i am not a boarder of my own body
They said my body belongs to my future husband. Be touched by another man and I’d be marked as impure. In high school, we were required to wear long-sleeved, loose blouses and long, plaid skirts; in spite of the rage of summer, all for the image of purity, enduring the heat and suffocation for the sanctity of femininity because isn’t that all there is to being a woman? A woman has to be pure until the day of marriage. There is no room to explore our sexuality—why would we even have to? We were created from the lower rib of Adam, molded to be a lifelong companion of a lonely male.
They said my body belongs to the men I meet day after day. In college, I was told several times to lose weight. I’d look better with less pounds, they said. More men will find me attractive if I get slimmer, they said. No one wants a fat, sad girl, they said. There is a standard of beauty you must uphold: huge breasts, slim waist, small feet, round ass, flawless skin, upturned nose, perfect teeth—these are your keys to success. Life is so much easier if you win the genetic lottery. Take catcalls as compliments; at least someone thinks you’re fuckable. Wear something tight but decent. Let them see how defined your shape is, but leave something to the imagination. After all, you were made to become a spectacle that feeds the male gaze.
They said my body belongs inside four walls, preparing dinner plates and doing laundry. I was not born with physical strength ideal for hunting. My bones and muscles were meant to carry a child, not the universe. Running a company, a country, the world—these are a man’s job. I ran everyday errands. At 20, I already get asked how many children I want to have, at what age I plan to settle. I tell them I don’t want to give birth nor get married. “What is the point of being a woman then,” they ask me, “if you won’t build a family?” Is the essence of womanhood solely to become a mother, become a wife? Can I not aim to fall in love with another woman, to conquer the world of art and science, to start a revolution?
They said my body belongs a deity I cannot even believe in. My physical pleasure was an offense to my so-called savior. They keep asking why I do not pray. I keep asking why god is portrayed as a male, when the truth is that women are the ones birthed to create. I will remain agnostic if being faithful means having to kneel in front of one more man just for me to prove my loyalty, just for me to feel that I am alive.
They said my body was everyone else’s but mine. I may be in charge of its function, but not of its appearance nor purpose. Life as a woman continues to feel like living in a room you cannot get yourself to call home, no matter how familiar you are to every crook and cranny, every edge and stain on the cream-colored walls, because something about the place still leaves you alienated, and this thing you just cannot come to grips with, the je ne sais quoi bleeding through the windows, it always finds its way into your little private space, painting itself on the walls and leaving you yearning for comfort from when comfort should be found in this very room.
I am done apologizing for giving into the temptation to explore more than I am allowed to. Why am I even living within restrictions when I can own the stars? My body is scarred, exhausted after decades of thinking that I was birthed solely to become a subordinate. Women deserve more than this, but the problem lies in the sad truth that most of us were brought up believing that we do not have a say. Women must realize that our lives are a constant struggle, and we are warriors in defense of our femininity. There is a need to rebel, assert ownership of our own body, find strength in what they call imperfections. We are not boarders of our own bodies, and it’s about time we show the world who’s truly in control.
I never set out to stand on a pedestal, be on the other
end of an empty prayer but the sting of concrete
against fresh wounds, of flesh burning
did not numb me enough to not feel
the way they held me down, force my mouth open
to accept unwanted Eucharist--
words began to lose
their meaning the way they robbed me of mine.
I began to call abuse as experience
because no one believes in demons anymore:
how they claim women’s bodies as theirs, feed
on their blood and turn them into slaves, insert themselves
in places they only want
to destroy. Suddenly whore became another word for survivor.
I lived with violence growing inside my womb.
I tried to swallow as many pills as I could just to make
its heart stop from beating, its mouth from
consuming all that is left of me,
but I never got to undergo a proper abortion.
Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is a writer from the Philippines. She is the Founder of The Brown Orient and the Associate Editor of Half Mystic Press and TERSE. Journal. She also edits prose for Rag Queen Periodical and poetry for The Ideate Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hypertrophic Literary, The Poetry Annals, Porridge Magazine, and Jellyfish Review, among others. FInd her on Twitter @notjanedeyro and visit her website at http://www.elizabethruthdeyro.weebly.com.