Portrait of a Real-Life Feminist.

For some reason, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately (cue panic). As I’ve been meeting what feels like the entire world population, I’ve had to answer the following series of questions several times.

 

So, you’re a student? What are you studying?

Feminist theology? Really? At a seminary? I didn’t even know that existed!

You’re a feminist then? Oh. You don’t look like a feminist.

*facepalm*

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, though. I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that, despite my strong commitment to and activism for women’s rights, people are so surprised that I, of all people, am so persuaded.

And then I had a “well, duh” moment.

People are so surprised because feminists, like any other socio-political group, are better known as a caricature than as real people.

A cursory Google images or iStockPhoto search will return a shocking amount of photos of female dominance over men, overly hairy (we’re talking wookie status) women lighting bras on fire, and other similar, unrealistic photos.

And, while many of the people in my life are committed feminists, I had to wonder if this is what those who do not identify this way imagine when they think of us.

So I decided to prove them wrong.

 

This is a portrait of a real-life feminist, namely, me.

I am a feminist, and I am married. To a man. I even took his name.

I am a feminist, and I enjoy quilting.

I am a feminist, and I wear skirts. And dresses. And makeup.

I am a feminist, and I have a Pinterest account.

I am a feminist, and I struggle with accepting my body.

I am a feminist, and I shave.

I am a feminist, and I wear bras.

I am a feminist, and I feel safer when I’m with my husband.

I am a feminist, and I want kids.

I am a feminist, and I earn less than my husband.

I am a feminist, and I think men are pretty great. Usually.

I am a feminist, and I am religious.

I am a feminist, and I am in seminary.

I am a feminist, and I love it when my husband brings me flowers.

I am a feminist, and I have a hard time being confident.

I am a feminist, and I have far more male friends than female friends.

I am a feminist, and I was given away at my wedding.

I am a feminist, and I really, really love being female.

I am a feminist, and I am not a caricature.

 

I am a feminist, and I believe that, whoever you are, you deserve the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else.

Why I DON’T Use Birth Control: A Response to Rachel Held Evans and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

I’m sure, by this point, you’ve all heard about the absolute cluster that was the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case (or, in our household, that which is referred to as “The time when five middle-aged, rich, Catholic men decided that companies are people but women aren’t.”) In case you haven’t, this should sufficiently enrage you.

Today, Rachel Held Evans posted a response, including statements from eleven women who explained why it is they use birth control. This was an excellent response to a very complicated issue. I’ve long admired (read: envied) Rachel’s ability to navigate controversial topics with respect and grace, while still bringing a much-needed critical eye.

I really appreciated this. The reasons these women shared were varied, and really helped to show that being sexually active and being on birth control are not interchangeable, though they often do correlate.

I, however, found one voice not represented: that of women who are, by choice, not on birth control.

I am one of them.

And I think my voice counts, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much pro-birth control, pro-family planning, and pro-women’s health. I used to be on birth control. I was a Planned Parenthood client.

I wasn’t on it because of health issues, and I wasn’t on it because I wanted to be able to sleep with anyone on a whim without the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.* I was a newly married woman and a college student, and my husband and I neither wanted to have children at the time, nor were we, in any sense, ready.

Last winter, I stopped taking my birth control. Not because we were trying to have kids. Not because it was too expensive (I’m lucky to live in a state that covers family planning services, including birth control, for low-income women).

I stopped taking it because I didn’t want to take it anymore.

I have an anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, and a bunch of other mental health challenges. I am on, between prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal supplements, and homeopathic remedies, roughly twenty different medicinal treatments.

Being on birth control, however, seemed to counteract much of the effort put into managing my mental health challenges. I was moody, grumpy, and tired, I gained weight, I had headaches, and my periods were, at best, unpredictable.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety et. al. in February 2013, I started to pay more attention to what I put into my body. Body chemistry affects brain chemistry, and therefore a body unbalanced begets a brain unbalanced–and more susceptible to attacks.

Putting extra hormones into my body seemed like an unnecessary risk.

But more than all of that, I just didn’t want it. I was plain old tired of taking it.

So I stopped.

That was nearly a year ago. Thus far, I have managed to not get pregnant, but who knows what will happen.

Some of my fellow feminists may call this irresponsible. They may tell me that I’m experiencing internalized sexism. They may tell me to embrace my sexuality, that my body is glorious and that I should realize that.

And, while some of that is true, whether or not I take birth control doesn’t change any of it.

Just like being on birth control doesn’t change whether or not a woman is sexually active.

I am grateful for the women (and men) who have encouraged me, helped me, called me out, and liberated me. I am grateful that I live in a time and place in which I can easily get birth control legally, inexpensively, and safely (even though my current insurance does not cover it). I am grateful that we, as feminists, are calling out injustice, sexism, and prejudice.

But I feel like I’m being pressured into a decision all the same. Because I’m a feminist, I ought to be on birth control.

So, to everyone, to those who think birth control is a right and to those who think it’s a sin, here’s a reminder:

My body, my choice. 

 

*Not that there’s anything wrong with this. I’m just deconstructing a caricature. Get some. Or don’t. Your body, your choice.

A Cosmic Mother’s Day

Life begins with birth.

At the beginning, She strains against the pain,
Each burst a star exploding into existence.
She screams and the heavens are formed.
Each breath She breathes creates a new world.

This creation She carried for so very long,
This piece of Her, this being that bears Her features,
Pregnantly waited within Her,
A swirling maelstrom anxiously expecting existence.

And, in a moment, it is born.
She breathes deeply in relief,
Sending Her spirit forward
To protect and nurture this new life.

As She gazes into the eyes of Her newborn child,
She smiles and laughs with joy,
The former agony instantly forgotten,
And She declares,

It is good.