My partner Caleb is working out in the field (by which I mean that as a fish biologist, he is camped along a river with a crew sampling fresh water) and it would be the perfect opportunity to do some deep cleaning. I should go so far as scrubbing the walls and washing the light fixture, for I am not working this summer, and it seems like the right way to earn my keep, to feel like I am doing something useful.
Those were the thoughts going through my head this morning as I was walking along a two track behind the house. I have certain roles that I feel I am supposed to fulfill. Certain tasks attached to my gender, and also certain unsaid rules I have attached to the relationship. But I am writing instead. The bathroom and all the other things I think I should be doing will have to wait. Along with the walk that was for my body, for my health and sanity, the writing is also part of my self-care, something that seems for women to fall in line behind caring for others, behind doing what we think should be done.
Get this. A feminist walks into a bar, face smudged with ash, thick Carhartt bib overalls, long hair tucked in a cap, perfectly manicured nails, and a strapping fellow by her side. They order two steaks, a beer each, and she has a salad, no dressing. She fidgets as she tries to adjust her thong underwear. When the check comes, he pays. He holds the door as they walk out of the bar, and she climbs to a diesel pickup pulling a trailer full of wood. He drives.
I come from a long line of women who get the job done. No matter if it is making lunch for a haying crew of thirty hungry ranchers, or rallying resources in the last minutes before a Christmas morning gathering to make sure the late additions to our table would have gifts to open after dessert. We accomplish the task. My female friends are equally driven. I’ve been on a crew of five that made all the food for a wedding with over 300 guests. We stayed up all night peeling potatoes for salad and rolling up pieces of lunch meat for the buffet and got up the next morning in time to set it all up, dress the bride, get to the service, and smile in the photographs. My girlfriends and I have cut firewood, branded calves, painted, packed, and proved over and over that no matter the job, we can get it done.
And now many of those same women and I have joined the ranks of our sisters all over the globe to get other jobs done. Together we are marching for change, for peace, for climate, for the environment. I’ve joined sister-friends in democratic calls for action, given a thumbs up on every single photo another friend posts about wild spaces and our need to keep them. And I have sat in a classroom with the wonderful bloggers that I share this space with, and talked about the challenges and the rewards of being female and the best way to showcase those.
I love unique, colorful, and beautiful tattoos. I have one, a dragonfly, that I had tattooed on my lower back 15 years ago, and though I have not sought any others, I have come to admire the art that women have given their skin to. I also love serendipitous events. For example, when you are thinking of someone and they call, or in the case of this blog, when you are researching one idea and all of the information leads to the formation of an entirely new project. Thus is the case while doing research for an article on the word squaw. I was looking for information for my blog, reading various sites, and articles and books such as: “My Body, Myself” and Reading Native American Women and they all seemed to start to resonate with each other. It doesn’t stop there. I have been reading essays by Roxane Gay in her book Bad Feminist and in a couple of weeks, I will be teaching a lesson to another class about the poetry of Claudia Rankine, these texts read together, with my own personal interest, made for a choir of excellent reading.
Excellent reading, that along with the information I was gathering about the word squaw (an article I promise to post soon) created an awareness for me of something that I am almost ashamed to admit. I realized that many women have not had the same experiences with their bodies (at least the reception and expectation of their bodies) as I have as a Native woman. Though I think that as female we have shared many of the same experiences, such as discrimination based on gender stereotypes or medias portrayal of the ideal, Felly Simmonds’ essay, “My Body, Myself,” made me realize how many of my experiences, mostly negative, have to do with my physical body.