I’m not the only one who has a right to my body

***This is a guest post written by my sister, Chrissie Dhanagom.***

I had a lot of plans for today. Sleeping, for instance. I had planned to sleep for at least eight of the past twenty-four hours. I had planned on a long shopping trip in the morning, followed by a quiet afternoon with a cup of tea and some reading and writing while the toddler and four month old napped. I have a cold that’s on its way out and I need some decent rest to completely kick it.

If you’re a parent, or have much experience with kids, you’re probably already laughing at me. I’m still a little new at this.

The baby needed to nurse frequently during the night. The toddler woke up two hours earlier than usual, and declined to take a nap in the afternoon. This, of course, meant that she was fussy, over-tired, needy and clingy all day.

I slept about six hours last night, made a frazzled dash through the store this morning, lay in the bedroom with both of them while singing a lullaby through my hoarse, cracked voice, gave up after forty-five minutes and drove around town in a last ditch attempt at naptime, sat in a parking lot nursing the baby while older sister slept in the car seat, and finally dragged myself into the kitchen at 4:30 to start dinner. My cold is back with a vengeance.

Ah, the best laid plans.

In my experience, one of the greatest challenges of parenting is letting go of the expectation that my time, my resources, and my body are mine to dispose of. It’s not an easy mental adjustment, particularly in the midst of a pervasive cultural mantra which says that I have a right to these things that no one may interfere with.

And as a woman, so I am told, I must above all, first and foremost, protect the sole and absolute claim I have on my body. There is no pledge I can make of my body that I should not be able to take back.
So say the legions of feminists who have protested, leafleted, marched, written and spoken on my behalf.

The problem is, my children seemed to have missed the cultural memo.

My two daughters’ need for my body did not stop when I gave birth to them. They need to be fed, clothed, cuddled, taught, and constantly supervised. This fulfillment involves, on my part, the giving of my body, and at times the denial of my bodily needs. And if anyone has a right to anything, children, I believe, have a right to the fulfillment of those needs.

My children have a claim on my body that is as real as my own. Parental love is utterly premised upon this.

Please note what I am not saying here. I am not saying “parents should run themselves to the ground, completely ignore their own needs, and wreak havoc on their physical well-being in order to attend to their children’s every demand.” We need to take care of ourselves as well, for many reasons, not least of which is that we can hardly take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Providentially, my need to take care of myself at the expense, sometimes, of distress on my children’s part actually coincides with their needs. I happen to think it’s good for children to experience some deprivation. The older they get, the more crucial this becomes to their character formation, and to their ability to make that all important distinction between “I want” and “I need.” They certainly will not be equipped to be good parents themselves, or virtuous adults in any capacity, if they do not learn this.

My hope, though, is to do everything in my power and at any personal cost to myself, in order to provide my children with everything they truly need. And by “need,” I mean those things that are indispensable to their happiness. I am a weak and selfish human being, and so I anticipate failing in this, perhaps often. But that is what I strive for. I think that is, in fact, what most parents strive for, which is one of many reasons why radical feminism was obsolete from the day it was born.

I can choose, of course, to deny my body to my children. I can abandon them. What I cannot do, however, is abandon my children and still be happy. That is a choice that is not open to me. I could no more do that than choose to fly.

I am a mother, and, like being married, being a mother means having my happiness wrapped up in the happiness of another person. Show me a person who has abandoned their children and I will show you an unhappy person. The giving of my body and, at times, the denial of my bodily needs is a prerequisite to my own happiness.

This is true, of course, not just for parents and spouses but for all of us. Meaningful relationships of any kind involve self-sacrifice. Because we are bodily persons, this will usually involve some form of physical self-denial. No one, I think, can truly be satisfied with a life that does not involve the giving of one’s body. And it would seem that human nature ultimately drives us to give it in the kind of irrevocable form that marriage and parenthood embody.

Maybe that’s why by far the majority of women today reject the label “feminist.” We kind of like being happy.


