Not Just a Body, Not Yours To Take

“This is my body and you cannot have it. It is not yours to touch, to hold, to take from; it is not yours to do with as you please. I am no object.”

These words are a sentiment seared into my heart; it screams them as it pumps blood to my body, and often I wonder if the men around me can hear it beating out each word, a battle cry and a howl of sorrow. I am not theirs to take- never again.

I am more than a photograph of a girl’s body; I alone hold her female, feminine story. We have been to hell and back and we are here to share that truth, if only in fragmented pieces over much time.

My Body My Choice 1.jpg

My body and I, we are often at odds with one another in ways I cannot fully communicate to people who don’t live with embodied pain of past traumas unspoken, who don’t know what it’s like to hide away unspeakable secrets for years too many. I continue to carry that in my bones- it wasn’t mine to contain but I carry it. That pain flows through me and out of me like the blood I shed from the lining of my uterus. But then, we’re not supposed to talk about such things, right?

Pain and periods. Blood and birth, death and decaying inside out. What it is to be a woman who has seen and experienced things we don’t quite know how to make sense of… to be a human being who suffers and thinks about it. Period blood; scary, dirty, forbidden. I raise you Toxic Masculinity; the most hideous thing that has ever touched me.

I refuse to be scared away by fragile male egos who cringe at the word “period” while they wail about blue balls and the dangers of getting a girl pregnant- the violent men who shame women without birth control, the misogynists who expect transactional sex. These men who would never consider a vasectomy, or hormones that invalidate their masculinity; meanwhile, so many women are far too often trapped on hormones and painful contraceptive devices-whether to prevent pregnancy, or to control our painful bleeding, or to help us conform to societal “norms” of how women should appear, with large breasts (and nipples we must never show) and no body hair- and uteruses to be considered valid in a heteronormative, transphobic, and patriarchal society that oppresses anything that can be “othered”.

The implication that women have true choice in the matter over our reproductive healthcare is insulting; show me where the choice truly exists other than inside the shackles of abstinence. And for every vote of abstinence, I ask you how many men are also willing to hold themselves to the same standard practice of “abstinence”- and to define their criteria for the construct. If it’s a pull-out method and a heteronormative ideology of sex that puts more power to the penis, I’m not here for it. And for all the men who say that this is radical, that this is “not all men”, who claim to know and practice better- go out and be the difference. Prove it.

And there will always be a fear in me of the men who do simply just take- without consent- from female bodies when it pleases them, especially from women who are most vulnerable- because society continuously teaches men that they are allowed to do so. Our present laws and language fail to provide them with much other example. Rape culture is rampant, often in the most insidious forms. I do not feel safe; so many of us do not feel safe.

My Body My Choice BLOG

Being a virgin did not and has not kept many of us safe from rape, from assault, from abuse. Yet does the responsibility of contraception and abstinence continue to fall upon the shoulders of women, too? Must we tie our legs shut, cover ourselves in more layers of shame, hide away in our homes until it is time for us to be made whole by men?Or perhaps we initiate a radical sex strike instead, in a twisted effort to manipulate our oppressors, continuing to deny ourselves pleasure and freedom, all in the pursuit of basic safety and human rights that should have been safely granted to us long ago, without the threat of revocation? I ask, every day- will we EVER hold all men accountable and make it the STANDARD for men of the highest privilege to take responsibility for their actions, past and present? Will we insist upon a better, more equitable future where those with most power work to create and protect a reproductive healthcare system accessible to everyone?

This starts with the fight to ensure and protect basic human rights to bodily and spiritual autonomy, for all people with reproductive healthcare needs. In these times we must remember that our identities are made up of so much more than our hormones and genitals or whether or not we can reproduce- certainly there is more to womanhood, to personhood, than that. During Pride Month, more than EVER, let us not forget that key to our complex human identities.

When our female reproductive rights are weaponized and taken from us, and our bodies treated like objects to control and diminish, it’s hard to remember our worth unless we are fighting for every facet of our identities. With pride, and true allyship towards those in our community who need our support most, may we can continue to ground ourselves in our value- knowing that we deserve the right to choice and freedom.

