Wednesday, January 16, 2019

No, We Are Not ‘Okay’

“Are you Okaaaaaaaay?"

Do people ever ask you that? Like, in that specific way?  It's like they know you’ve been having a hard time, or maybe they don’t. But maybe you look sad, and they don’t know what else to say, so they ask you a generic question that you know is well-intentioned, but that nonetheless makes you want to punch them in the junk.

I know, I know. Everyone carries around some unseen burden, which is what makes the question even sillier. The "are you OK?" asker typically has an air of condescension about them; you always get the distinct feeling that the person asking if you're okay is somehow pretty okay themselves, and already strongly suspects that you're not.

Which, in and of itself, is okay. Here's what I mean by that: Being "Not Okay" with where we are as women in this moment is extremely okay. In fact, it's excellent. It's the status quo that's not okay, and it's our job to say so out loud.

It isn't easy. 

Women are raised in a fog of fear and shame that obscures our vision of ourselves and the realization of our full potential. We are taught that our bodies are currency, that our sexuality is taboo; and yet we are blamed for our own assaults. We are told to be quieter, to smile more, and to comply with patriarchal standards of decorum and propriety that reenforce patriarchal systems. We are told we are bad at math or science or deal-making or governing, and that we should shut up and keep our heads down. And when we don't, we're called unlikable and punished. Often severely, and even when there are laws and systems in place that are supposed to protect us. We don't have true agency over our own health care. We're paid less for equal work. And all of it is to serve one end: to keep us in our place and to lull us into a false sense of okay-ness.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not okay. The President of the United States can't spell hamburger, our constitutional norms are under assault, and the entire mess is set to a soundtrack by Imagine Dragons.

And that's the way it will stay if we don't each do our part to change the status quo.That old Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote about well-behaved women seldom making history is truer today than it ever was. My plea to you now is to find the courage to misbehave. To put a monkey wrench in the inexorable march of fear; to fight the internalized shame and the stasis of silence that keeps us from moving forward. 

We are in the fight of our lives for our bodily autonomy, our livelihoods, and our agency. It's the biggest battle in a generation, and it's going to take every last one of our voices to win it.

I'll be doing a reading of this blog post to open LUNAFEST on Friday, January 19, at 5:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall. "LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women. The Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition brings LUNAFEST to Centennial Hall every year in recognition of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and to celebrate the legacy of women's reproductive rights." Tickets are $15.00 and benefit the JPCC and the Cancer Connection.

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