You can contact Chrissie here: cmdhanagom@gmail.com

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176 Responses to I’m not the only one who has a right to my body

  1. Omay Farlane says:

    Interesting! Feminazis take note!

  2. Susan Malone says:

    I agree, Kirsten. I have two adult children and five grandchildren…what a blessing! They are worth all the sleepless nights and short-in-retrospect seasons of weariness. The richness of the return from investing loving time in what does not “rust, spoil or fade” cannot be measured.

  3. John M says:

    Clearly written by a wonderful woman! Thank you.

  4. Lauren M says:

    “I must above all, first and foremost, protect the sole and absolute claim I have on my body. There is no pledge I can make of my body that I should not be able to take back.”

    While I am not a mother, I think understand the sentiment of this article–about the sacrifices one makes as a mother, including personal time and space, to suit the needs of a child and foster positive social relationships. However, I don’t think the feminist movement to reclaim ownership over one’s own body was really intended to describe the experience of parents, particularly mothers. I think this movement was and is mostly focused on the incredibly high prevalence of rape and abuse of women. It is, from my perspective, a movement to redeem women as fully realized human beings and not just sexual, soulless objects to be used without true consent. A good example of this is the liberation of women and young girls who have been forced into sex trafficking…restore her ownership of her own body, mind, and soul… Or, on a more relate-able note, your right as a woman (or man) to say “no” during a sexual encounter. On this premise, I don’t think it’s fair to attack this aspect of feminism when I don’t think it was intended the way the author is interpreting it. I do think the author does a great job exploring this topic, but I don’t think it’s a “radical feminist militantly enforcing exaggerated body ownership agendas” issue. I think it’s a “what does personal space and physical contact mean when it comes to your own children” issue, which is a legitimate question…but distantly related to the civil feminist movement revolving around female body ownership.

    • Shaila says:

      I think you are right about feminism. It’s hard to classify a movement that has shaped so much of our culture and has changed with the times. Whenever people make general statements about a movement it has to be understood by both parties that not all of that movement may fall in line with that generalization. As for what the author is addressing- I don’t know that it is specifically feminism that emphasizes the concept of ownership of our own bodies, or the right to do what we want to do no matter what. That is definitely something that is pervasive in our culture. I think the main point of the article isn’t that we don’t own our bodies or that the right to our bodies isn’t one we should be grateful for and pursue, but rather that our bodies are ours to give and as relational human beings we have to give of them. I think her point is that while there is the mantra out there that happiness comes from your life being all about you is wrong and that in fact it is in giving of ourselves (our time, our energy, our resources, our love, and by extension our bodies) that we can have access to happiness. I really appreciate your comment because you are respectful but call out a tendency to decry all of feminism that has frustrated me for a long time. Feminism is not all bad. Thank you.

    • Kevin says:

      I would disagree with you, especially if what you mean as “originally intended” is referring to second-wave feminism. Putting women’s personal interests above those of families and casting the image of a ‘housewife’ as inferior to a ‘liberated,’ independent individual was very much at the core of the movement, regardless of the circumstances which fueled it. That’s been toned down over time. Compare Rebecca Walker with her mother. I see this artical as very relevant being that our generation (men and women, not just feminists) is suffering from a major case of general self-centeredness.

  5. Bonne says:

    Thank you for putting into words how I feel.

  6. Amy Krahn says:

    I think you’re completely miscontruing what feminists meant by the “right to my own body”. You CHOSE to become a mother. And in doing so, you CHOSE to relinquish some of your personal freedoms to devote your life to your children. That is your CHOICE and an excellent one. It has nothing to do with feminism and the need to protect our bodies from idiot conservatives who think they can legislate our medical freedoms away and dictate whether or not we become parents in the first place. Feminism also has to do with your right to protections in the workplace, the right to earn a living wage, and so much more. You can be a feminist and be happy. You can be a feminist and be a devoted and loving mother. And you should be sending thanks to the feminists who went before you – and those who continue to advocate for you and all women -who gave you the economic and social freedoms to choose the lifestyle you wanted.

