Women and vagina-havers have it rough. We really do.
We have old cisgender men constantly trying to police our bodies, we have society trying to beat women down in every way they can (though I acknowledge that it’s definitely gotten better in recent years), and just generally, it’s not a real great time for women. This is by far, not all of the ways that the government threatens to restrict bodily autonomy from women, so I highly suggest doing your own research as well.
Let’s take a look at how many other people have tried to erase women’s bodily autonomy, and a few other ways on how we can try to regain that bodily autonomy.
DISCLAIMER: This article discusses abortion, birth control, body hair, breasts, and the dress code. Just letting you know.
How we’re being policed
If you’re a women who’s ever had to have an abortion, knows someone who’s had an abortion, or are just a woman seeking answers for their health, you’re most likely aware that the government loves to police women’s bodies and try to take away bodily autonomy every 5 to 10 years. I know it, and you know it if you’ve been keeping up with recent political news.
First off, abortion. If you’re unaware of what it is, then here it goes. An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy via removal or expulsion of the fetus. Fun fact, there’s multiple ways to abort a fetus. Here’s two that Planned Parenthood mentions on their site:
- In-Clinic procedure
- Medicination Abortion
Anyways, back to the point. The government loves to mess with abortion. Just when we think we’ve gained some form of bodily autonomy, turns out Roe v. Wade might be repealed and women’s bodily autonomy is threatened once more in 2020. Here’s what I mean.
According to an article by American Progress, the Trump Administration, in 2019, finalized a rule that would try to get rid of abortion coverage in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), allowing health insurer’s to charge separately for abortion services — as little as $1. This could lead to the termination of abortion coverages for 3.4 million people in the United States.
Thankfully, it was stopped by the federal court, but for how long? No one really knows.
However, think about it this way. It’s a separate charge, meaning not many people will catch it on time to pay it. This would mean millions of people owe money to insurers that they don’t even know about, allowing for two things to possibly occur: the companies eat the cost, or get rid of abortion coverage.
There’s also plenty of states that make it difficult to get an abortion, even though it’s legal. Planned Parenthood provides a great graph on the many states in the U.S. Pretty much a lot of the South doesn’t like abortion, so there’s that. Though abortion is legal in these states, there’s a 24 Hour Waiting Period, 20 Week Abortion Ban, Medicaid Funding is prohibited, and parental notification is required. Here’s the states that have severely restricted abortion in the U.S.:
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
- North and South Dakota
Abortion is legal under Roe v. Wade, but that doesn’t mean that states can’t police women’s bodies by imposing all of those restrictions on them. Women don’t have full bodily autonomy, point blank period.
This is another way that the government loves to control women’s bodily autonomy: birth control. If you’ve ever had to take birth control, then you know it gets a bit difficult when trying to obtain it.
By the same article from American Progress, the ACA needs health plans to cover a lot of ground, which includes preventative pregnancy measures like birth control and other things. Women don’t have to pay for these measures, which is perfect! Every year, women save an average of $1.4 million.
However, there’s still one problem that persists.
In 2018, the U.S. Health Department and Human Services finalized rules that would allow religious and moral exemptions from universities, employers, and insurers. This means that your employer, your university, or your insurer doesn’t have to cover or help you get birth control if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. District courts tried halting these rules, but in the end, once it got to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 202o, they decided to let the rule stay.
You ever been to school? Have you ever worn a top that was — gasp! — revealing your shoulders?! Then you know exactly what we’re about to dive into.
Schools are known for these types of injustices. The dress code is sometimes purely at the service of the boys of the school, and doesn’t help the girls.
For example, in a HuffPost article about policing women’s bodies, the author gives a personal anecdote, stating, “At my daughter’s high school last year, a robocall during a heatwave warned girls not to ‘wear clothes that would distract male students and teachers.'”
If that’s not telling, then I don’t know what is.
You may have even been sent to the school office to get a spare shirt that they kept for that specific reason! And everyone would just know that that shirt is the one that teacher gave them so they wouldn’t have to wear their revealing clothing. Moms, girls, and women in general would collectively agree that all this serves is to humiliate the girl.
In an article by the National Education Association, bringing attention to the offending piece of clothing just takes away from learning. There are numerous accounts of teachers or administrators dress coding girls, taking them away from a learning environment where they will miss important information for homework, a test, or anything else. It doesn’t good much good, especially when a majority of boys with sagging pants don’t get dress coded.
Back to the body! Women’s bodies also have a sexual notion to many, many people. Especially breasts.
Oh, breasts are sexualized to high heaven. Breasts are typically meant to be mammary glands for a baby that you might have. That’s what they’re for.
Now, we live in a society where a woman’s body is sexual thing (not a man’s though!), and when you use those mammary glands to feed your child out in public, it’s quite possible that many people will find it sexual. Even if you’re literally just feeding your child.
People will say not to expose yourself in public! There’s people around! But if you don’t have a bottle, and your child is hungry right now, then how else are you going to feed them?
Another thing to consider when talking about the body: body hair!
Leg hair, armpit hair, pubic hair, all the hair! Apparently if it’s on a woman, it’s gross! What’s up with that? Society likes to police women’s bodies when it comes to not only breasts, but also body hair! Being grossed out by body hair is a product of our patriarchal society.
Body. Hair. Is. Normal!
How to regain our bodily autonomy
Advocate for Change
If you want to help regain our bodily autonomy back, advocate for change! Spread the word about the way that women’s bodies are policed, not just in the government, but in society as well!
Protests work well, but remember to wear a mask! Protests make your voice known and heard.
Shut It Down
Why I mean by shutting it down is precisely this. Shut down any ignorant information and opinions regarding women’s bodies. Try to educate the person instead.
Tell them that breasts are mammary glands design to feed children, tell them that body hair is a normal thing, tell them that the dress code isn’t fair.
Educate them on how the government is trying to get rid of women’s bodily autonomy, controlling them, and making it harder to get birth control or an abortion. You should try to be careful with that last one.
Simply put, people may not want to listen.
Don’t Give a F*CK!
How can you regain bodily autonomy in your own life? Simple! Don’t care about what other people say about women’s bodies. Their opinions shouldn’t influence your own.
Don’t feel bad for having body hair, it’s a normal thing. Don’t shave your legs or armpits for a while, why not? We’re still in quarantine, not a lot of people are going to see you anyways.
Don’t feel like you have to cover yourself for just trying to feed your baby. If you gotta feed your baby, feed your baby. Breasts shouldn’t be over sexualized anyways.
And above anything else, if you need or want an abortion, remember that the harmful opinions of others shouldn’t sway you. If you need it, do it. There are many reasons for having an abortion, and you shouldn’t let others judge you for yours.
That’s how you regain bodily autonomy in your own life.
Maybe you may not have noticed all of these things taking place, or maybe you didn’t figure that some of this stuff is wrong. Whatever the case may be, I hope you learned something from this article. It’s not right for our bodily autonomy to get taken away simply because some old cis men thought it was acceptable. It’s simply not fair!
Was there anything here that you didn’t know about? Let us know!
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Hi! My name is Carolina Cisneros, and I am a new intern at Society 19. I’m so glad to have this opportunity! I have an Associates in Studio Art, and I will be heading into university for Cinematic Arts and Technologies. I plan to go into the animation industry, designing characters and bringing more diversity into the world. For now, I’m building my skills. Thank you for reading!