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September 10, 2020

Dear Patriarchy: I Refuse to Play your Games Anymore.


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Dear Patriarchy,

Now I understand that you were there in the men’s restroom at the playground.

I know you heard my screams. I was only 10 years old. You convinced me I was to blame for the gender-based violence perpetrated against me.

After you provided the violent act, and after the school counselor told my mom that mental health care was unnecessary because I was probably fine, I kept myself shackled with shame. I thought it was all my fault.

It’s a brilliant system you’ve created for yourself.

You were there the next summer when I passed up snacks between meals and attempted to eat smaller portions on my plate until my mom commented on how thin I was looking. I was 11; I was growing.

I swam with the swim team every morning. But you convinced me that being thin and hungry was a virtue.

I was so proud that I got skinny enough to cause my mom concern.


I was so busy denying myself nourishment that I didn’t have the wherewithal to recognize you. I was too preoccupied with comparing my body to the body of other girls and women in an attempt at some form of worthiness. I didn’t realize they have always been my sisters.

I’ve always seen you in abortion laws. It’s easy to see you there. That’s your goal, after all—to control reproduction by controlling our bodies. Sexual violence and body shaming are the perfect tools in your endeavor.

But I didn’t see you in maternal care. Not at first. But when I laid on the exam table and the nurse-midwife put the doppler on my belly without telling me, without asking me, and without giving me the opportunity to decline or consent, I saw you. You were there, exactly like you were in the men’s restroom. I could even hear my screams.

You want me to believe my body is public property. You’ve already convinced the medical staff of that. But you got greedy. When you showed your face and the nurse-midwife helped herself to my body the same way that man helped himself to my body—well, I decided I’m not participating in your games anymore.

I’m not a kid anymore.

I refused to birth my daughter with you in the room. So I stayed home and birthed her exactly where she was conceived.

It might have been the first time in my life you weren’t lurking about.

When I embraced and trusted my body’s ability to grow and birth life, I realized why you long to take control of it. I have never felt so powerful or divine.

Women who know their power and divinity create good trouble for you, Patriarchy. I may not be able to make you crumble all by myself, but I’m destroying the parts of you that live in me.

Sincerely, Freda

P.S. Tomorrow, there’ll be more of us.


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