I am more than a photograph of a woman’s body. This is my body; it will never be yours to take.

Morgan

Continuing Conversations Surrounding Sexual Assault Awareness

Every April, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month incites an all-too-necessary conversation about many topics surrounding sex, notably including the nature of sexual assault, abuse, and rape- and what obtaining and communicating consent might look like in a modern and more ethical society. This movement is not even yet two decades old.

Many of us who have survived sexual trauma are still pushing to create a more inclusive, expansive definition of consent that is enforced in both law and society- one which upholds the value and dignity of all human individuals and recognizes complex systems of oppression still at work today. I believe we have a long way to go before that definition is recognized in general society.

The conversation SAAPM  naturally instigates quickly becomes broader than that surrounding sexual assault alone; it’s a social justice issue through and through. Conversations about consent are about fair treatment and human rights: at its core, oppression and failure to obtain consent are forms of abuse by nature. Failing to obtain freely given, informed, enthusiastic, and sober consent before engaging in sexual intercourse is not only sexual assault, it is also sexual abuse- it is impossible to untangle the two. Intent does not affect impact.

I believe only when we begin to consider how “sexual assault” and consent exist in relation to oppression and, most specifically, abuse dynamics, can we start to facilitate truly meaningful conversations surrounding sexual assault and rape- among other forms of sexual abuse that are inexcusable in an ethical, just society. In such a society, everyone is treated with dignity, compassion, and fairness. 

Wear Teal

When we talk about equality or equity (terms not to be used interchangeably!) this is, I believe, what lies at the heart of the matter. The oppressor and the oppressed; the underlying abuse dynamics beneath action and inaction; the humanity or lack thereof. And so we must keep asking how such great abuse and oppression continue to pervade our “woke” modern society- because they do, if we are to believe survivors. We do not live in a world where everyone is given equal opportunity, equal say, equal safety. And not only is that unfair, it’s an inhuman injustice.  

Our society today is very scared of the words “oppression” and “abuse”. When we talk about them conceptually, each of us must almost inevitably hold a mirror up to our own individual behaviors- and we are likely to find some of them unappealing. No one is perfect, no one is an exemplary human all of the time. We are likely to wonder, at some point: “What I am the monster the “other” is screaming about?” That can’t be, can it? How could we live with ourselves? But I believe it’s so much more complicated than that. What if we just began these scary conversations starting with the most simple ways in which we hurt one another- and considered looking at “hurt” on a spectrum, first and foremost? What if we contextualized it all and put it into a sort of palatable human systems theory?  

Every year, I find myself ever more frustrated with the state of the world and wanting more from it. But in a world where we continue to grapple with basic concepts of boundaries, of consent before sex, of the humanity within every individual even as we all wrestle with “good” and “bad”, it’s awfully hard to have more productive conversations. I always find April and SAAM painful; I’m glad they are over. Incremental change is so important, but it’s hard to sit through. Here’s hoping that there are many sitting with me, hoping for a more compassionate process as time passes.

Love,

Morgan Michelle

 

HELPFUL LINKS:

https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history

https://www.nsvrc.org/get-involved

https://www.nsvrc.org/find-help

https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-online-hotline

Recognizing Trauma and Oppressed Voices Outside Our Intersections

For many of us striving to educate ourselves in social justice theories and branches of traumatology- especially those addressing and healing intergenerational trauma- Black History Month can exist as nothing other than the utmost call to action.

Something that grows increasingly apparent to me as a learner is this: we cannot continue to look at great injustices through our own narrow lenses; we must work widen the scopes of our lenses through doing our best to examine others’. I believe we may do this through practicing empathy and compassion, through active listening, and creating real conversation- discourse is often a core component of that.

When we acknowledge that something isn’t working, we can’t be complacent; and for those of us who wish to be agents of change in this world, we can’t allow ourselves to be complicit, either. I believe those of us who hold white privilege have a moral and social duty to insist better- of one another and of today’s society as a whole.

