I don’t like women telling other women what to do (don’t get me started on men telling women what to do). I also don’t like women throwing judgment at other women for their decisions. Especially voting. My favorite thing about America is our right to freedom of speech and how that manifests in the civic duty to vote each election year. So when, in early 2016, Gloria Steinem announced that the young liberal women who were supporting Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton chose to do so because they wanted to be liked by the “Bernie Bros” I was speechless. This was a feminist icon for nearly five decades claiming that women would make a political decision because they wanted to meet boys. Aside from being a blatantly sexist statement that would have caused an uproar had a man said it, it entirely undermined the fact that women vote with their brains, not their vaginas.
But aside from disappointment and criticism from those very women Steinem had criticized, it went under the radar. So a few days ago, when Susan Sarandon replied to the persistent question of wanting a woman to be president saying, “I’m not voting with my vagina” it’s no surprise that few people acknowledged the internal misogyny of her statement.
When I read it though, I was shocked. How naive for someone to believe that simply because a woman votes for another woman it must be because of her anatomy. How incredibly dismissive to say that a woman, with all her knowledge, rational, critical thinking, passion for politics, and struggle to survive in a world constantly trying to suppress her light, can be boiled down to one little part of her anatomy. After all, there is no chance that either woman agrees on, let alone has an understanding of, important policy issues. But then I started to think; maybe one of the reasons I did vote for Hillary Clinton was because of my vagina. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
I decided to make a list of the reasons I voted with my vagina after I shipped my absentee ballot off to Florida.
1. Because it’s mine and I want it to stay that way.
That’s not such a radical idea – that what happens in my body and for my body is my personal business. I want to be seen for more than a vagina. I don’t want to be seen as a political maneuver to gain more seats in Congress, to gain electoral votes, to win voters. I want to be seen as a human. An entire human. Not for this one part of me that a man wants. I want to be blamed for my mistakes and my errors and my political decisions that you don’t agree with because of my brain. Not my vagina. I want to live in a world where everyone recognizes that every woman has a right over her own body. That it’s hers and hers alone. And that anyone who tries to make a decision for her is invading the sovereignty of her body. That it’s her choice if she takes birth control or if she doesn’t take birth control. It’s her choice if she doesn’t want to carry a child to term because I know I am not the only woman who feels the weight of the burden if her period is a few days late. It’s her choice and her right to have an abortion if her child’s brain is developing in its heart and it’s not expected to survive outside of her. Or if she doesn’t want to ever be pregnant. Or if she doesn’t want to have children at all.
I want the vagina to be a body part again. Not the topic of a politically charged discussed between men who cannot even say the word, men who have no regard for the rest of my body or my mind or my intelligence or wellbeing. I want my body to belong to me. In an ideal world, female anatomy wouldn’t be a topic of discussion on the national stage. It would remain in conversation between a woman and her doctor, a woman and her partner, a woman and her friends, a woman and whomever she chooses to discuss it with. But there is not denying that it is now a politically charged word.
So yes, I voted with my vagina. But not because that’s the only thing I have; I also voted with my brain and my heart and my conscious and my belief that every human has a right to live their fullest life, whatever that may mean for them. I voted with my politically charged, sometimes oppressed, sometimes liberated, at all times mine, vagina. Because I want there to be a day when we don’t have to question who it belongs to. And I want there to be a day when the halls of government in DC are filled with conversations of foreign policy, welfare reform, and improving lives for our veterans rather than questions of whether women are capable of making our own decisions regarding our bodies.