise above the status quo, to strive to listen, to be better, to help, to support, to never let a man sit you down in a corner and tell you “No, you can’t do that.”

And it fills me with joy when I see my cousin teaching his daughter the same things, and letting me teach them to her, too, with 100 percent trust that I have her best interest–as a human, but most importantly, a woman–at heart.

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What women are you thankful for this year? I am proud of oh-so-many of us for breaking boundaries and building bridges this year!

 

* Well, I guess aside from this blog entry.

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If I Were

If I were a man, I could say things about how awfully overworked I am as an educator without getting labeled a “whiny princess.”

I wouldn’t have to put up with idiotic jokes about making sandwiches or “how crazy bitches are all the time, maaaaaan.”

I wouldn’t have to watch videos like this and look on, puzzled and infuriated, as these two privileged-ass men mock a perfectly capable woman for a perfectly valid (NOT STUPID) opinion.

I wouldn’t have to deal with being looked at like I’ve sprouted four extra heads when I say, no, I don’t want kids, and if I do end up with them, I don’t want them to come from my own womb.

I wouldn’t have to worry about where the exits are, what I can use for a weapon, what time it is, how much light is outside, where I can hide, where I can run.

I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’m acting cool enough to be an attractive mate, working hard enough to keep that mate, and/or losing myself enough to be a life-long mate.

I wouldn’t have to worry about if what I’m wearing is inappropriate simply because of the way my body has naturally shaped itself thanks to genetics, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being called a classless slut if my outfit didn’t end up making that acceptable cut.

I wouldn’t have to wonder if I’m getting equal pay, the best deal, screwed over, or rightful treatment simply due to my sex.

I wouldn’t have to kiss ass just because all of my superiors are men that either want me, hate me, or don’t know what to do with me.

I wouldn’t have to have a bigger, more menacing escort to take me places to look at items on Craigslist, a bar late at night, or even just to the garage to get my car fixed.

I wouldn’t have to hear that everything is my fault, that rape is preventable, that we’re all just asking for it.

I wouldn’t have to worry if the words coming out of my mouth are too brash or too honest, too filthy or too loud.

I wouldn’t have to worry if wanting, needing, and loving to be alone is a safe decision due to the ingrained violence against women in our society.

I wouldn’t have to deal with catcallers, entitled “nice guys,” or friends who aren’t really my friends since they always expect more one day.

I wouldn’t have to be labeled as irrational, emotional, weak, and unintelligent.

I wouldn’t have to wonder why a disgusting slang word for my vagina is commensurate to the slur for being a weak man, a lesser person.

I wouldn’t have to worry about my reproductive rights and health, and I wouldn’t have to worry about whether people would look down on me for having sex, or worse, enjoying it.

I wouldn’t have to worry if smiling at that elderly man in the grocery store today as a human courtesy was instead taken as an invitation.

I wouldn’t have to question my choices, identity, and appearance constantly, never quite free from critique, even if I choose not to listen.

I wouldn’t have to worry about backlash for writing something like this, for comments from readers telling me to “get over it,” “grow up,” or “stop overgeneralizing.”

If I were a man, I wouldn’t. I just wouldn’t.

Snow Day Stream

Here in the south, we’ve been blessed with yet another snow day. I’d be happy for the day off if we didn’t have to take the loss on the first day of spring break, a day I desperately need since my current lease is up at the end of March, and for the first time, I’ll be living 100% alone.

Not mostly alone because my roommates ducked out of the lease months early or were never home anyway. Not mostly alone because I was broke or single, and everyone else had money or a man to go out with. No, not this time. This time I will be completely, totally, absolutely alone.

And you know what? For the first time in a long time, that thought brings me a sense of balance and comfort. I used to fear I’d die alone by choking on a ham sandwich, but now I realize I could choke on a ham sandwich anywhere with anyone, so it might as well be in the comfort of my very own room. After all, as Virginia Woolf said, a woman needs a room of one’s own………. as I’m sure a multitude of lady bloggers have also said thousands of times by now. Still, it holds true; we need a place to call our own. I need a place to be my own.

I need a place to feel safe, to feel loved, and to feel in control. Even if that love and safety comes in the size of a furry li’l beast, or even if there’s no one there at all, it’s nice to know that I will have not just a house, but a home at the end of every day.

Over the years, I’ve had good living situations and bad ones. I’ve had utterly blissful homes and horribly distressing prisons I had to keep residing inside. I’ve had great roommates, bad ones, ones who tried to be bad, and ones who tried to be good, but I’ve never had just me, myself, and I to answer to.

Now, whatever way it goes — up, down, sideways, or to hell — all of it will be on me. The outcome will be because of my actions. It’ll be because I did or did not do something. I will no longer hold responsibility for other people’s actions or inactions. Whether I fly high or sink ship, all of it will be what I made happen alone.

And while that might be horrifying to some, it is absolutely freeing to me.

I can’t wait to move in with my new roommate.

xo

Copyright Rachel Noel