i’ve been working 3+ years in a job during which i’ve seen hundreds of women’s bodies in a medical context

lemme tell you a thing

women are fucking hairy, ok? i’ve seen women covered with hair from their ankles to their armpits. women with super visible pubic hair that approaches their bellybuttons, regardless of race/ethnicity. we have hair absolutely everywhere and our public image as women is totally devoid of this reality. 

men really have no idea how hard women have to work to make ourselves hairless. it’s as unnatural for us as it is for them but this is something that doesn’t even cross their minds as they emerge from their caves looking like unwashed wookies not even aware of how much they’re just allowed to exist.

Periods

Fun fact: Native Americans used to call it “moontime”. (And I’ve been calling it that ever since I learned the phrase, because it sounds so much better.)
Apache Tribes had ‘Moon Lodges’ and a woman would go into and stay in the lodge until her moon time has passed. During her time in the moon lodge, the elder women would teach her medicine, herbs, ceremonies, rites, prayers and on. Teachings were handed down to her.
The women, at this time, were expected to rest and not perform any chores and she was taken care of by the elder women of the tribe. No cooking, cleaning or lifting. This was a time for the woman to learn and nurture herself and to also embrace her womanhood.
A woman’s moon time was never looked down upon; there was no negativity put on it. The men respected and revered her. The men also cooked and took care of the children at this time, which was a wonderful time of bonding between a father and their children. It was a time of love and respect.

It’s not a coincidence that most girls had a tomboy phase or a “I’m not like other girls phase” but eventually all “grow out” of it. It’s easier to reject norms as a kid but when you’re older and start seeing the effects gnc women face, you switch up real quick. You’re no longer the rebel child, you’re just the girl that could be soooo pretty if you just wore a dress and did your hair. You’re no longer a free spirit, you’re the, are you ever gonna get a boyfriend. You’re no longer the tough child that speaks her mind, you’re when is she gonna learn her place, she’ll never marry with that attitude, that shit ain’t cute. Growing up most girls resented the bullshit we had to put up with, we were fed up with the double standard. We wore comfortable clothes we liked, we hated being asked about boys, we questioned what we were fed. But eventually it wears you down, you grow up, insecurity fills you up, you start thinking something really is wrong with you, you suddenly like make up, or dresses, and you just think it was a part of eventually growing up, you don’t think about how much of yourself got stripped away to make room for the new super feminine version.

25 things women should never have to apologize for:
1. Her bodily functions
2. Not being feminine or girly
3. Loving how she looks
4. Having an abortion
5. Not wearing make-up
6. Being single
7. Not settling in relationships
8. Having body hair
9. Her bra size
10. Being outspoken
11. Having a high/low/non-existent sex drive
12. Putting herself first
13. Her body weight
14. Not wanting children
15. Saying no to a man
16. Having a pussy that smells like pussy
17. Being smart
18. Her age
19. Having a resting bitch face
20. Not wanting a relationship
21. Having a higher paid job
22. Her mental illness or disability
23. Not aspiring to be pretty or sexy
24. Demanding gender equality
25. Her womanhood

Forbidden Fruit (Le Fruit Défendu) by Auguste Toulmouche, 1865, illustrating how young women have always rebelled against having their access to knowledge policed.

Nineteenth-century French and British families kept a close eye on the literature allowed to pass into the hands of unmarried girls (married women were not automatically exempt, either). While Toulmouche’s painting garnered great acclaim for its aesthetic charms when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1865, a contemporary male art critic’s sour aside summed up the prevailing attitude to independent female minds:

“I do not approve of these silly girls; instead of searching forbidden pages for the knowledge that they lack, they would do better to leave tomorrow’s lover the pleasure of instructing them in the matters of which they are ignorant.” Paul Mantz quoted in Women Readers in French Painting 1870-1890 by Kathryn J. Brown.

No comment.

the invisible perimeters of girlhood

When I was ten years old, I was with my mother at a department store shopping for bathing suits. We were in the fitting room and I was trying on something that I guess was a little more revealing–maybe a bikini, make backless, I don’t remember exactly. I liked the way it looked and I was leaning towards getting it, and then my mother said that I should know that if I wore something like that on the beach, some men might make inappropriate comments. She said it was alright if I still wanted to wear it but she thought I should know before I decided that if I wore this bathing suit men might decide it was okay to make loud sexual comments to a ten-year-old girl. My mom was not trying to make me feel bad or pressure me one way or another but she knew I was sensitive, she knew I absolutely hated anyone making any comments on my body, she knew I would feel very violated if this were to happen, and she felt as a mother that if I were to run this risk, I should do so knowingly. That, now that I was old enough to have men possibly sexually harrass me on a beach, I was old enough to weigh the pros and cons of wearing what I liked vs. the possible chance of my bathing suit attracting the sort of men who yelled sexual comments at ten-year-old girls.

I decided not to get the bathing suit.

One thing I want men to understand about girlhood and womanhood is that our lives, our female lives, are like a map surrounded by borders which aren’t immediately visible to girls when they are children. But as you grow up, you experience these universal moments in girlhood at which you catch a sudden glimpse of these borders. Beyond them is terra incognita, no-woman’s land. Here be dragons.  You are technically free to cross these borders but adults, both male and female, make damn certain you see all the signs warning you that to cross is to accept that you very well might meet a dragon and whatever it does to you is your own liability because you saw the signs. And, paradoxically, these borders are invisible to exactly the same men who create them. And these men–they aren’t just the ones who sexually harrass children on beaches for the bathing suits they wear. They are every man who says, “Well, you knew that was a bad neighbourhood,” or “What were you wearing?” or “I know sexism is shitty, but some man catcalled me today and I felt so validated in my gender!”

As girls, in our childhoods, we learn that the sidewalk ends right where you fail to remove all body hair or when you walk alone at night or when you post a photo—any photo—of yourself online, no matter what you’re wearing. This is what we learn as children.

I am interested to hear some of your stories about moments in your childhood/teen years when you discovered the “edges” of girlhood and the borders around it.