    • Devin says:

      I disagree. 3rd wave feminism has done much to marginalize women who choose to stay at home and dare to raise a family. For many of these feminists, the only “right” choice is to be out in the workplace supporting themselves financially, maybe having a kid or two if they can fit it into their schedule, possibly with a partner that may or may not be her children’s father.

      Any woman who chooses to have sex with a man is choosing the consequence of maybe becoming a mother. Safe sex, no matter how thick the condom, will always risks the chance of pregnancy. However, modern feminists are trying to divorce the choice of sex, from the natural consequence of possible pregnancy, as if they’re unrelated events.

      Sure, in the case of rape or serious health complications, it’s wonderful to have the tools to end a bad pregnancy, but when feminism teaches women to use abortion as merely another form of birth control, that’s when it becomes wrong.

      I don’t think a true convert to 3rd wave feminism is capable of being a devoted and caring mother, because somewhere in her mind, whenever she looks at her children, she will remember that their lives were disposable to her before their birth. How does that mindset not affect her relationship with her children after birth?

    • LilyL2182 says:

      My sentiments exactly. Maybe a few random people who label themselves feminists would disagree, but nothing about feminism says you can’t _give_ your body. In fact, whole portions of the women’s liberation movement were about allowing women to be sexual in the way wanted without fear of the crazy judgment that comes with it. (Something men have enjoyed seemingly forever.) The emphasis on control of one’s own body has very little to do with child rearing, but I’m reading her not-so-subtle subtext about abortion and it’s making me gag. Having another being grow inside of you, literally feeding off of you, and growing to such a size to be viable that it will make incredibly painful and traumatic through your genitals? And if that doesn’t work, you will require major surgery. This just not a level of giving that should be required of anyone. And it isn’t. Except for some people think we should require it of pregnant women.

      Devin: You make me laugh. “Any woman who chooses to have sex with a man is choosing the consequence of maybe becoming a a mother.” So the consequence of accidental pregnancy is that a woman has to deal and have the baby? I’m on birth control (hormones which are 99% effective, but also do have side effects btw) to prevent pregnancy, but if I accidentally get pregnant, I must suffer the consequences? What you are essentially saying is that I can’t enjoy my body because of hypothetical children. And by hypothetical children, I’m not talking about fetuses; I’m talking about the not-yet-even-conceived. So I can’t have sex because, despite my attempts to prevent them, my body belongs
      to hypothetically-might-be-conceived children? To that argument I say HAHAHAHA no.

      • Devin says:

        Lilly, this blog post is speaking exactly to the entitled, self-centred nature 3rd wave feminism brings out in women such as yourself. You consider unborn children nothing more than parasites and the possibility of pregnancy as a disruption to the enjoyment of your body.

        There’s a solution to your dilemma: hystorectomy. No more fear of pregnancy, and you can have all the sex you want without risk of having to kill an unwanted child later. And no more need for birth control with side-effects. And should you actually want a live child in the future, you can adopt. Win/win. You get consequence-free sex (assuming your partner has no diseases) and no more children need to die in the name of your pleasure.

      • Sage advice, Devin. Unfortunately, Lilly won’t understand for she is incapable of right reasoning, due to her rejection of Jesus. Lilly, of course the common sense notion of self-control eludes you. It’s all about sexual freedom with no inhibitions for all who have not surrendered their allegiance to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

      • LilyL2182 says:

        Okay Devin, so in order to get the right to enjoy my body, I’m required to have surgery? The removal of an organ? As if that has no side effects. Ever heard of pelvic organ prolapse? Also, the cervix takes part in sex in case your were unaware. No, just no.

        This is so funny to me. I’m Catholic. I would never have an abortion. But that doesn’t mean that I think anyone, “unborn child” or not, has the right to depend on a woman’s body and that she has no say in it. Hey, since we’re requiring surgery anyway to get the right to do what a woman wants with her own body, I say all men should give up a kidney before he is allowed to have sex. It’s only fair.

