The Fourth of July, Independence and Vaginas!

It would seem a strange topic to write about on the Fourth of July; vaginas that is, but here you are! You would think a more appropriate topic would be something like parades or family barbecues. In past articles this time of year I’ve written about my colorful, non-traditional family. However, not today, this one is about something else. It’s about something else because its been a strange couple weeks for vaginas in the news, but also because every once in a while I like to see if you are all actually paying attention out there!

If you think about it, freedom and independence are wonderful words to use, and wonderful goals to strive for, when discussing topics involving women! The other word we are going to use here is vagina, not any other foolish substitute. It is a part of our bodies, like our arms or our mouths or our hearts. We need to refuse to be ashamed by the word, and we need to refuse to teach our children to be ashamed of that word.

The news this past few weeks has contained several rather unusual stories involving women. First, a photo from Saudi Arabia has recently gone viral. The photo appears to have been taken last year, but the world at large is just finding out about the Saudi Arabian Women’s Conference, that not one woman was allowed to attend.

In Egypt, as the world waits and prays for news, women who did venture out, who became part of the political process, are being sexually assaulted by mobs. This is not the first time in Egypt, or anywhere, that sexual violence against women has been used to try to prevent them from having a voice.

It is often hard for American women to picture a world where a woman cannot travel unaccompanied by a male guardian, cannot leave her home without covering herself, or cannot determine her own destiny. Yet, its true, still. We must remember that as long as our sisters around the world are not free, we are not entirely free ourselves. Let’s remember those women this Independence Day!

There was good news, Senator Wendy Davis made history by staging an 11 hour filibuster that stopped a Texas abortion bill from being passed. The bill would have made abortions so restrictive that Texas women would have almost completely lost their right to choose!  Senator Davis believed so passionately that a woman should be able to control her own body and her own health care,  she stood for 11 hours, in pain, in a back brace, with no bathroom or water break, to prevent this assault on the rights of the women in her state. Let’s remember her this Independence Day as well!

Also, sadly, this week we found ourselves poking fun at two very strange stories involving women using their vaginas to transport drugs and weapons. An Arizona woman was arrested and when searched it was discovered that she had a pound of methamphetamines hidden in her vagina. Even more disturbing, an Oklahoma woman was arrested with a loaded .22-caliber handgun hidden in her vagina, seriously, loaded!!! Now while these stories both provided us with some humor, they are actually, tragic beyond words. In fact, sometimes the reason we laugh so hard at something is because if we really took it in, really felt the awful feelings around it, it would simply be too hard to bear.

Yet, the things that are too hard to bear, those are the things we need to talk about, work on, digest, mull over, resolve and find peace with. For me, the stories of those two arrests became a symbol for all that we as women allow into the most intimate areas of our lives. Vaginas are the most private, vulnerable, sensitive part of a female body. They are made for giving and receiving love. They are made for giving and receiving pleasure. They are made for bringing children into the world. They are sacred symbols of life.

All too often, we as women allow violence and anger into our lives. We allow others to disrespect our bodies and our minds and our very souls. No, most of us don’t use our bodies to transport drugs, but we do allow others to fill them with guilt, and sadness, and anger, and self-hatred, and shame. Then we carry it around with us, wherever we go!

Even when we haven’t chosen the violence that has happened to us, we have a choice about what to do with it after its happened. We can choose to bring it out into the light, or to hide it away in the dark places where it will fester and eventually kill us. We can choose to let it forever color our lives or we can choose to survive but we always have choices.

No one can fill us with guilt or shame unless we let it in. No one can continue to bring violence and anger into our lives if we decide we are no longer going to tolerate it. It’s up to us to say no. It’s up to us to rid our lives of the things, and the people, that drag down our souls, and that quickly cause our bodies to follow.

Even that story I wrote a few years ago about family and barbeques was also about choices. It was about letting go of the people in my life who were not healthy for me, and about making room for goodness in unexpected ways!

Let’s remember this Independence Day that we always have choices about our lives! Sometimes, we just need to be brave enough to make them. We need to find the courage to have those difficult conversations with ourselves, and with our sisters, friends, daughters and neighbors. It’s up to us to point out that on this day of independence there are women all over the world who still don’t have the right to determine what happens to their own bodies. They still don’t have the right to determine their own futures. They weren’t even invited to the conversation. We have those rights ladies, let’s be grateful for them, cling to them, fight for them when they need defending, and never, ever take them for granted!

Happy Independence Day!

Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.