by Maya White-Lurie
Twenty years ago, when the doctor cut, cut, cut me from my mother, he held crying strawberry-cream caked me at arms length and said to my father, “Tell her what you’ve got.” Father creased his brow, eyed the fresh-cut umbilical chord, blubbered to my mother: “It’s a boy. I know we hoped for a girl, but he’s beautiful, beautiful…” The doctor roared: “Look again, Dad!” My parents wept in joyful harmony with my cries of cold confusion – I was hungry for breast milk – but you’d think daddy had never seen a vulva before!
Oh, does that make you uncomfortable? When I say vulva, vagina, clitoris, uterus, do bugs scurry up your spine? Are you scared of me because I’m proud of mine? Well, get over it – this is my body – I’ll use the words I choose, words that fit like the sweater Grammy knit. Just try to pull out those stitches, shrink the seams. You can’t. And if you try to wash my mouth out with soap, I’ll stare you down and spit the suds in your eyes.
Since you’ve decided to dissect my words like the Jane Does chilling in line for the crematorium, I’ll tell you, time is precious; let’s save a few seconds. I am a masochistic poly-picto-tricho-dendro-stigmato-sapiosexual human, with an unquenchable quest for complete equality, and a stubborn search for a room of my own – lockable preferably – I am a sister, not bound by blood but by love, and I am a boat slicing through dangerous seas, at my back the gale force of three centuries of formidable foremothers who took up arms against their oppressors with the same limbs that lifted little ones.
Don’t give me that look, the up-down-nose-wrinkle-head-tilt as you slide away to say: “So, you’re one of those… feminists…” The label sticks to your tongue as you look at me like I’m an apricot rotting at the back of your fridge, forgotten. “Oh, I see….” Yeah, you do see. Nobody writes this body but me.
And excuse me if my verbosity edges toward pomposity – modesty is not my strength and I’ve never known when to shut up – but go ahead, call me crazy. If sanity is subservience, I want no part of it. Yes, I am insane to fight for the same rights every man is born into, for wanting to own my body and be judged by the depth of my character, not the size of my cups or the width of my hips. I dream of a world where people understand that having a vagina doesn’t mean I need a dick in it or a baby out of it, a world where women walk down the street at night, unbothered by all the tiny noises that punctuate the darkness. Label me a madwoman, lock me in your attic – do it – I’ll rattle your walls, shake your floorboards with the power MY VOICE.
And yes, I am no saint, I admit it; I have been the oppressor, seen a person from afar and pondered a binary brand, judged and burned flesh with my gaze while reaping the benefits of my privilege and I have danced in concert with all the other colonials. Of this I am ashamed.
But this is not the stomach twisting guilt that compels me to my room to cry. No. This disgrace fuses with my fire for justice, creating an energy known only at the center of stars, propelling me to the streets, classrooms, bedrooms, boardrooms, screaming: “Let us erase these conventions, these tortures with the faces of tradition, explode the canon with a BOOOOM! and a swwwwffffissssshhhh! Take my hand, together we will fight for the impossible dream!” … And when those thoughts, those brainwashed unnatural, colonial, trifling transplants, flit through my head, threatening to take root, I have to catch them, snatch them, hurl them to the floor with the force to crash through the foundation of this country, to crush the bedrock of the master’s house. Chip away at his concrete bit by bit by bit.
No, No. I won’t shut up, won’t go back down, won’t go back to the kitchen or the closet or the nursery. Know what I will do? SPEAK LOUDER, because I don’t think you can hear me, I will stand up behind every microphone, plant myself in front of every camera, every courthouse and clinic and capital building because, America, we need to talk.