- A silent word, a forbidden word, a vulgar word. One that must be held in the secrecy of your mind, never to be spoken, even in a whisper, in mixed society. A magical word of such importance that it must always be contained and controlled, lest it break free and devour the world of its vast civilization. It is, as it has been for centuries. It is untamed, full of uncontrolled passions that can lead the most devout of minds astray. And it is dangerous beyond any other dangers that exist in the known universe. To utter its name in a public forum is to risk the shunning of the society where its villainous name was spoken. To dare deny domain over it shall end in the banning from those who pound their gavels over the words.It is a word that may only be uttered by those who do not possess that which it names. And from them, it may only be spoken when necessary to restrain it, control it, harness it, and blame it. It may be seen on those necessary legal briefs that must pass through the walls of the lawmakers as the work for the safety of the public good to diminish its power, to strip it of its glory and wilt its petals, to rob it of its beauty.Vagina. The entrance to where the seed of life is sown.Vagina. The door through which life makes its grand entrance. Vagina. A word deemed to vulgar and obscene to be uttered. Offensive, unthinkable. Even more so when it is uttered by one who is actually bestowed with one.
What is not unacceptable, however, is allowing it to appear in permanent record in laws to regulate it, to control it, to define what may or may not be done with it. What is acceptable is for a panel of people who are not endowed with such a blessed gateway in their body to be the sole regulators of the keys governing the admission and exit from that doorway.
Transvaginal ultrasounds. Determination of when life begins. Access to birth control. Access to proper health care. Laws determining what a woman may and may not do with the body that is uniquely woman. Laws that in at least one state basically make a woman pregnant before she has even had sex. Laws that deem that if a raper victime becomes pregnant, it is “God’s” will and she should rejoice in carrying that pregnancy to term.
There was a time when many women suffered incarceration, institutionalization, death, in the struggle to become enfranchised in this country. To be able to have a say in who governed them, to have the freedom to choose their lives, to keep the money they earned, to own a small piece of property of their own, to choose whom they would marry, or not. They fought for the right to have a say in the laws that would affect their lives and their freedoms, just as deserving of recognition as those of the men who fought for the freedom to rule this country. The fight continued for decades, inching slowly forward. The right to professions, to education, to sexual freedom, to define themselves as men have always done so.
Many great steps have been taken in this struggle. Equality never truly reached, but the differences narrowing with each step. The shame dimming on a girl that became pregnant out of wedlock. Access to birth control to stave off becoming a mother till a woman was ready. Laws to protect a woman from abuse from a spouse or lover. The right to make a decision patient to doctor on continuing a pregnancy.
Its a hot button issue, there is no doubt about it. Babies are one of the most beautiful and precious gifts in this world. Personal responsibility for one’s actions has its place in the argument. But, also is the issue that mistakes can be made. One must weigh those decisions. One must balance all of the information in such a case. However, it must be left to the woman and her care provider to make that decision. Without the intervention of one who does not, cannot understand all that needs be weighed in that decision. It is a private decision, a personal decision, and one of the hardest decisions I believe a woman can make.
But, then you add to that the extension of the outside wanting to extend that interference in cases of rape, of incest, of the health of the mother. The only concern is for this unformed life that was introduced through that vulgar vagina, that if allowed to continue, will make its exit through that same vulgar vagina, whose name may not be said in mixed company.
Gone are the rights of the woman. Her demand that laws have no place on that sacred part of her anatomy are silenced. The laws are passed and the woman has no rights, no voice. And talk of similar laws to regulate the sexuality of men in this forum are dismissed as ridiculous. The insurance companies can deny coverage for birth control, abortion, but we will not hear of any attempt to limit Viagra, to impose any regulation on any sexual activity of a man. We will try and make it harder for a woman to prove that she was raped. We will try and make her history a matter of record to find her responsible and deserving of her fate. We will take ownership of her body and make her responsible for whatever injury we inflict upon it. We will bury her in guilt, we will make an example of her. And when she cries out in foul, we will silence her.
We will feed the world misleading stories, false medical information, claim the rights of the employer, the medical provider trump the rights of the individual. We will allow ALL access to the most private areas of a woman’s life and strip her of the means to control her destiny. Oh, she will be told, she can still control it if she keeps an aspirin between her knees, watches her glass carefully so that some predator doesn’t drop something into it, is lucky enough that the uncle, grandfather, priest doesn’t impregnate her. And if she is not lucky, she will be forced to let her dreams vanish, suffer the ridicule, and be left with a life of struggle to try and provide for this child she was not ready for. She knows not to expect help, from the father, from the society that forced her to bring it. And if she fails, if she falls short, she will be held up as an example. She alone will carry the burden of any and all failings.