        I also love how you make exceptions for rape and the health of the mother. Let me break something to you: pregnancy and child birth are serious health risks! As for rape, I just don’t understand where people get off making that exception. Either an unborn child has the right to the woman’s body or it doesn’t. Rape babies have fewer rights? How can that possibly be justified?

        • Devin says:

          “But that doesn’t mean that I think anyone, “unborn child” or not, has the right to depend on a woman’s body and that she has no say in it.”

          Lily, the “act” of sex is the permit a man and woman give for a child to have the “right” to live. It really doesn’t matter the religious or non-religious persuasion of the consenting adults. If you eat, there’s a chance you’ll get fat. If you party too much, there’s a chance you’ll become exhausted or sick (or both). If you have sex, there’s a chance you’ll become a parent. Having sex, or as you like to say “enjoying your body”, is not a separate event from becoming pregnant, as it is the natural consequence of the sex. Barring infertility, of course.

          You really sound daft, you know? Rights need to be balanced. The pro-abortionists typically argue that the mother’s “right” to her body comes first in all aspects, to the point where babies can get blended and frappéd whenever “mommy” decides it’s become too inconvenient for her. Pro-lifers are almost as ridiculous, many of them, in their insistence that the baby’s birth must be guaranteed whatever the risks to the mother. To a degree, they both miss the mark.

          Nobody with any sense is saying that abortion must be destroyed. It has it’s uses, but it must be regulated, with consideration to both the health (physical, mental and emotional) of the mother and the life of the child.

          Your “all or nothing” argument is ignorant and childish. Convenience abortions must end, or be severely limited, because when the woman becomes pregnant, it’s not just about her anymore. It’s about her, the baby, and the father. Rational people agree that there are exceptional circumstances (sometimes very personal) that warrant an end to the pregnancy, but it should never be merely another form of “birth control”.

          As for your response to surgical infertility. Sure, there are risks, as there are in any surgery, but if you want to forgo becoming pregnant and insist on having sex, that is the most efficient means of accomplishing your goal. Alternatively, the man could elect to have his testes removed, as it would guarantee he’d never have to sign a paternity cheque every month.

          The natural consequence of sex is parenthood. Now you can laugh and ridicule it all you want, but if you want to forgo the natural consequences of your actions, you need to take unnatural steps (birth control, surgery) or just stop having sex with the opposite gender. Saying that the woman had no say in whether or not a baby started growing in her is the epitome of silliness. She had a say when she chose whether or not to obtain birth control aides. She had a say when she chose whether or not to insist her sex partner obtain birth control aides. She had a say when she chose whether or not to have elective sterilization surgery. She had a say when she chose whether or not to have sex with a man.

          You have every right to enjoy your body however you want to. What you’re demanding is to do so without consequences.

      • LilyL2182 says:

        A right is a right. Very rarely is there any balancing about them. But then again, I’m not the type of person that believes in all those ridiculous “every child has the right to an education, 2 loving parents and an Easy-Bake Oven” kinds of ‘rights’ either. People (including the unborn) have a right to live. But no one has a right to demand that others sustain that life for them. It’s that simple. Now if we could somehow teleport the fetus into an alternate (willing or perhaps artificial ) womb if be all for that. But that’s just not the reality we live in.

        You put condescending quotes around ‘mommy,’ because clearly pregnant woman are just too selfish to make their own decisions. As a rational person I agree that there are circumstances that warrant and abortion. What exactly are you proposing? Abortion by committee?? The unborn child should probably get her own representative. The rep will square off with the ‘mommy’ in the war of who is more important. The mommy will say, “But I was raped!” And the rep with counter, “Yeah but it was date rape with a guy you had been dating and already had sex with so it won’t be that traumatic to carry rape baby and possibly the baby was conceived in a pre-rape encounter and the dad is willing to take custody and/or pay child support.”

        I’m seriously confused about how any of your abortion limitations get implemented practically.

        The system I’m proposing is easy. You know who gets to make the decision about whether abortion is warranted? ‘Mommy.’ Sorry you think her judgment is so poor that you need to be involved in it.

        • If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, why should her innocent baby be killed? Why not the rapist?

