I'm naked and standing in front of my bathroom mirror.
My body has hiked miles and snowboarded mountains and swum oceans. It has been in an immense amount of pain and felt surreal levels of pleasure and felt nothing but the sweet unconsciousness of a quiet night's sleep. It has run for miles and been pushed to its limit and worked with a team of other bodies towards a collective goal. It has rejected a pregnancy and birthed a baby and sustained another human life. It's soft in some places and solid in others and beautifully flawed everywhere in between.
What I'm staring at is not only a body, it is my body. The veins and organs and tissues and tendons and bones that make the me that everyone sees -- that love and learn and build and create. It's my tool of expression, and mine to care for, and there are many like it, all working side by side and sometimes (hopefully) together to experience a life we all have the right to live.
But rarely are women's bodies treated like actual bodies. Rarely is a woman's body viewed as a tangible instrument, controlled by one person and one person only: the woman inside of it. Rarely are these bodies treated with respect or given space or even, simply, just left alone.
According to politicians, my body is a potential vote. They'll debate about it, argue for or against it and try to decide what I can and cannot do with it. They'll speak at rallies or behind podiums, using my body as a statistic to make a fleeting point. They see it as a number in a column that could help them make the primaries or gain political ground or reach a core voting group.
According to teachers and school officials, my body is a distraction. I couldn't wear skirts that didn't pass my fingertips and I couldn't wear shirts that showed the skin of my shoulders. I couldn't wear gym shorts that were too short, because some athletic moves could be "suggestive" to male classmates. My body was a disturbance to adolescent men and their hormones, and it was my body that would be to blame if any of their actions were inappropriate.
According to pro-life advocates, my body is a baby-making machine. I don't have the right to control my ability to reproduce, so if I become pregnant, I must stay pregnant. If my brain knows that a child could not be cared for, my body cannot and should not agree. If a pregnancy is something I -- the woman controlling her body -- does not want or cannot handle, it is still something my body did and so I must adhere to it.
According to religion, my body is a temple. I shouldn't let too many people inside of it and I shouldn't adorn it with tattoos or piercings and I shouldn't use it to express myself in ways that aren't condoned by others. A higher power owns the rights to my body, and if I don't use it to praise that power or honor that power or bring glory to that power, I do not deserve to have my body at all.
According to ad companies, my body is a marketing tool. My body should be starved and photoshopped and used to tell other women that their bodies are not good enough or are in need of something their money can buy. Its sexuality can be used to sell shoes and its attractiveness can be used to sell cheeseburgers and it's useless if it cannot be used to sell anything at all.
Women's bodies have been sexualized and diminished and devalued and attacked and displayed and argued over and debated about and controlled and vindictively used by others to further personal, political or religious agendas.
They've been used as symbols for good and evil and everything in between, so often and with such powerful rhetoric that people forget that a woman's body is -- first, foremost and forever -- a human body.
I'm naked and standing in front of my bathroom mirror, and I am overwhelmed and exhausted and angry. I see limbs and skin and curves. I see a rising chest and a birthmark and a scrape, just above my knee. I don't see a vote or a distraction or a machine or a temple or a marketing tool.
I want my body to be treated like a body.
I want women's bodies to be seen as human bodies.