There are so many useless wars being fought. While the world fails to debate the necessity of drones and dams, burqas and birth control are once again dominating public discourse. It seems that women's bodies are the oldest battle territory, being trampled on endlessly by men who believe boots on the ground are best way to fight the war against feminism.
Rush Limbaugh thinks all women who buy birth control are whores.
The Komen Foundation thinks it can support one part of female anatomy while neglecting the rest.
Lawmakers think a fetus I grow inside me has more "personhood" than the rest of me.
Slow-moving drivers on the road want me to know the skinny jeans under my kurti are whatever filth they utter as they pass.
Judges in courts want me to know I was probably asking for it.
The technician in the X ray lab wants to know if I am married, not pregnant.
Internet trolls everywhere say that if I protest, I must protest within the boundaries of male-defined modesty. Like a lady, not a slut.
So you have taken my health, my breasts, my not-pregnant period, the way I walk, the way I talk, how I move and what I say and I will regulate my behaviour so as not to shock your tiny mind, so as to safeguard your virtue. I will. I will because I can walk down the street wearing the tightest jeans or a shapeless bag and you will never understand it is all relative and you will never look away (or even smile). But you will curl your lip and smirk when I demand to know why I am different, because one should have balance in life yaar, one shouldn't be a feminist. I will let you believe you are inherently more reasonable, more practical, less flooded with hormones, more entitled to success and respect and the streets and justice and even God. I know this is your war, not mine, because mine is fought in my head and that-that is something you will never control.
And every day, I will thank god for every man who put down his arms (or who never took them up to begin with), for every woman who holds onto her thoughts and for every undefined binary-rejecting friend who ignores it altogether. Old conservative men are welcome to be an authority on menstruation, pregnancy, modesty and women's delicate emotions, they are welcome to their war, they are welcome to have us laugh at them, but their battlegrounds know this is another great game that will never be won.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The upside down card reader outside my dorm, its magnetic stripe unexpectedly running down the right and not left side. The beep-beep of my door when I hurriedly swiped backward when returning from the shower. My glittery turquoise flip flops, squelching and wet, kicked off into my closet to dry with my yellow bathrobe. The yellow bathrobe I lost when an inebriated girl stumbled into my room nude and needed to be covered up. The Swiffer, wet wipes, dusters, laundry freshener and disinfectant neatly lined in my closet so I could clean my life back into order every time I had a paper to write. Three thousand pages of readings, printed, colour-coordinated and labeled in my transparent plastic drawers. I dropped them in the recycling bin when I finished my thesis. They fell inside with a thud I felt in my stomach and I missed them immediately. The soft pile of my rug which I felt against my face when I laughed so hard I cried and cried so hard I laughed, when there was nothing to do but lie on the floor with my face against the blue. My friend’s obnoxious black boots, which I nudged away with my toe while lazing on the floor eating pizza with her, telling her to leave her shoes outside like a good Asian and laughing about how we weren’t the clean kind of Asians. The PVTA schedule in my drawer, memorized backwards and forwards (except for the weekend B43 route, with too many stops to keep track of). People on the PVTA. Judging people on the PVTA. That one definitely goes to Hampshire. She is barefoot, not dirty but kind of dusty looking, wearing a shapeless knee length cotton dress and a nose ring. I marvel at how tiny her bones are, how pretty her cheeks and how filthy the soles of her feet from cultivating calluses in preparation for winter. The Amherst guy looks like a stereotype. Popped collar and everything. My red Mount Holyoke sweatshirt, with its Pegasus and class pride that means nothing to anyone but us. My lack of class pride. I am yellow and red, I am orange, I would say, because I am a fake senior, but on convocation I wore only red, unwilling to explain. Feeling fake at J show on senior night and feeling like a double senior while I wrote my thesis and worked three jobs. Walking into my Tuesday job at Ortega House on a Monday night and getting a bright smile from the Latina who thought I was there because I felt at home and not because my body clock was off by 24 hours. Taking naps between classes and forgoing sleep at night because there were too many amazing conversations to be had right outside my door. Amazing conversations, amazing conversations. Saying hey, let’s Do Something and registering it as a whole organization over a pizza dinner. Conversations always meant something, except when they didn’t. Saying hi, how are you, what can I get you today, would you like that with soy milk, cream cheese on your bagel, should I slice that for you, can I get the little one an orange juice, do you want that in a bag, should I leave space for half and half, no we don’t take debit, we’re out of Oolong tea and sometimes meeting great people and sometimes not. Cutting my hair and coming in for my shift and having my coworker come very close and look me in the eye and say, you cut your hair, did you? And trying to explain I am actually straight, but I like short hair. Pulling the belt on my black sweater tight around my waist and my gay friend told me I was almost attractive that day, but not usually because I look like the kind of girl a guy would be into and feeling oddly let down. My boyfriend, I would say, my boyfriend is waiting for me to call and thinking about all the girls whose boyfriends weren’t a million miles away and wondering what it would be like, what heady freedom would actually mean if I could really use it with a boy I loved. Not really thinking about boys much and realizing how little I missed them, but eventually not realizing at all. The smell of winter-coming, the smell of winter here, the beautiful silence of snowfall. The cookies and kindergarten smell of Kendade-Cleveland-Carr-who knew the difference anyway-the preparing lunch sandwiches for grab and go smell in my 11am class. The boy in my history class-it took me all semester to realize he was a boy, I have never seen a boy so thin-he had a British accent, but he didn’t speak much. The professor who always said “Good morning Miss Elahi,” enunciating it correctly even though he had seventy two students and he never forgot a name. He said it was okay the day I fell asleep in my seat and actually slid off my chair, because everyone is exhausted sometimes and I clearly was. I excused myself to wash my face and dry it with woody-smelling paper towels and came back and wished I was awake enough to be as inspired as usual. Inspiration, inspiration. I don’t remember when it left exactly, but it wasn’t long ago. The Stimson room in the library had tea and cookies on Wednesdays at 4pm, but I always remembered too late. The room was full of poetry books and the fireplace was perfect. The feeling of my heart bursting the first time I saw spring, of my jaw dropping when the cherry tree blossomed and scattered pink flowers across the path to where I lived and thinking how ungrateful are these girls who are laughing at my incredulity. YouTube videos on the big screen in Cleveland L2 at night, when we were supposed to be studying biology. I still can’t explain how mitosis happens, but the girl I spent the night with was a third culture kid from a dozen different countries and that was altogether more informative. The biology professor had a nice butt and the kind of face you had to imagine with straw hanging out of his mouth-a nice face, but an Anglo-Saxon farm face which asked me too many stupid questions about my culture. All the girls watched his behind and sometimes they noticed Fifi’s legs, because she only wore shorts and she had the longest legs of any girl I had seen. She didn’t like the professor because he made fun of her town. Towns, outside train windows and wondering what it was like to grow up in a town and be proud of it and caring about it more than other towns. If there was ever a DHA versus Saddar cricket match, I would not care who won, but these kids went nuts at the mention of sporting victories for their suburban homes. Nationalism, my professor scoffed. Ha. Nationalism. Imagined communities. Using those words and taking it for granted everyone would have read the book, or at least the recommended extracts. Coming home and realizing nobody had, but there was so much I had missed learning too. The past is a different country. My two year reunion invitation is in the mail. How far away. How long ago.