EDIT 1

Here’s one big way I believe those of us with white privilege must start doing better RIGHT NOW: we must not call Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) problematic when they raise their voices and call out injustices they experience. We must not assume we understand. We simply cannot diminish lived experiences which we do not know and cannot ever. This is not to subscribe to a theory of moral isolationism, but rather something more akin to radical empathy.

I wish as a society we can work collectively to move towards a more trauma-aware language, one in which we never refer to the most marginalized people themselves as “problematic”, and we may be careful when we call any human being “toxic”. It is my most sincere hope that we will strive instead to honor and uphold the dignity of every human individual, especially those who experience more oppression than us so often simply because of the color of their skin; that we may instead work to address people’s behaviors, actions, and language while not hiding behind our own white fragility and discomfort.

EDIT 2

I believe it’s important to recognize that many of us with white privilege won’t always be perfect allies, and we may falter greatly in our social responsibilities; that doesn’t mean we get to throw in the towel, give up, and walk away when we make mistakes (I know I have made plenty!). We were reared and continue to live among colonized communities that uphold and reinforce a white ideal, both explicitly and implicitly; we have all been deeply conditioned to reinforce this status quo. Let’s work on changing that.

If there’s one thing I can advocate most strongly for this Black History Month, it’s education. Truly, no matter where you are and where you come from, the color of your skin, your identity, or your ability, educate and re-educate yourself about how systemic oppression and trauma impact your life.

Learn about intergenerational trauma. Learn about social conditioning. Learn from people different from you in whatever capacity you can (the internet counts!). Check your privilege. Use your voice while still listening to those of others.

And learn to apologize, and to apologize meaningfully. 

This is post is my small effort to try and do my part as an ally, advocate, and a student who is always trying to do better- but for some far wiser and more illuminating individuals to learn from, here are some great smaller instagram accounts to start with. The majority are run by people of color; some are also simply my absolute favorite trauma-informed accounts on instagram that always strive to include culturally informed, intergenerational trauma theory in their posts.

.@traumaawarecare
.@traumanadco

Some of these accounts I have followed for months, while others I have only uncovered within this past week; I so look forward to engaging with their content.
There are so very many more incredible individuals to learn from in this internet space, and there will inevitably be people to learn from in your life off social media. May we find them and may they fill us up with their teachings.

Blessings,

Morgan

EDIT 3

During the Darkest Nights

Recently, I have found myself drawn back to the literary works of Victor Hugo. One passage from Les Miserables stood out to me particular, as 2018 came to an end:

“Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces.”

I cling to this passage, for I must keep believing that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear the people sing? 

dream within a dream forest

In 2018, I was overwhelmed by chorusing cries of injustice, of pain and suffering. My voice  added to the choir. As another year begins, I find myself overwhelmed by it all, and I find myself trying to find a new resolve to carry on in a world that often feels lost to darkness. I often find myself in tears, losing hope.

But Hugo says: “Those who do not weep, do not see.” And I believe there is a great deal of truth in this sentiment. I have learned that it is okay to be sad- to hold grief and sorrow close as we act witness to human suffering and suffer our own trials and tribulations in turn.

Yet still, Hugo also reminds: “Laughter is sunshine, it chases winter from the human face.” During the dark nights, I believe we must find some laughter, some joy, to sustain ourselves, whenever possible! And I find my laughter and joy in love: “To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.” Oh, how love fills me up! In my friendships, and most of all in my marriage. I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to love imperfectly.

morgan on new year 2018

This time of year is often a time during which I personally have to work my hardest to exercise holding space for dissonant and confusing thoughts- About life, about faith, about people, and about myself.

And so I’m trying. To make space, to remember “and”s over “but”s, to be patient with myself and with those I love, and to remember joy even as I’m sad. To be many things at once and accept what comes; to remember people can only learn when they are ready, myself included.

Happy New Year. May peace and goodwill find you, whoever may encounter these words.

Morgan

sunsight