While I have been pursuing my degree at Old Dominion University I have had the great pleasure of meeting some wonderful people. One of those people is Skylar. She is incredibly talented and intelligent and she is currently working on a project to raise money to purchase some books and help the library. Here are Skylar’s words about her project:
I constructed an acronym out of my mother’s name to symbolize my drive for this project, which is to provide Awareness, Nurture, Networking, Encouragement, Teamwork, Teaching, and Equality (Annette). This project is inspired by her, my research on the educational experience of South African girls, and my experience studying abroad. In May 2014, I participated in an independent study in Cape Town, South Africa for two and a half weeks documenting social development and human rights issues. While there, I focused on the education system in South Africa, specifically in primary and secondary schools. I spent some time in a school located in the Guguletu Township, Fezeka Secondary School. As a result, I discovered that Fezeka lacked the resources to provide their students with the certain amenities such as a fully stocked library or a computer lab. These resources are essential to the success of the students in regards to preparing them for achieving a higher level of education. The primary goal of my service-learning project is to complete the library in Fezeka by raising money for their library and other supplies.
I have always been an advocate of reproductive rights for women. Every woman should have the right to decide for herself when and if she wants to have children. This decision is a very personal one, and each woman should have the right to make it for herself. Without interference from parents, siblings, spouses, and especially from the government. There are two points I would like to make. The first is that I am deeply offended by the anti abortion people using the phrase “right to life” as their catch phrase. As if being pro-abortion rights makes you somehow “against” life. That the only group that values life is the people who are against a LEGAL medical procedure. That is the bottom line for me. An abortion is a medical procedure. A LEGAL medical procedure. If people looked at it that way would it remove some of the volatility? Could we look at a heart transplant, or an appendectomy, or tonsillectomy through the same lens? NO, you can’t remove that organ because it was given to you at birth and since you are a GOD created being, it is God’s appendix, so you MUST keep it, even if it kills you…. Women should be in control of their own bodies!
Think about it. The argument against abortion usually stems from a religious basis. That it is against God’s law to “take” a life. Well, what if that “life” threatens the mother’s life because of where the cells chose to implant themselves, or what if the “life” was created from a violent act of rape or incest? At what point does the woman within whom these cells are growing get to have agency over her own body? Why does her agency stop due to religion?
Religion removes a woman’s agency over her own body in more ways than just the abortion argument. What does the religious right say about contraception? Or about her right NOT to have children? In many cases a woman’s ONLY value is about bringing babies into the world and being her husband’s “helpmate”. And before anyone argues that I may not understand, I wish to let you know that I was married to a man for 9 years and we belonged to the fundamental Church of Christ church. While I was a member of that church I was not allowed to speak during services, not allowed to teach men (because MEN are the head), not allowed to hold a leadership position in the church, and was taught to be quiet, meek and subservient to my husband. Those of you who know me in real life might understand how these directives affected me. For those of you who have never met me, you need to know that I am a strong, opinionated, passionate, intelligent woman. Having to squash all of that in order to “serve God and my husband” was a heavy chain around my heart and soul. The yoke of religion can be a burden women have to bear, not the spiritual uplifting I think a truly loving, kind and just God would want for us.
However, getting back to reproductive rights, I am ALL for them. There was a time in my life when I was 18 and dating a very sweet young man named Ron. We were both in Hospital Corps School, and were just about to embark on our Navy career. I got pregnant. I was completely distraught. I knew if I continued with the pregnancy I would not be able to continue my Navy schooling, and it would change my career and educational aspirations. I was only 18. I was not ready to be a parent. Ron wasn’t ready to be a parent. We decided to terminate the pregnancy. My mother agreed and I flew home to Connecticut from Chicago, and she took me to a clinic to have a LEGAL abortion. This was in 1984. As we neared the clinic I noticed there was a chain link fence around the entire building. The fence was there to keep protesters away from the front door of the building. As I neared the fence there was a throng of people standing by the gate holding signs and shouting at me. They told me I was evil, and sinful, and that what I was doing was murder and I was going to hell. My mother grabbed hold of my arm tightly and just steered me through those people. To be honest I was afraid of them. They seemed so angry and so incredibly judgmental.
I think about that day sometimes, even now. Less now than I did when I was younger. I think about the fact that I could have a 31-year-old child. I think about the fact that I would probably not have married my ex-husband if I had chosen to have that child. Then I wouldn’t have my two amazing beautiful boys my ex and I created together. My life would have been so different. I can’t say that it would have been better or worse. I may have still married, I may have had more children, it my have been a beautiful life, but it wouldn’t be the life I have now. We can only theorize about “what if’s” so much. To dwell on them would make me crazy, so I choose not to do that.