There was a time where the women of this country had begun to make progress towards equality. A time when our voices were finally beginning to be heard with respect. Civilization should advance. We condemn the horrors of the Muslim women who are mutilated genitally, who are locked behind doors, veiled and beaten and stoned. Yet, somehow we are not seeing our very own steps in that same direction. Their women were once educated, could teach, work, own property, decide their lives. They cannot any longer. We had made so much progress in this country, in our lives, in our choices, in our freedoms. And it is slowly being whittled away. If we lose the rights to govern our bodies freely, all parts of our bodies, we shall become slaves once more. Our veils may not be made of black fabric, but we shall be no less veiled, no less imprisoned.
Its not about morality. That is something that we each must decide for ourselves. Its not about how the church feels, how our neighbor feels, how our employer feels. It is our bodies, it is our morality, it is our reasons based on our lives, our beliefs, unique from all others. We should not have to explain. Right or wrong or neither, is something only we can make that choice on. And if they don’t want to hear us speak the word vagina, then they should leave us to govern it for ourselves. It is our right.
We fought for those rights, we died for those rights, just as they did for their’s. They have no right to take away what is ours.
I lost a friend yesterday. Though he was not someone that I ever had a cup of coffee with, ever exchanged a handshake with, ever had a conversation with, ever met, yet, he was still my friend. He was my friend through the words he put to the page, the wonder he instilled in my mind and my heart, and the inspiration he filled my soul with.
I don’t know that I can recall the first story of Ray Bradbury’s that I ever read. I know the first novel of his that I read was The Martian Chronicles. I know that for years, I would seek out magazines that featured his stories, including a small stack of Playboys purchased solely for an exclusive story featured in it, checked his collections out of the library and dreamed that I could some day be a fraction of the writer that he was. And just a few years ago, he put out a book that became one of my favorite books of all time, From the Dust Returned. So favored has the book become to me, that I have gifted copies of it to many of my friends. I have read it 5 times already and am sure there are at least dozens more readings still in it. Woven from stories over decades into a tapestry that sweeps me into its folds every time I open its pages, regardless of what page I first land upon. It is Bradbury at his best. Or maybe Bradbury at his best to stir my soul.
I spent many moments of the day wiping tears from my eyes over the loss of this man who left such an imprint on my mind and my spirit. Regret that I never made the effort to seek him at one of his signings, his speakings, even though I lived so close to his home. I never was one of the lucky ones to have a chance encounter in one of the dusty bookstores, libraries or other haunts that I am sure we both shared. I missed my chance. I missed it many times. To spend a moment in his presence, to maybe speak to him, to have him sign one of his books with my name on its pages, to maybe breath in just a mote of his presence into me, to plant a seed and inspire me to allow it to grow.
But, he has still, even though I have not looked into his eyes, inspired me. He taught me through his words the beauty and value of the story. He showed me that short stories are just as valuable as the longer tomes, that a story is as long as it needs to be. And I think it is from him that I learned that a story doesn’t need to be truly complete. That it is okay to leave it slightly unfinished, spaces to be filled in by the reader, spaces to be filled in by the writer, at another time, when another voice decides to speak. He taught me that I can make my own rules. And the story is done when I am done with it. And maybe not even then, maybe just till another time. Then it is up to the reader. And I think I am learning that if the reader asks for more, then maybe, just maybe, I am getting it right.
So many things I have learned about him, who he was, I find I can identify with. The hours lost in the stacks in the libraries, the love of toys, the clutter of things that speak in the quiet times. I suppose that is why there are so many such things scattered around my house. I have always loved those little things, my statues, my stuffed animals, my baubles. There are stories in each of them. And I have been so very lax in listening to the stories they have to whisper. I need to listen to the words of that man. I need to write, to write every day. To write with joy and to dare to write badly if that is what it takes to get the words to start. Bradbury, I can never be. But, there is a gaping hole in his absence that those of us that are left need to fill. My dreams are different, but maybe there are souls my dreams can touch in the way his touched mine. I am saddened that there will be no more volumes of stories from this dreamer. But, he left a legacy that teaches those who allow his words into their hearts to dream, fully, completely and that life lived in the dream is a life truly lived.