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We Cannot Learn to Live With This
Conceding is not an option
There is so much that women have learned to live with.
Being talked over, dismissed and underestimated. The threat of sexual violence at school, work, on the street, or in our homes. Being politically represented by almost exclusively men; opening a newspaper and reading mostly men write about issues that impact your life; turning on the television and only seeing yourself reflected through the eyes of men, in the most superficial, objectifying ways possible. The knowledge that every time we reject a man—whether it’s a date, a Tinder match, our husband, or a stranger on the street who decided to share in explicit detail what they think about our breasts—we are risking our personal safety.
We go to work and have friends, raise kids and and live our lives despite the constant oppression, harassment, rape, violence, and dark cloud of threats that hang over us.
I hate that we have learned to live with all of this as if it’s normal. I hate that it is normal. And now, not even two full weeks since Roe was overturned, I can already see how anger and despair might settle into resignation—and I am terrified.
For activists and those who work for abortion access, this will never be the case. They don’t have the luxury of hopelessness, and they are doing the work they have always done.
But for everyday Americans—in particular those who live in Blue states, or who are otherwise privileged—I can already sense a shift. Maybe it’s exhaustion or despondence, maybe it’s the (incorrect) feeling that this will never impact their lives directly. Maybe I’m just disappointed that every woman I know isn’t raging every day, all the time.
It’s not that people aren’t talking and thinking about abortion; they are. News stories have already begun to trickle out about those denied abortion care—sometimes even basic birth control and prescriptions unrelated to pregnancy. Folks are incredulously sharing stories on social media about hospitals turning away miscarrying women, and the percent of Americans who call themselves pro-choice has jumped significantly.
People absolutely care, and they absolutely are horrified. But that doesn’t mean they won’t move on.
We are settling into a new post-Roe reality, one where the national tone is in danger of shifting from pure hot anger to somber resignation. We cannot slip into the kind of sadness that becomes compliance or apathy. Because abortion being illegal cannot be yet another injustice women are expected to live with.
If that happens, the work to undo this nightmare becomes even harder. When something that was once unthinkable becomes the norm, it’s suddenly ‘just the way things are’. It becomes an issue that people shake their heads over at dinner parties saying isn’t that terrible before getting back to their drinks.
Those most impacted by these laws, of course, will never have the privilege of detachment. They will not learn to live with it because they will not live.
I understand that we all have to manage the best we can under awful circumstances. And I get that living in a constant state of fury and action is not desirable (or possible) for everyone.
But conceding is not an option. We can’t watch our country call us less than human and just find a way to stomach it.
We need to find a way to deal with the reality of Roe being overturned without accepting or tolerating it. Whatever that looks like, it certainly doesn’t start with adding to the long list of bullshit women are expected to live with.
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