What I do know is that I love my life, and I am incredibly blessed. I do mourn that child, and it still makes me sad, but that is what I believed was the right thing to do for myself at that time in my life, and I am INCREDIBLY thankful that I was legally able to obtain an abortion. Thankful that my parents supported my decision. Thankful that I had access to a safe clinic. Thankful that I had access to medical care from qualified people. Thankful that I was able to decide for myself what I wanted to do with my body. Thankful that I had reproductive rights.
I think EVERY woman should have those same opportunities, same access, and same ability to choose for themselves. Until this happens, we are not truly free as human beings. And Women should be in control of their own bodies!
I know I have mentioned it before, but for those of you who are new, I am a college student at Old Dominion University. Yes, I am almost 50. Yes, I am working on my undergraduate degree. What can I say, like a fine wine, I have gotten better with age….
Anyway, I started going to ODU in the spring of 2013. I had a wonderful Professor for my Intro to Women’s Studies, and she offered extra credit points to us if we attended the Vagina Monologues being put on by some of the women at ODU. Never one to turn down easy points (really it only cost 20.00 for two tickets, a large portion of which went to the local YWCA to fight violence against women). I talked Karol into joining me and away we went.
We really liked the production. We laughed, we cried, and even yelled! It was eye opening, and I was especially impressed to see the quite reserved love of my life sit and enjoy it. To be honest I had as much fun watching her reactions as I did the production itself!
I did not realize that it was an annual event at ODU until this year. I started hearing some of my classmates and a professor (the same one that introduced me to Women’s Studies, Robin Ormiston), talking about this year’s production of the Vagina Monologues to be held Valentine’s Day weekend. Of course I wanted to go, but Karol was traveling to visit her family in Minnesota that weekend, and I didn’t want to go alone. I started thinking about who I could invite (and would be willing to go).
I have talked about my youngest son, aka The Genius, and his feministing ways. That boy is a feminist if ever I met one. He is all about equity and he is incredibly intentional about his actions, particularly when it comes to race and class. I have been teaching him since he was quite small that because he is a white male he is the most privileged type of person in this country and that he needs to use his privilege to help others achieve the same status. Until we no longer have white privilege in this country he should use it for the benefit of people who don’t have it. This lesson has definitely struck home with him, and he is an incredible human being! I see great things in his future!
Anyway, I asked him if he would like to go to the Vagina Monologues with me and without hesitation he said , “Yes!” He then asked if his bff could come along with us. I said sure, but please make sure her parents knew where she was going….(I did not want to get in trouble for taking a minor to Vagina Monologues without parental permission). The young lady received permission and off we went to the 2015 ODU production of The Vagina Monologues.
I have to admit I was a bit nervous because having seen it before I had a small inkling of what these kids were going to be exposed to. Of course as we walked in the first thing we were asked as we gave our tickets was if we wanted to purchase Vagina lollipops. (chocolate lollipops shaped like a vagina). The kids said yes, so I bought all three of us a vagina lollipop after I made them promise NOT to eat them at school…..(can you imagine the phone call I would get if that happened) “Um. Ms. Rood, this is the Principal calling….ummm, there was an incident with your son and a food item today….. ummm”
I have to admit the first time the word “cum” was used, the mom in me did get a bit squinky, and I glanced over at the kids, and they had not even looked away from the stage……whew, okay that was fine, and then I relaxed. After that I was able to remove my “mom” persona and just enjoy the fact that I was introducing two teenagers to a world of feminism and the idea that we can celebrate a body part that is often seen only as “dirty” or “smelly” or sexual.
Think about it, the slang names for a penis are strong or weapon like: rod, sword, stick, love muscle, one eyed monster, cock, etc etc. However, the words for vagina have a different feel: twat, cunt, hole, cave, gash….not the same genre of words at all.
But in the 2015 Vagina Monologues these amazing women were on stage CELEBRATING the Vagina! Celebrating wearing a short skirt. Talking about uncomfortable things like rape and abuse. Talking about wonderful things like empowerment and love. Talking about Vaginas!
When it was over, I introduced the kids to some of the women actors who I knew, and congratulated the women on an outstanding performance. When Robin asked the kids what they thought of the show, they both said an emphatic ” I LOVED IT!”
I know these kids are meant for great things!
Just so you can experience some of what we experienced I will leave you with a video of a monologue from Vagina Monologues. If you ave some interest and time, check out videos of “The Moaner” and “My Angry Vagina”. Both are great! In fact, it is all great. Go see a show if you ever have a chance!!
One of my favorite monologues: My Short Skirt
( I wish I had access to the one done this year at ODU, but after viewing many of these, I liked this one the best!)