Many thanks to Laura Duncombe, 2013 Vagina Monologues cast member for her blog post today!
I rise for difference and I rise for sameness. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but women are full of contradictions so it’s okay. I rise for all the differences between me, a married white woman in a prosperous country, and my sisters around the world. But I also rise for sameness-everything that we, worlds apart, are able to share.
For difference, I rise for my sisters who are shot at for their desire to learn. I live in a country where I am allowed to go to school without fear of bricks thrown through my window, threats leveled against my family, or attacks carried out on my life. I rise for the ability to go to college, and then graduate school. I may not get paid what a man with my same degree gets paid, but at least I am able to get that degree. I rise in safety for those who are not safe, but rise anyway.
I rise for my sisters who are forced to undergo female genital mutilation. In the USA, we have double standards when it comes to sexual pleasure, but here womens’ clitorises are not removed with knives and shards of broken glass. In countries all over, rape is still used as a tactic of war. I rise because no matter how bad women have it here at home, there are parts of the world where women have it much, much worse.
I rise for my sisters who are victimized all over again after their rapes by their families and communities. I have friends, roommates, and coworkers who have been raped, but not one of them was murdered to regain their family’s honor. I rise for every rape victim who was ever told she was asking for it, or it was somehow her fault, as if by being born women we bear the responsibility to avoid getting raped, instead of making men responsible for not raping.
For sameness, I rise for the mansplained. No matter where you live or what language you speak, if you are a woman, you have been told something by a man who felt he was doing you a favor by explaining something you already knew. I rise for the indignity of forcing a smile and gritting teeth and gracefully excusing yourself from the mansplainer. I rise for the feeling that we do not deserve this.
I rise for the underpaid and overworked. Women everywhere are expected to keep house and raise children, pamper husband and hold down a job, remain fresh and pretty and get it all done. In every sphere a woman occupies, she is expected to handle it effortlessly and never brag about her accomplishment. I rise for every woman who deserved praise and never even received gratitude.
I rise for the diminished. Women everywhere are told to be seen and not heard. From the bush to the boardroom, women must pipe down, stop getting hysterical, and let the grownups talk for a minute. We must starve our bodies to conform to society’s standards of beauty. I have seen women fade and disappear in their efforts to stay small, stay unobtrusive, and stay feminine. I rise for the whisperers, the slouchers, and the shrinkers.
Women are glorious. We are beautiful, we are smart, and we are important. I could write a thousand pages and never touch on all the attributes that make us special. Despite everything, I still consider myself lucky to be born a woman due to the distinguished company I keep. I rise for each and every woman on this earth: alone in her struggles, but united by her membership in womankind. By the grace of God, I was born here in the United States and enjoy many precious freedoms that some of my sisters can only dream of. Still, I know that however different our lives might seem, we are all the same in our universal desires: the need for love and respect, and the hope for a place to someday truly be ourselves.
The Victim Rights Law Center is the first law center in the nation dedicated solely to advocating for the civil legal needs of sexual assault survivors. The VRLC provides direct legal representation to victims of rape and sexual assault in Massachusetts. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, we believe you have the right to make your own choices about how to respond to what has happened to you. Our goal is to give sexual assault victims information regarding their civil legal needs to reclaim their lives.