Being a woman to me, is a blessing and a curse.
This is perhaps my most vulnerable article ever, and if I am disadvantaged because of it, I will take the risk.
Thanks to the Week of Life in November (a Dutch organization that demonstrates against abortion), I am once again painfully reminded that I had to make a choice that I, and so many other women, did not want to make. I am also reminded that as a woman, your freedom of choice can never go without criticism. As if that just being a woman is also a license to be criticized for everything we do. Even on the topics we are sometimes forced to do.
Waiting for the cart
I was asked by Sense Talk, in collaboration with Rutgers, to speak about abortion. A few years ago I wrote an article about the abortion brochure, not knowing that I would have to undergo one myself. I didn't tell anyone, not even my family. The shock, fear, and shame were too much to bear. In retrospect, I would have liked to share this luggage with those around me, so I wouldn't have to carry that heavy load myself. The fact that I found out very early, gave me some comfort. Everything in me told me that I had to make a choice that was not for myself, but for my possible child. Mentally I was in a lot of trouble, I had no money and no shelter of my own. In addition, I was in a mentally and physically unstable relationship. So I had to make one of the most egoless choices of my life. It meant that I had to face the fact that I had nothing to offer and had to set myself free from the situation that I was in. For me, an abortion was a roller coaster that you didn't want to get on. Fortunately, in the Netherlands, you only have to wait in line for a very short time until your cart arrives. Then you get in, and you're pulled through a corkscrew at 100km per hour and when it's all over… you get out, and the long aftermath begins.
Declaration of outlaw
The doctors and staff were extremely friendly, convivial and reassuring, the three most important elements you need during this process. Because I was so early, I was prescribed with the abortion pill so I did not have to undergo the procedure at the clinic. “You don't have to suffer,” the doctor said to me. Her words felt soft and helped me, but I also heard an undertone of frustration and concern in her voice. As if she's waiting for the day, she won't have to say that to any woman anymore. No matter how much information I received, nothing could prepare me for that damn corkscrew. I threw up, screamed into a pillow, and passed out from the pain. I did not expect that my body would react so strongly to this, but it did feel like I had to suffer for my choice. Why did I even have that feeling? Maybe because as soon as you become a young woman, you have to go to the doctor for contraception and deal with the consequences of all the hormones and complications. But you can't complain too much about it because that's part of being a woman. Then you spend years looking for what works and what doesn't, and as soon as you unintentionally become pregnant, you suddenly become that careless or irresponsible woman. There is an opinion on every aspect of my body; a stigma, a taboo, and it can all just be said without consequences. Does this mean that being a woman comes with a declaration of outlaw?
The Language we speak
If we just look at the language we speak, I understand very well why there is still such a taboo on abortion. The framing we use in our language continues to amaze me. Just as you commit a crime, we also choose to say that you 'commit' an abortion, in the Dutch language. You don't commit an abortion, you undergo it, period. In my time at high school, I was only educated that if you became pregnant unintentionally, you could do two things: choose to have an abortion or you could wait it out and give it up for adoption. But why does our education stop there? Where is the pointing finger, and therefore the responsibility to our men? And also, where is the mental support for our men in these situations? Why aren't both boys and girls told how to be there for each other mentally, and that this is a matter that concerns both parties? Why do we criticize abortion instead of realizing that our opinions don't add any value to the situation? How is it possible that as a society we are more accepting of breast implants and butt lifts from a freedom point of view, but not if it’s about abortion?
What is the campaign really about?
I therefore wonder how pro-life, 'the week of life' actually is. As I'm reading the website I have my concerns about it: 'If you are still young, at school and you do not think you are yet able to raise your child, you can ask your parents whether they want to raise your child. If your parents do not want this, there may be others in your environment who would like this. Consider, sisters/brothers or uncles/aunts. When you are threatened or are kicked out of home, you can go to a special shelter or you can live with a care family, where you can have your baby born in peace, under supervision, without others knowing.' So, would you have sheltered me when I became homeless? Would you support me financially if I had not succeeded? Would you take care of everything if I no longer felt like living? After inspecting the website I guess the answer is no. I’m not here to point the finger though. I believe that everybody is allowed to have a different view on things in life, but that doesn’t mean that we should make women suffer more. I would find it very pro-life, if the money that was raised on this campaign was used to help struggling young girls, women or couples. Instead of spending it on billboards, video commercials and radio commercials just to push your opinion.
Blessing and a Curse
Only now, after a long time, I slowly start talking about my experience, and the love I get in return is heart-warming. There is one beautiful moment in particular; I stood in a room filled with 8 amazing women. The subject suddenly came up and it was the first time I spoke openly about my abortion. There was a short silence, then suddenly four out of the eight women looked at me and said 'I had to go through this too'. The stone in my stomach made room for peace and connection. Every woman in this room was able to share her story, and every story was met with love, support and compassion. And most importantly, there was no opinion to be found.
So the fact that my body can provide life is extremely fascinating to me, yet very overwhelming. Because the moment that I don’t want to provide, my body becomes a declaration of outlaw. There are days that I put on my highest heels with full grace, paired with my favorite dress and a lingerie set that matches the colors. Other days I put on my baggy clothes and hide my hair under a cap so I don’t have to deal with the sexualization of society. It feels like a paradoxical tug-of-war, where sometimes I go into battle with passion and dedication, and other times I can't even close my bleeding hands because of the pain. That's why being a woman feels like a blessing and a curse to me.
Being a woman is fantastic, but it is not without risk. The only solution I see is that we give each other the right education (men and women), keep our opinions to ourselves, and support each other despite the differences of opinion. Just so that one day, that doctor never has to speak with an undertone of frustration and concern anymore.
Bowi, also known as Bowi's Boudoir. NLP coach with a specialization in sexuality and self-awareness. In her coaching work, she uses Lingerie as a tool and tries to broaden the spectrum of feminity with LingerieTherapie: 'Im not here to tell you what to do or even how do it, but i do want to share my thoughts, lessons and journey in my own persuit of feminity.'
Book a session with Bowi at Lingerietherapie.nl