        • Devin says:

          Lilly, you contradict yourself in your posting. “People (including the unborn) have a right to live. But no one has a right to demand that others sustain that life for them. It’s that simple.” In what universe does any child get to live but by the sustenance of another? Children have every right to demand that their lives be cared for until they’re capable of caring for themselves. Your solution to the issue is that the woman can murder the child in her womb whenever she wants “just because”. Yes, that is selfish. To call it anything else is a bald-faced lie.

          Your rape argument has already been covered. Rape is by far one of the smallest contributors to pregnancy in the USA (under 1%). Most of them (~97%) are elective reasons, (finances, lifestyle changes, pressure from parents or sex partner). While definitely an issue that should be looked into in deciding whether or not to abort, rape is not the main issue most women deal with when choosing abortion.

          I am proposing that abortion be limited to health issues. If the mother is at risk of mental, emotional or physical harm or death due to extraneous issues surrounding the pregnancy, then it should be allowed to end. I am proposing an end to abortions of convenience, where the woman murders the child merely because she can’t be bothered to use proper birth control tools before and during sex.

          When 98% of abortions are “electives” and only 2% have anything to do with trauma of any sort to the woman (rape, serious health risks, other complications of pregnancy, etc) there is a serious problem.

          Women have plenty of options to prevent pregnancies which I have already gone over, and there are plenty of options for children to be given to loving families should the woman choose. And there is the option of abortion should the health of the mother or child (or both) become seriously compromised. If your only definition of “choice” is that the woman should be able to kill a child at any time and for any reason, then you truly are contributing to the callous, selfish society we are creating.

      • Kevin says:

        I don’t know about what it’s like for women, but for me as a man my body just goes around having sex with people and the only choice I have is whether or not I use a condom or put faith in the birth control that women say they’re on. I think being forced into using a condom confines my RIGHT to sexual expression.

        I should have the freedom of choice to not be held legally responsible for financial obligations if someone else’s body accidentally gets pregnant from my semen and THEY choose not to kill the baby. Why should I be responsible for the choises someone else is making about their BODY? My personal needs balanced against the guilt I would feel for abandoning a child I helped create is a decision that affects my whole life and only I am qualified to make it.

        Fairness is something feminists love applying to salary and social status, but rarely to the logic behind their arguments.

      • LilyL2182 says:

        Oh please Kevin. I’m not going to get into my views on this, but being forced to be financially responsible is just not that same as being forced to carry a baby. Regardless, this is why I have always been an advocate of birth control for men. I know I for sure wouldn’t trust a guy’s statement that he was only pill. Even if didn’t think he was lying, birth control can be easily messed up. The fact that our patriarchal society has always viewed pregnancy as a women’s issue does not mean that women are responsible for solving all the unfair ways this affects men before we advocate for women.

      • LilyL2182 says:

        Devin, I didn’t contradict myself you just aren’t paying attention and you are putting words in my mouth. I never said we should take care of children, I said it wasn’t a right. And also, you’re throwing the rape exception now? Pregnancy is always a health issue. You have to define that in some way. There has to be someone who decides who fits the criteria. For all those people proposing legal limitations on abortion, I have never seen one single solution that is feasible.

        I never said abortion was a ‘solution’ to anything. Do many women have abortions because they are selfish? Or course. Would unlike there to be fewer abortions? Of course. I do take issue with your stats because there simply no good definition of when an abortion is ‘elective’ and when it’s not. Speaking in the aggregate it’s easy to say there is something wrong because there is. But when it comes down to individual cases, there is no way to set a standard on how much trauma a woman must experience to ‘justify’ an abortion.

