Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.

~ Rebecca Solnit

They told me I was too sensitive.

They told me I was weak.

They told me I was the original sin.

They told me I was too loud, too smart for my own good.

They told me I couldn’t because I was a girl.

They told me he could do whatever he wanted to do to my body.

They told me I had no recourse.

They told me I had no voice.

They told me to obey.

They told me to stay small.

They told me to stay home.

They told me no one would believe me.

They told me I was dirty.

They told me to be quiet.

They told me I did not have agency over my own body.

They told me I shouldn’t because I am a woman.

They told me I was a slut.

They told me boys will be boys.

They told me I was damaged goods.

They told me to shrink so I’d stay safe.

They told me it was all in my mind.

They told me men can’t help themselves.

They told me I didn’t matter.

They told me I had no purpose beyond serving a man.

They told me that’s just the way it is.

 

And I believed them.

I took all that was said and unsaid as fact.

I did not question it.

I was a woman and therefore, I was less than.

 

They told me the only way to earn respect, rights, and privileges was to become as much like a man as possible. And I believed them. I thought feminism meant I could be just like a man and therefore earn the respect, rights, and privileges that come along with being a man.

 

So I worked diligently to prove my rational intelligence, drive, and independence.

 

I left my 6 day old baby and went to my college classes.

I earned a 4.0 GPA as single, working mother.

I medicated my menstrual cycle.

I hated my body and punished it accordingly.

I denounced “women’s work” and refused to wash dishes or cook meals.

I bought a house to prove I didn’t need a man to provide for me.

I earned a Ph.D. so they would take me seriously.

I got a job working for a highly respected man in my field.

 

I ignored the wise inner whisper and followed orders from the deafening patriarchal voice.

 

And I felt feminism had sold me a lie. I had worked so hard to embody masculine traits. I was accomplished and successful by all masculine standards. Where was my promised happiness? Why did I feel so empty and unfulfilled?

 

I decided to give the wise inner whisper a chance. I started to follow her lead. I began to spend time in spaces she craved, to read books she felt drawn toward. I started to question everything I had previously accepted as “the way it is.” I began to understand the connection between being born a girl in this society and feeling innately flawed.

 

My eyes were open. I saw through all the lies I had been fed. I wept for all the ways I had disowned myself, my feminine nature. I let myself come home to the truth, to feel it deep in my bones, that I was equal and I did matter. That I didn’t have to perform anymore. I didn’t have to try to be like a man. I could be a woman and be enough, more than enough. I understood feminism to mean that I deserve equal respect, rights, and privileges as I am – to be honored as a woman in her own right.

 

I rediscovered my voice.

I reclaimed my body.

I honored my cycles.

I proclaimed my worth.

 

I am here and I matter.