You wake up, make the bed. Wing your eyeliner and clean the kitchen before leaving for work. Eyebrows slightly raised in anticipatory defiance as you walk to the bus stop—they call it resting bitch face. You don’t call it anything. It’s just an old piece of armor, now invisible, even to you.
You move through the day with your emails to send, your essays to write, your plans to confirm or cancel, your friends to laugh with or to console. Or maybe the day moves through you, with its hurts for you to confront, authorities to appease or to challenge, headlines to internalize or ignore. And although the year may be sprinkled with escapades on glittery Friday nights, poignant sunset drives and serendipitous first dates—this day-to-day can get pretty tiring. Tiring and busy. If you’re walking around in a certain kind of body (a body that is not white, male, and abled) it can be pretty draining at times, too. So much so that sometimes, we have to pick and choose which emotions we want to feel and which we will have to ignore. And in this state which is so inundated with infuriating abuses of power and hollowing tragedies, I think that anger is often the first to go. Who has the time?
In other words—I am so used to this wearisome anger that I worry I have lost my ability to feel it acutely, and in the right moments.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned, I was asked how I felt about it a lot. As a young woman… It seemed like everyone wanted me to scream and yell or something, make a big show of my outrage. But I couldn’t. Sometimes I would lean into the anger a little bit just to end the conversation. My aunts, parents, my boss, politically correct men—somehow they all seemed more upset about it than me: the only one of the group who might need an abortion at some point in the future.
I guess it is hard to feel a sense of shock or outrage when I am deeply aware of the loss of bodily autonomy I have experienced, as a girl and a woman in the US, throughout my entire life.
There are the better moments, when my hair is soft and my boots are leather and I’m dancing around my sister’s kitchen, eating vegan curry with her roommates. I know I am free to move and laugh, and I know how beautiful I look, and I know the effect that it has.
But things are often not so good. Other times I am lying on the ground at the skatepark early in the morning, in the fog, before anyone’s there. With my hood pulled up around my face. Or I’m having a silent moment of horror because these jeans don’t fit me the way they did last year. Maybe I’m having sex with a lovely, respectful boy but crying for a reason I can’t seem to explain to him. And if I had to articulate a common thread between the seemingly irrational meltdowns, I guess that thread would be my having to exist in this female body. The hips, the cheekbones, the eyelashes, the thighs, the wrists, the stomach, the shoulder blades, the butt, the waist—I should be looking in the mirror and seeing the infinite beauty in all of that, in this powerful femininity—but it’s hard to get past seeing all the ways it has held me back, and brought me down, and made me afraid.
It is this huge heavy weight. Which is crazy. Because I know that I got out pretty lucky, as far as being a girl goes. But even with the privileges I possess, I am perpetually aware that as I walk around in this body I will always be holding, high above my head, an invisible invitation: Say something! Do something! Touch me! Scold me! Project your discomforts onto me! Take a picture of me! Validate me! Intimidate me! Make an example out of me! Free of charge! 🙂
So it is hard to feel shocked that Roe v. Wade was overturned, because I never felt much of a right to my body in this place. Maybe that comes from the first birth control pill I took freshman year of high school, which would alter my hormones for ever-after, all so I could have sex with a confused 16-year-old boy who watched too much porn, or maybe it started a long time before that, with the detentions I received at the age of 11 for having and showing “cleavage,” or maybe it started even before that, in third grade, when my two best friends and I decided to go on our first diet, to lose weight. At the age of seven. Maybe it even goes back to infancy, when my mother’s friends would meet me for the first time and guess whether or not I would be beautiful and, based on this, what kind of life I might lead.
I don’t know where the lack of autonomy starts. I just know that I can’t remember a time when I really had it. But that’s the thing about a heavy weight—it becomes familiar. At some point, it is no longer the foreign object you carry. It’s just the hand that used to carry it.
Roe v. Wade was overturned and I didn’t bat an eye—but The Washington Post did…my Instagram feed did. The mainstream left was all up in arms (haha, if compulsively reposting is our new armed resistance) for their standard 48 hours; liberal media outlets ran their obligatory ~unprecedented times~ cover stories; teenage girls and their moms dressed in green and were safely ushered down blocked-off city streets, cardboard signs in hand.
Then: we washed our hands of the tragedy. The edges dulled, if you had any to start with (I didn’t)—and life continued as it was. Only this time, without safe access to abortion.
What the fuuuuck…? The left co-opted our rage before we had two seconds to process it.
