If we don’t have the rights over our own bodies then what is the point?
While reading Chanel Miller’s Know My Name, I was preoccupied with the theme of body and how our bodies relate to the world in terms of ownership.
For those of you who don’t know Chanel Miller was (is?) Emily Doe, the plaintiff in the Stanford sexual assault case back in 2015, or you might know it better under the name of Brock Turner, the “promising swimming” and “upstanding citizen” who violated and changed the life of one woman. Know My Name is her story.
My first impression of the story is that I want her to be my friend, not because of her story, or her fame, but because she seems like a warm person. Because of who she is as a person.
I think about the way Chanel’s body was picked apart by the public, by lawyers, by forensic nurses, by the men in Rhode Island. In the chapter where she talks about street harassment, I really resonated with the metaphor she used: You’re eating a sandwich, right? And strangers off the street keep commenting on how good your sandwich looks, how they ask if they could have some. How you have no right to get annoyed, or angry, or upset at their comments and demands. You should take their compliments with grace.
So many parts in her book talks about the ways in which women don’t seem to own their own bodies and what they do with them. We are critiqued on what clothes we put on them, on how much alcohol we put in them, the ways in which they are given pleasure or pain.
I can’t help but to think on my own body’s experiences. On how I harden myself from my usual friendly demeanor when I go for runs because I don’t want the men who feel entitled to comment on my body think I am inviting them. On how I have conditioned myself to lie to those men who demand my time and attention, because the only thing that keeps them at bay is claiming that I’m already owned by another man. On how at a party one time, a guy I kinda knew thought he could put his hands on my body while those around took pictures and laughed. On how as a 19-year-old filled with the promise of a great romance from my crush was liquored up and assaulted.
But in all of these instances, women are the ones to blame. Stop wearing running shorts (I actually don’t, but that didn’t stop it). Stop having fun. Stop trusting people. No one ever says stop making women feel unsafe.
A shooter came through her campus when she was in school and killed 6 people all because he felt like women were not giving him their bodies as he felt was his God-given right. Women have to sacrifice their bodies for men in some way or another.
I would love to say the only person to own my body is me, but there will always be that one man who tells me to smile; that one boy who touches my butt as he brushes past me; that potential date that could go wrong again.
I felt the times Chanel talked about not being seen. But I see her, and I feel seen by her. And that’s the power of sharing your story.