So I’ve got a book cookin in the back of my mind. Y’all probably guessed that.
The working title of the book is Reclaiming Venus: Defining Sexual Empowerment in a Sexist Culture. I want to examine the sexual arc of a woman’s life, from the time she’s about 15 (the age at which our pop princesses are handed their first stripper pole) until she’s about 50 (the age at which most women are nearing menopause).
Because culturally, we define the female body, and the feminine life, through sex—but not her vision of sex, or of her body, or of her life as influenced by sex and her body. Here is the sexual arc of a woman’s life, as seen through the cultural lens:
- When she is young and beautiful, a woman is a sex object. Increasingly, she is being viewed as a sex object that can and should receive violence as well as sperm.
- When a woman has been impregnated, we see that pregnancy as a byproduct of her body, not a byproduct of sex. Because a woman’s body is an incubator, we center all discussion about pregnancy and childbirth on a woman’s body, ignoring the fact that her body cannot create a child without sperm.
- After she gives birth, we expect a woman to be not just a mom, but a supermom. In addition, we expect her to get right back on the bandwagon of hotness, or to get out of the way and resign herself to a fate of non-hot momness.
- When a woman’s body is no longer capable of producing children, we expect her to step down from the bandwagon of hotness without too much fuss. And to accept that her lack of hotness lends to her a special kind of irrelevance. (When in fact, her age lends to her a great deal of relevance—and beauty.)
Smack in the middle of the phase in her life during which a woman is to be an incarnation of hotness (or suffer the consequences), a woman must contend with the biological fact that her body was made to house and feed a child. There’s no being a female without making peace with this fact—your body reminds you of it every month.
And what if you don’t want a child? Is that okay?
Well, technically it is.
But there has always been a cultural judgment of the childless woman, whether she is childless by choice, accident, or choice after an accident. And that judgment is getting louder.
In recent months, a series of bills (some of them making it into law) have been introduced in state legislatures. Among them are the following:
- This week in Virginia, Governor Bob Mcdonnell signed into a law a bill requiring a woman to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before having an abortion. The proponents of the law claim that women have the right to “informed consent,” as if she wouldn’t already know what was inside her, or how she might feel about it. This law, and the ones like it in seven other states, should be renamed the Law of Patronizing Bullshit, or perhaps The Law Assuming That Mother Instinct Will Kick In, Obliterating All Other Concerns, Like Real Motherhood.
- The Arizona senate just passed a bill allowing doctors to not inform women of prenatal issues. The aim of this bill is to prevent abortions; among its many possible consequences are damage to the mother and the fetus.
- In state after state, we have seen “personhood” bills introduced that would define life at the beginning of conception.
And there is more. Much more.
So—is the world we are handing our daughters one in which we expect them to be half-naked until they are impregnated, again and again and again, à la Michelle Duggar? (Who has made the choice, her very own self, to have 19 children.) And are we to consign our daughters to this fate in the name of God, as the ideologues who propose these bills are doing so with a religious agenda?
Hell to the no.
Let us not quake in our stiletto-heeled boots and wring our dishtowels. Let us not stay glued to our iPhones in horror.
Let us, instead, identify the people who have introduced these bills (or laws) in each state. And let us campaign against them. Let us push to have the unconstitutional laws brought before the Supreme Court and overturned.
I have no intentions of watching my daughter’s generation become wide-eyed vessels of sperm and disdain, unable to claim the self-agency and power that is every woman’s—every person’s—birthright.