Saturday, October 19, 2013
Taking Up Space
I saw this today, and thought "yes, this. This is why I claim the name of feminist. Because the difference in experience matters. Because a person should not have to live in fear or pain simply by virtue of what's between their legs. Because a life lived in fear is a life half-lived."
Also, although I very much see this happening on a cultural and societal level, I am very grateful to have grown up in a home where it did not really happen on a familial level. A family where I always knew that I could go and do and be whatever I dreamed. A family where mother had the math degree and father taught school so that he could have summers off to go hiking and globetrotting. A place where egalitarianism was standard enough that I had been on my own for ten years before I could even recognize the continuing need for feminism in the rest of the world.
So go forth my sisters (and my brothers). Speak the truths you know. Don't be ashamed to speak the unpopular or taboo truths. Do what your gut tells you is important. Be a rebel if you need to be. Take up your space.
(here is the transcript, in case you have trouble with the video...but it is worth listening, because she speaks it well.)
Across from me at the kitchen table my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn't deprive herself, but I've learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork and every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate. I realize that she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I'm not there to do so.
Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return. As she shrinks, the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes.
His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry, a new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager but my dad reports "now she's crazy about fruit."
It was the same with his parents.
As my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach, and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking. Making space for the entrance of men in their lives. Not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks. I have been taught to filter. "How can anyone have a relationship to food?" he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say we come from difference Jonas.
You have been taught to grow out. I have been taught to grow in.
You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, how to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence. You used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
I learned to absorb.
I took lessons from my mother in creating space around myself. I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters. And I never meant to replicate her, but spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits.
That's why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other. The way each generation taught the next how to knit, weaving silence in between the threads which I can still feel as I walk through this ever growing house. Skin itching, picking up all the habits my mother unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again. Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark. A fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled. Deciding how many bites is too many; how much space she deserves to occupy.
Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her, and I don't want to do either anymore. But the burden of this house has followed me across the country. I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word "sorry..."
I don't know the capstone requirements for the sociology major because I spent the whole meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza. A circular obsession I never wanted, but inheritance is accidental.
Still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.
Talkin' about women