Somewhere, there is a young woman who had sex as a teenager, and more sex in college.
She may have been in love, or not. A couple of the times she had sex, she may have even been drunk, and while many of her experiences were beautiful and transcendent, some of them weren’t even close. People have called her a slut behind her back and to her face.
The young woman looks them in the eye and doesn’t apologize.
“I enjoy sex,” she tells them, “I have no regrets, and I am in charge of my own sexuality, which is a private matter between me and my partners.”
Alone, she continues to have more sex, which feels a lot better when she doesn’t have to conform to society’s expectations or worry about labels.
In another place, is a woman who is being told she is too fat. She takes up too much space. People call her lazy, tell her she needs to lose weight, try to make her feel like she isn’t pretty.
She quickly lets them know that there are many kinds of beauty, and that she has the exact body that she needs right now in this moment to fulfill her current life’s purpose.
Alone, she doesn’t starve herself or weep over magazine images of slender models. She buys herself a sexy new top, nourishes her body with the foods she thinks are best for her, goes on plenty of fun dates, and generally goes on with her bad self.
A different woman is told that she cannot love another woman. She lets the haters know that she can love whomever she pleases. End of conversation.
Alone, she smiles when she thinks about her girlfriend and waits for her to get home.
Somewhere, there is a woman who doesn’t have any children. People ask her all the time when she plans on starting a family. They remind her of her biological clock, tell her she better find a partner and get on it. Start reproducing. The woman doesn’t force a smile, or exercise restraint with tears welling in her eyes.
She tells the person to mind their own damn business and stop asking such rude, personal questions. Or she chooses to tell her truth, whatever that may be, without shame or hesitation, or fear of judgment: My partner and I are currently struggling with infertility, I’m not ready to have kids yet, or I don’t want to have any children, now or ever.
Alone, she enjoys an uninterrupted cup of coffee in her orderly house where she never has to worry about cleaning up poop or stepping on a Lego. Later, she books herself a spontaneous flight to Europe. Because she can. She has no regrets.
Somewhere else there is another woman with six children. Everywhere she goes, people make comments about how many children she has and how she must have her hands full, how they don’t know how she does it. On and on. Some people even ask her how she and her husband afford all those kids, and if she’s going to have more.
And the woman completely ignores them because she’s too busy enjoying taking care of six children to worry about other people’s opinions on the size of her family.
Alone, she…who are we kidding here? A woman with six kids is never alone.
Another woman is in her 40s, and she has one child. People question her choice not to give her child siblings, not even stopping to consider if it was a choice or just how things worked out.
“I’m so incredibly happy with my one child,” the woman says, and then she completely forgets about other people’s comments because she’s thrilled with her life this way, whether she chose these circumstances or not, and she is taking her one child and going to a museum and then seeing a movie they’ve both been excited about for months.
Alone, she thinks about how much fun she had with her child and the judgment of others never even enters her mind.
Somewhere, there is a woman who writes her truth. People call her names and smear her all over the Internet.
Alone, she ignores them, keeps writing her truth, and never reads the comments. She knows you can’t please everyone, nor should you try.
Everywhere, there are women who don’t care what other people say. There are women who are confident non-conformists, who own their choices and the way they’ve reacted to the circumstances in their lives that weren’t choices at all. There are women who have learned through pain and mistakes, through trial and error, in school and on the streets, that they are the ones in control of their destinies.
Everywhere, there are women who have learned to take what other people say in stride and give them the benefit of the doubt, because sometimes well-meaning people are ignorant and have poor social skills. There are women who can hear a stupid remark or a dissenting opinion and move on rather than breaking down, because they know they have more important work to do.
All over are women who love themselves and their lives as is, even when people try to tell them not to. There are women who don’t hide in shame and cry because we don’t fit some arbitrary standard about how we’re supposed to look, who we need to love, how and when we need to start a family, or how many or few children we bear.
Everywhere, there are women who are strong enough to say:
“How I live my life is none of your damn business.”
Everywhere there are women who will stand up and say loudly and in public:
“Yes, I may not be perfect, but I own my story. I am not ashamed of who I am or the things that I’ve had to overcome.”
These women are every single one of us. Keep speaking up, keep being proud, and keep doing the important work of living and loving on your own terms.
*This essay is written in response to, is inspired by, and is intended to be another voice in support of the beautiful piece “Mind Your Own Womb” by Nadirah Angail, which I read on Facebook where it was not attributed to its original author. Please read the original on her website and show Nadirah Angail your support. She is an amazing writer.”
Author: Victoria Fedden
Image: Lauren Treece/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman