I AM FEMALE. This refers to my biology. I was born with a vagina, and now that I’m an adult human I have all the reproductive bits necessary for carrying and birthing a baby, as well as feeding it in its infancy. Female humans come in all different shapes, sizes and colours, but broadly speaking our skin is softer, and our bodies are shorter and curvier than most males. As a female, I menstruate approximately once a month. It is painful and unpleasant, but it means that my reproductive system is in decent working order and I can probably have children at some point. Because I’m a human, my body is evolutionarily adapted to support my bipedalism. This means that childbirth is much more dangerous for me than it is for most other animals. Human childbirth is a terrible mixture of beauty and tragedy and pain.
I AM ALSO A WOMAN. This refers to my culture, and actually has little to do with my biological sex. Being a woman is less a concrete fact, and more a constantly changing melange of things. For example:
I MENSTRUATE approximately once a month. This is a fact of my biological sex aligning with my cultural gender. I got my first period when I was twelve, and from then until I went on birth control at seventeen, I suffered from extremely painful and heavy periods. Paracetamol and ibuprofen would do nothing for the pain, which often had me curled up in bed in the foetal position, and on one memorable occasion was so bad that I passed out at school. It was nauseating and excruciating. It also wasn’t unusual for my periods to last a week, where most of my friends only had theirs for three or four days. I regularly missed a day or two of school every month because of “stomach aches”, and if I had to go school on the first day of my period I felt like I was actually fucking dying. Thanks to the magic of oral contraceptives, my periods are now heavenly in comparison. But half of my menstruating life has been defined by debilitating cramps and seas of blood.
I buy tampons and pads to soak up the blood that comes out of my vagina in fits and starts and flows and clumps. A box of tampons is not cheap, for a bullet of cotton attached to a string that’s only gonna get covered in blood and thrown away. At $16, it’s often the single most expensive essential item on my shopping list. Men don’t face such a steep monthly expense – yet, women still get paid less on average, when from a purely logical standpoint we should be making more, because most of us have to cope with literally bleeding out of one of our organs every single month and that’s an expense most men simply don’t have to deal with.
I’m sorry. I know it’s not elegant to talk about periods, especially in MIXED COMPANY. Even in today’s society it’s still kind of taboo. I don’t understand why we go through this shit once a month and it’s painful and messy and goddamn irritating, and then we aren’t allowed to talk about it like it’s a shameful secret that half the world’s population menstruates. Men don’t want to hear about periods, because it’s not a turn-on to have to think about the place you want to stick your dick being covered in blood and bits of uteral lining. I hate thinking about the amount of times I’ve said to guys, “sorry but not tonight, I’m on my period” – I’m sure I don’t need to point out the idiocy of apologising for my own biology. Even – no, especially – if it’s mother nature’s cockblock.
But men are fine to talk about periods when they become a scapegoat for women’s emotions. If I’m upset it must be that I’m being a bitch because I’m on my period. If I’m angry it must be “my time of the month”. Like periods aren’t legitimately shitty experiences. Like women can’t experience negative feelings as rational responses to shitty situations, whether they be menstrual or not.
As a woman, I am defined by SEX. I was once a virgin, and the first time I had a man’s penis in my vagina was the moment I suddenly wasn’t a virgin anymore. Like virginity is something for men to give and take away, like it’s some tangible thing. A feature of my biology, a qualifier of my sexual experience. Like my hymen ripped and popped and tore itself out of existence the first time I let a man inside me. And it doesn’t even matter whether I’ve had sex or not, because whatever I am isn’t good enough. If I’m a virgin I’m a prude, and if I’m not I’m a whore. And you cannot possibly be anything else, not if you’re a woman. My entire self-worth is somehow tied up in whether I’ve had sex or not, and how much sex I’ve had, and whether I’ve only fucked men or whether I’ve fucked women as well.
Sorry, let me clarify – I don’t fuck. Men FUCK women, and women GET FUCKED by men. The wording is crucial here: men are sexual agents, they do sex. Whereas for women, sex is something that gets done to them. A woman’s sexual agency and desire are culturally invisible.
As a woman, my body is inherently sexualised. From the moment I started growing boobs I wasn’t a girl anymore, I was something to fuck. You see it in movies, television, music videos, fucking advertising – women’s bodies are sex objects, and sex can be used to sell anything. You get the message: women are there for sex, demure and passive. That’s how we all get to thinking it’s a man’s God-given right to receive sex from any woman he likes.
That’s one of the reasons rape is what it is: something talked about in whispers, something disputed even in the face of irrefutable evidence. Where was she? Was she drunk? Was she alone? She should have known better than to be walking down that road by herself that late at night, what did she think was going to happen? We try to teach women how not to get raped, like it’s their fucking responsibility.
Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, men in cars driving past honk their horns or roll down their windows and lean out to whistle and yell at me. Where you going? Nice ass! Wanna come home with us? It’s happened when I’m alone and when I’m in company. It’s happened when I’ve been wearing shorts and a tank top, and it’s happened when I’ve been wearing jeans and a baggy old sweatshirt. It’s happened in the evening, at night, in the middle of the day, at nine in the fucking morning as I’ve been walking to the supermarket. When I express my annoyance that this happens, some people get it, but other people roll their eyes at me and say “they’re just being boys”, or “you should have worn more clothes”. It doesn’t matter what I do or how many clothes I wear – I’m a woman, so certain men will always feel entitled to me, and exercise their right to tell me about it.
In order to be successful in business or politics I can’t just have a head for it. I also have to be pretty, so that men will like me and listen to what I say. I have to wear makeup and corporate heels to work, or I’m not a professional. The value of my words and ideas is measured not by their own merits but how symmetrical my face is, and how fuckable my body is.
I should be curvy but not big, I should be polite and not loud, I should take up as little space as possible. I should wear makeup to work, but not too much because then I’ll seem slutty or insecure, but not too little, because then I don’t care about my appearance at all. I can be good at things “for a girl”, the best “woman” in my field, but remember that being just good and simply the best is a pipe dream. Unless it’s homemaking or child-rearing to which I aspire, in which case I’d better expect to be a pariah to the religion of FEMINISM. And let’s not forget that feminism itself is a dirty word, a movement for crazy lesbian anarcho-misandrists who only hate men because they were too ugly and too butch to ever get any dick.
If I didn’t want him to kiss me then I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk.
If I didn’t want him to try to fuck me then I shouldn’t have flirted.
If I didn’t want people to call me a slut then I shouldn’t have had casual sex with strangers, or had sex with more than one person, or even had sex at all. And I certainly shouldn’t have enjoyed it.
If I didn’t want to be called a bitch then I shouldn’t have expressed my anger or distress or discontent at a situation.
If I didn’t want people to recoil from me in disgust then I shouldn’t have mentioned the fact that I menstruate.
If I didn’t want to be catcalled by drunk men twice my age then I should have worn my baggiest and most conservative outfit, and then stayed indoors forever.
I’m a product of a culture which codifies people into one of two genders, and then says that one gender is inherently inferior to the other. And we all TALK about the horrible things about being a woman, and the horrible ways women are handicapped from the moment the doctor sees they don’t have a penis on the ultrasound. And sure, things GET DONE like now women can vote and run their own businesses and buy a home and even hold political office. But my world still doesn’t UNDERSTAND what the word WOMAN actually means – that it’s not a weakness but one of the biggest goddamn STRENGTHS you could ever have.