How Would You Feel?

I had posted this last week and then taken it down, because it felt a little like a #firstworldproblems sort of rant. And in truth, I’m pretty lucky to live where I live, and for the most part I’m happy with my life. 

But I do think that the equality of women is important, and I do think that the first country that grants women genuine equality under the law – whatever country that is – will be important to women all over the world. And I do think that reproductive rights are, quite possibly, the last fight that must be won to make us truly equal under the law. (Apart from, you know, an equal rights amendment to the US constitution, which was shouted down all those years ago by people screeching about unisex bathrooms.)

And I don’t think it will be won in my lifetime. Hence the rather depressing tone of this post.

So yes, there are places that are so much worse than the US that this rant seems churlish; but it does effectively capture how the events of the last week have made me feel.

And to the women around me who say things like “I believe in equality, but feminists are too strident” or “We don’t need feminism anymore – look how equal we are!” I would say: Wake up. The rights you have today can be removed legally and swiftly. And they will be, unless you stop making excuses and start fighting.

Yesterday I watched a TED talk given by George Takei. In it he discusses how it felt to be an American – to believe in American values, and to live by them – when you’re living in an America that doesn’t even want you there. That gave me hope. Whatever our laws say, whatever our society is pushing this week – our ideals are better than that.

So I choose to live the American ideal that I am equal, that I am as much of a citizen as any man, that my civil rights are unalienable, no matter what anyone says.

And with luck, someday the law will catch up.

How would you feel if you woke up one day and realized you were a prisoner?

On some level, of course, you’ve always known it. Since you were a child, you’ve known it. You were raised with the others, and by the others; but your rules were different. Expectations were different. Your behavior needed to be different. The ones who raised you could not always protect you, even when you were small, because you were a prisoner, and prisoners were just a little less human, just a little less worthy of respect and consideration. Most of the others were kind, if you were one of the lucky ones; but if you ran into one who wasn’t, you had to be careful what you said. Because maybe it was you who made them unkind. The fact that you were a prisoner to begin with – that provoked unkindness in some of them. If you got hurt, it’s because you were what you were, and it’s to be expected. Learn to live with it, because that’s your lot.

The others have always given you a certian amount of leeway. This changes, of course, depending on which of them are in power; but if it makes their lives smoother and easier, they give you what feels like freedom. Sometimes it’s nice; sometimes you forget that you’re a prisoner, that you’re different, that you are not quite as human as they are. You can feel free, and creative, and hopeful.

And some of the others genuinely want you to be free. Their treatment of you is sincere. They do see you as human; they do see you as worthy, as the same. They don’t believe you deserve to be hurt because you are a prisoner. They think the others who claim that it is in their nature to be unkind to prisoners are the ones who are less than human. They think you should be free.

But not enough of them. Never quite enough of them.

You have a lot of freedom. You have choices. You have a nice life; you are happy most of the time. Your struggles seem like the struggles of the others. You look around at other countries in the world, and you see how their prisoners are treated, and you feel sorry for them. Because you don’t live in a country like that. You live in a country where there are no prisoners, where we’re all human, all free.

Except you don’t. And one day, you wake up, and you stare it right in the eye.

You are free until they say you are not. You have rights until they say you do not. You are judged by how they want to use you. You are scapegoat and cause and immorality and gatekeeper and the root of all evil and wrapped in cotton as if you are made of glass.

All of your freedom is illusion. The child you have, who you love beyond reason – her freedom is illusion as well. She may have more than you. She may have less, if some of the others have their way. But she will not be free. None of you will be free, because you are prisoners. A gilded cage is still a cage. You can ask, and persuade, and yell and scream, but it’s not your choice. It’s their choice, and they can take away anything you are given in the blink of an eye.

How would you feel, if you woke up one day and all this came crashing down on you, all at once? Everything you’ve known all your life, stark in black and white?

I will tell you how you would feel: tired. You would be tired, and sad.

But you would still fight to be free.