How I Outran Misogyny

"I have started running to retrain the way my brain sees my body, not as a sexual object but as a tool to get things done."
12/18/2016 10:22 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2017
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

I was born and raised a feminist. I was welcomed into the sisterhood at my first breath and my parents lived and breathed gender equality into my sister and me from dawn until dusk. But misogyny is as subtle as it is powerful and if this last year in politics has given us any sort of silver lining, it is the lifting of the veil, the cessation of the Kool-Aid and a cold-turkey withdrawal from our collective addiction to soma. 

Today I went running through the woods. Running used to just be free therapy and a way to fit into my tightest jeans. Running was one way to insure that when men looked at my body, they would want it. Not me, but “it.” My ass. My legs. My breasts. My waist. And for a long time, I thought that this summation of parts was me. The confusing part is that I have no memory of thinking these thoughts out loud. I have never once thought “I should go for a run so someone will want to f*ck me.” Because, while we don’t say it as loudly as some other beliefs, as women we are told in every forum imaginable that if we’re not f*ck-able, why, on God’s green Earth, would anyone want us for anything else? What is even crazier than this thought of mine, is that I had it at all. What is crazier than that, is that I’m not the only one. And finally, what is the most ludicrous idea of all is that we just elected a man as president who not only employs misogyny in the normal, “under-the-rug, constantly lurking but always just out of vision so you can pretend it’s not there” way, but in the loud, “this is my campaign strategy” sort of way. And that’s just f*cking insane. 

Running used to just be a way to fit into my tightest jeans. [It] was one way to insure that when men looked at my body, they would want it.

A few years ago, at Festival International, a world music festival in Lafayette, Louisiana, I was dancing in a dark bar with one of my soul sisters and about a billion new friends. We were breaking it down, arms around each other, stomping it out, all of us laughing, screaming, hooting and hollering. It was like we were dancing the devil out or calling the light back in with the pounding of our boots on the wooden floor. We took a break and sat on the porch and talked about love and looked at the stars and reveled in the moment. My friend told me about a man she had recently left, but in explanation, all she could say was that she was having a “physical bad reaction” every time she saw him. I laughed, and thought that was the best way to explain just about everything we leave behind. 

For me, it all started to hit critical mass this past summer as the campaigns began to heat up. I realized that maybe I wasn’t as good a feminist as I thought. Or maybe the sisterhood was in need of some major digging in. I started to really lean in to my circle of women, almost like I was shoring up for a storm. Still, I didn’t believe that HRC would lose because we live in a misogynistic country. And still, I can’t believe that there are those who can’t see how blatant it all really is. I am incredulous, even as I’m just beginning to see how deeply misogyny runs in my own veins, like a constant stream of consciousness. 

But I’ve been having a “physical bad reaction.” Today when I was running, I realized that my reason for running changed sometime ago. I have started running to be strong. I have started running to prepare for war. I have started running for levity. I have started running to retrain the way my brain sees my body, not as a sexual object but as a tool to get things done, as a vehicle for change.

As women we are told in every forum imaginable that if we’re not f*ck-able, why would anyone want us for anything else?

Glennon Doyle Melton says “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” With regards to Aleppo. With regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline, (and all the others) and to climate change and to our ever-suffering planet. With regards to the man holding the position of president-elect. With regards to women’s reproductive health. With regards to our future. We are all feeling some sort of collective trauma, which I know because I spend an hour every day trying to outrun it. But the time of mourning has passed. The time of shock and grief and feeling emotionally paralyzed has passed. It’s time to grab the hands of those around you who are fighting on the right side of history. It’s time to stomp our feet to the drums, scream and laugh and cry and hoot and holler. It’s time to wail. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for and it’s time to dance the devil out and welcome the light back in. 

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