Sexism and the Right to Autonomy

Despair and overwhelm. As symptoms of my PTSD, I experience these emotions frequently. Despair connects with the part of myself that wants to fall into the collapse defense; overwhelm is a symptom of my primal desire for flight or to freeze. With known triggers and sometimes seemingly randomly, I am flooded with a sense to run, hide, fight or give up.

And that was before a few angry conservatives, who don’t like that their beliefs and opinions are in the minority of our nation, in the minority of the Eurocentric world, decided to impose those beliefs on the rest of us. Their belief that we must create as few roadblocks as possible to carrying a deadly weapon in public and as many roadblocks as possible in terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

Overwhelm and despair.

Because these choices by the Court do not represent a rational worldview. There is no cohesive through-line of logic that I can push back against. Except that it is mostly men who want to carry a gun in public and it is mostly women who have a uterus and must decide every time they have sex with someone who has a penis what the life-altering implications might be.

I write about sexism in lifting because these ideas about who is valid, who gets to be strong, who counts as a person, as a lifter, as someone who is interesting and worthy of listening to and meeting the needs of, are so pervasive in our culture. The vast majority of our decisions every day have implications in creating measurable differences in the quality of life of women and other people with a uterus. These minor acts of inclusion and exclusion–sharing a squat rack, giving someone space, cheering them on instead of trying to break them down–ripple out to far more meaningful avenues of our lives. Who gets promoted? Who buys a house? Who gets to decide if, when and with whom they start a family?

There is no gender equality if there is no safe, legal, affordable access to reproductive choice. Anyone with a uterus and functioning ovaries has fewer options on how they live their lives than people born without that anatomy. Let’s be honest–this was true before the most recent Supreme Court decision. Now the inequality is simply laid bare for all to see. Geographic lines define who does and who does not have autonomy.

And my feelings of overwhelm tell me that the majority of Americans agree and understand this truth and yet there is so much work to be done to create fairer electoral systems so that our government actually looks and sounds like us. That the opposition is so much better funded, more united in their single-minded willingness to overturn the will of the majority so they can impose their beliefs on others. That so much damage has already been done and it took decades of effort to culminate in all this destruction. There was already so much work to do, and now we are stuck fighting to get back the imperfect inequality we had before, let alone any kind of meaningful progress.

And my feelings of despair tell me I don’t know if I have the strength to keep pushing, to keep fighting, if all it means is gaining back the rights I’ve lost. That returning to the status quo isn’t enough to motivate and inspire during the darkest times. That if I can’t even succeed in moving the needle a little bit in my small corner of the world, what larger change can I hope to create on a national level?

Overwhelm and despair are powerful feelings, and they can feel true. I’m not going to deny these feelings or try to combat them with toxic positivity–force myself to look for silver linings. I also don’t want to live like this, dwelling in these dark places without hope. And feelings aren’t facts.

So, when I’m ready, as I’m ready, I commit myself to once again fight the fight.

I’m not going to let up on pointing out the sexism pervasive to the lifting world. I’m going to keep showing up and shining a light on the practices that persist without reflection that have consequences for all of us who don’t fit into the cultural paradigm of “lifters who count.” Sexism, racism, ableism, fat-phobia, transphobia, ageism. We push back on these norms because they perpetuate worldviews that allow for continued oppression. It is the accumulation of everyday small acts and mindsets that lead to hierarchies of humanity and the removal of rights.

In a way, I’m grateful for my overwhelm and despair. They show me what my priorities are; they show me how much I care. As I am able, I’m going to thank them for that information and request that they move aside to make room for other productive emotions. There’s a lot of work to do, and doing it matters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: