Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe v. Wade and Grown Women

As we think about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, I wanted to mention that I contributed an essay to the collection Get Out of My Crotch! Twenty-One Writers Respond to America's War on Women's Rights and Reproductive Health. The essay I wrote, Grown-Woman Swagger, is about the way we think of confidence and power as associated with white men, when in fact, women of color may have the best understanding of what it means to have swagger. The essay is about my personal stake in reproductive rights for women and that is at the center of the narrative, but it is also a story of surviving between a rock and a hard place, like lots of women do. Here's an excerpt: 

Physically, I was the scrawny, bummy outsider on the block, but inside, I had the same defiance embodied by the dudes who hustled crack or coke whether they sweltered under the sun in long-sleeves or they hid their wares in baggy shorts. I would survive, no matter what the world tried to do to destroy me. Period.
We were all just surviving the world we were born into. And if I intended to live long enough to leave the Bronx in anything but a casket, I needed to hold on to that swagger, that sense that anything was possible if I believed.
All women need to enforce that kind of swagger now, the ephemeral B-girl stance that says we will survive even if it is just against the world. The world, in this case, includes the overlapping systemic forces that suggest that women beneath the middle and wealthy classes in America aren’t entitled to control choices about their destiny, future and present. While feminists discuss whether to use the words pussy, vagina or vajayjay, the real questions are, what about the other parts of us? What about our minds and souls? What about our hearts? Swagger is heart. It is heart enough to give birth to another generation or to birth books and movements instead, or to be woman enough to do both. It is heart enough to intentionally choose to do everything or nothing and anything in the middle.

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