  7. Kevin says:

    Lily, could you tell why it is ‘just’ different? If I’m financially responsible, that means it will be affecting MY BODY every week for the next 20 years. No option of adopting that away. I’m going to have to carry that into any serious relationship, going to affect the possibility of me starting a new family. I’d get a big “None of your business!” if I asked a girl if she’d had an abortion, but how many children you owe child support for comes out pretty quick. How is it easy to write off all of these consequences? Legally, a man never has the option to opt out. I don’t know if you were able to tell that I was being sarcastic earlier and not expressing my own opinion. I married as a virgin at 24 and have been true to my vows for the several years I’ve been married. I believe a guy should be expected, and even compelled, to provide for any children he sires. Before I get to my main point though, I’m going to qualify one of your statements.

    “The fact that our patriarchal society has always viewed pregnancy as a women’s problem.” If you go back century or two, it is true that earlier men weren’t legally held accountable. That doesn’t mean that everyone taught young men it was okay to express their sexuality without consequence. Then people had more pressing things to worry about than trying to invent as many selfish, riddiculous rights as possible. What society did do was turn the other way when someone shot, stabbed, tarred and feathered or otherwise mangled or beat to a pulp a guy who expressed his “right to express sexuality” with his daughter, sister or wife. Is “shot gun wedding” a recently coined term, or was the concept done as a congrats to the groom? She has a belly, man up and provide for her. Sound familiar? Were there guys who slinked their way out of it, just like today? Yes. Were they considered to be creeps? Yes. Believe whatever feminist propoganda revisionist version of history you want, but that was the society, overly patriarchal and otherwise imperfect though it may have been, that we had in the US before feminism.

    I’ll just say for myself that I think women are wonderful and better than men–and that’s no result of feminism. In fact it’s because I am so fond of women that I’m critical of the whole feminist movement. Women and men need to depend on each other to be happy as a society and individuals. Feminists are cheating themselves of having real men. How sad it is to see all the Gen-Y dudes I know who lack the direction to grow into men and the feeling of even being needed in society. That’s going to come back and bite women in the butt. The basic skills of preparing nutritions and enjoyable meals? That one already has hit us all, compare those of my grandmother’s generation, ours and those of in other countries. Now compare wastelines. Let’s try for some enlightened self-interest here.

    So back to the ‘just’ different thing. That’s a word that means “I don’t want to be obliged to use logic”. That’s a cop out. It’s weak. What you might have meant was that they are “quite” different. That is true. My father made some real creep choices. My parents split up when I was a fetus, got divorced when I was an infant. He never sent any of the child support that my mother very much needed to help raise me. He made the choice to cop out. And what of it? We suffered from it. The lives of me, my sister and especially my mother (not to mention her second husband, and their children) were all unarguably more difficult and stressful. Now I’m grown and I’m working my life out for myself, and I’m grateful just to be here. Second scenario, if my mom had chosen to put me up for adoption, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy any of the wonderful moments I had with my mother growing up. I know I would have others, but hard to give up the ones I have. Now if she had aborted me… There would be no replacements. I would never have been able to get married and have my own children, and be a much more loving and responsible father than I ever had. I also never could have come to know my father, and learn to love him inspite of his inadequacies. She would never enjoy a mature, loving and respectful relationship with me, not to mention being grandmother to my family. So yeah, it is quite different. The difference between holding someone in your uterus and having your wallet hit are difficult to compare. The difference between being aborted and growing up with a lack of support are easy to compare. So what is the ‘just’ that you’re referring to that can make up for such a gap in consequences, and in such grand fashion that it is riddiculous to expect a woman to own up the way a man should?

    • LilyL2182 says:

      Kevin, I really don’t get the big semantical difference you seem to see in “quite different” v. “Just different,” but reading your post I think you and I don’t have that different of opinions. I totally agree with you about Gen-y men being negatively affected by feminism. I agree that yes men are unfairly affected by some stuff. My point is, don’t expect me to solve all your issues. And just because I’m complaining about certain issues, don’t assume I’m ignorant of others.

      • Kevin says:

        I think I was pretty clear on why I have a disdain for “just different”. I appologize if I came across as assuming ignorance, it was unintended. Neither did I mean to imply you should be obligated to solve my issues. My main point: both men and women should be held to the standard of accountability.

  8. macys sofa says:

    Superb read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little study on that. And he really bought me lunch because I located it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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