|Photo by Harpyimages/Meg Gaiger|
causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed
Full Definition of INSIDIOUS
a : awaiting a chance to entrap : treacherous
b : harmful but enticing : seductive <insidious drugs>
a : having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle <the insidious pressures of modern life>
b : of a disease: developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.
When I was a young girl, someone scraped most of my insides out and took them for himself. Last time I saw him, I still gave him a hug and pretended everything was fine.
I think I’ve spent most of my life looking for my insides but I never thought to ask him to give them back to me. Now I’m not sure if I want them back or not. I’m not sure if I even can ask him. I don’t think I can bear the additional burden of his denial.
This scraping of my insides gave me the idea that I always had to give the very best of myself to someone else and not save anything for me. I’ve been eating rotting, second-hand leftovers all my life.
If my very insides were entitled to someone else—a man—how could I dare ask for anything outside of myself?
At times it seems both unbearable to continue to live this way and impossible to really change anything.
At the water park yesterday, I noticed one way we indoctrinate gender early on: bathing suits. Boys have their longish shorts. The girl option seems limited either way: a bikini that’s often sexualized or a one piece that covers the entire torso. Personally, I like the sun over my entire body. If I had it my way, I’d always bathe nude. I’m long past a proper ‘bikini body’ but further past giving a shit. I like the feel of the sun on my breasts without the intrusion of fabric to block the sweat rolling off them.
How odd that men have the option of hiding so much more behind their shorts while women are so vulnerable in their suits with their fat and folds sticking out all over the place. My Norwegian husband is old enough to remember when boys and girls in his country just wore Speedo bottoms. I don’t know what the women wore.
When I was an “acceptable woman,” I still looked like a little girl and I didn’t have any fat sticking out anywhere. But now I look like a “real woman,” and I hate it.
I thought I loved my body until I started gaining weight. Now I realize that, much like my father’s love for me, my self-love was always conditional. I glance at the extra 7 pounds distributed down my back and in globs of fat on my stomach and breasts and I hate myself. I hate every spare inch of me. For someone who doesn’t own a scale I still seem to always know exactly how much more space I’ve dared to take up.
Sometimes I want to take an old toilet brush and just scrub out all the residue deep inside of me that just won’t go away.
My mom thinks feminism makes me depressed. My dad thinks feminism makes me angry. I think the way things were stacked, I’d be both anyways.
My friend Lisa says that people who can cry are brave and strong but I hold it in most days because when I do cry I feel like I have failed somehow. I feel wasted from crying. I feel so exhausted by my life that I don’t dare spend extra energy on tears.
When I was a little girl, I cried a lot. My dad used to sit beside me, and rub my back for an hour without saying one word. He seemed utterly confused by me, as if I should just accept my allotted fate. I never knew why I was so angry at him, but I knew I wasn’t allowed to show it. Now I know it was because he did and said nothing. He didn’t try to change anything for me. He didn’t stand up for me. He set me up to fail and then blamed me for feeling ‘sorry for myself.’
It took me 38½ years to yell and scream at my dad. It took me 38½ years to tell him he was wrong.
When my son was 8-years-old, I sat down with him and worked out the projected comparative economics of his and my daughter's entire lives. I realized something that day: the math is our map.
We set girls up to fail economically from day one and then minimize it, like it doesn’t count. When I did the math on the projected income disparity between him and his sister, they ended up more than a million dollars apart at the end of their lives. I asked my son how he would feel if he were in her shoes—and that I knew all that, and still did nothing to change it.
He started to cry. He said he would feel like I didn’t care about him at all.
I sat and watched him, not allowing myself to feel anything because I knew if I started crying it would go well beyond an acceptable lesson for an eight-year-old. He was crying over the million dollars—the sum at the end when it was all tidied up. Most of us can’t allow ourselves to feel the little dings along the way.
The math doesn’t tell you how it feels to be a single mom with less than a dollar in the bank. The math doesn’t tell you how badly it stings to lose your home without the luxury of tears. The math doesn’t tell you how much it sucks to have to deny your children while your ex-husband lives in a 3,800 square foot house and wears a different pair of Gucci shoes every time you see him.
Life is fucking hard for women everywhere and we’re not even allowed to swear about it.
It’s draining to always be polite; to navigate your words in the most-possibly-kind-way and still be called a “bitch.”
It’s more exhausting to care.
Sometimes it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table and keep the house relatively clean. Is this what happens to us? Do we just get too worn out for one-more-burden?
Lately I feel like all the light has been drained from my eyes.
I often feel alone and angry that there aren’t more people working to change things. But then I think, how can I ask anyone to join me when I feel so bad myself? Is it easier to just give in and accept the roles assigned to us from birth?
The way we socialize girls continues to fuck us over. It's so insidious.
Being raised as a girl teaches us to be raped without screaming or remembering so that it can be done day after day in every possible way without the threat of revolt. By the time we are women, most of us are either too tired or too damaged to do anything about it.
We must radically change how girls are raised from birth. It's so much easier than this never-ending un-doing most women seem to be stuck in. Just that alone is a full-time job. Something has to change. It shouldn't be that hard just to be. It especially shouldn't be so hard to live as a feminist, on our own terms.
But it is. It’s soul-crushing work.
When my daughter turned 7, she started telling me that a Goddess lived inside her. This Goddess was so vivid to her that she decided she would write a book about Her.
I don’t remember what was inside me before it was stolen. For a while, I thought it was enough that my daughter had this Goddess and I could live vicariously through her.
The thing is, I want all girls to keep their Goddess. I don’t want any more boogie-men taking what is rightfully ours.
I used to feel resentful towards feminists because I felt like they weren’t, as a group, doing enough to prevent this from happening to the next generation of girls. I felt like the children were forgotten; or at least a very low priority. I couldn’t understand why we keep rehashing these same vicious cycles year after year.
Now I feel, perhaps, a bit of the why. We cannot protect or nurture what we don’t have ourselves.
I want my insides back.
Perhaps it took me this long to realize that I deserve them.
-Trista Hendren, an excerpt from Jesus, Muhammad and the Goddess.