The problem with mainstream liberal resistance tactics (or one of them, at least) is that they are not sustainable. Anger is anticipated and quickly molded into catchphrases and petitions; negotiations are promised; a couple of dinner conversations become slightly awkward; maybe we pencil in a different bubble on our ballots a few months down the road. Our lives are our lives and a couple of months ago the supreme court did something really bad and I got upset about it. By which I mean, there isn’t a shred of congruence between the fleeting anger we felt and the half-hearted things we might have done about it and the rest of our existence. To protest, then, becomes a duty—a place we might go or a thing we might do to check a box rather than an extension of our life itself and the ways we create meaning within it.
For the right, overturning Roe v. Wade was always a project with ambitions far deeper and wider than banning abortion. It was about perpetuating the fungibility of the female body, dehumanizing women of color, stripping oppressed communities of their right to eroticism, to agency, to their futures, and to the futures of their children. The overturn was born out of a long winding road of oppressive tactics geared toward controlling the female body and our conception of what it means to be a woman. And likewise, our anarchist response must be rooted in a fight much bigger than reproductive rights. It must be rooted in reproductive justice.
The reproductive rights framework—almost entirely focused on pro-choice—alienates many women of color in its assumption that women do not face reproductive threats outside of anti-abortion laws. Kimala Price’s article “What is Reproductive Justice? How Women of Color are Redefining the Pro-Choice Paradigm” articulates the ways that women of color are at risk for a slew of reproductive threats that white women might never have to think about—such as the fact that their children will face the constant risk of death or injury by police brutality. Reproductive rights, or pro-choice politics, are comparable to gay marriage legislation and affirmative action: the left wants us to see these efforts as progress, small wins within a corrupt system. But what happens to our collective sense of agency when we ask for such small allowances from the state and choose to ignore deeper, more foundational issues in order to gain them?
We need a framework for sustainable, anarcha-feminist protest—protest that starts at the roots and sticks to the roots. I think that this kind of protest has to be grounded in our emotions, and I also think that our emotions must be expressed in the collective in order for them to move us where we need to be moved. For me, and maybe for you too, the first step will be to get in touch with my anger. I mentioned the jeans not fitting, the hormones getting fucked by Loestrin, the early-morning skatepark meltdowns and the frequently teary sexual encounters—tips of the iceberg, and I don’t list them here so that you will feel bad for me, or so that I can feel bad for myself about being a girl. I list them here because they help me remember my rage. And remember that it all comes from the same source. I fucking hate that source.
Maybe if I’m angry enough about the whole operation (ya know, the whole Amerika thing) then it will make it easier for us to be angry together. For some people, lack of access to abortion is the most pressing issue. For others it’s rape culture, or police brutality, or fatphobia, or domestic abuse—the list goes on. Our struggles against each of these issues are made stronger through our ability to forge connections between them, and through that process, between ourselves.
To remember this rage every day—that is not going to be easy. No one is going to pay us to do it. But rage and resistance are two sides of the same coin, as are resistance and love, love and purpose… Going out to “protest” shouldn’t feel like going out at all. It should feel like coming home. At home, you are allowed to feel everything that you feel. You are allowed to cry about those feelings or laugh about them or shout about them or write about them or organize about them. And as we embrace these feelings, as we react to them honestly, as we speak to each other about them and witness the uniqueness of each of our experiences, and then the overwhelming similarity—it is in these spaces that genuine protest evolves.
Fighting back against the Roe v. Wade reversal is so much deeper than an isolated response to a specific fuck up. Who wants Roe v. Wade, anyways? What is it—a decree signed by some Very Important Men saying I get to have an abortion? I could do without that. I want autonomous reproductive health collectives, anarchist women’s circles, access to DIY abortion information, education on my natural cycle, self-defense classes, male allies and male birth control options, healthy sex, a village to raise my future baby, and the respect that I deserve for existing every day in this body. I want to catcall attractive men as I walk down the street, let them know that whatever they think they can do to me, I can do to them. But I won’t. I won’t. I want us all to be better.
You come home, take off your shoes. Peel off your jacket and close the door. But instead of stepping into the living room and leaving the day firmly behind you, maybe pause there for a moment, with your hand still on the doorknob. Turn it slowly. Step back outside into the cold sun. Do you feel your feet on the dirty sidewalk? Do you see the crows on the power line? What’s for dinner? Your manager said something icky to you today. Maybe after you eat, your roommates will be in a snuggly mood, and you will all share a bottle of wine. Everything hurts, everything heals. Don’t check out just yet. This is it—your life. This is the whole thing. It is important that you do not forget it is yours.