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My Body, My Choice, My Intimate War

by Abigail Collazo

January 17, 2012

What does war look like? Taste like? Smell like? Images and soundtracks come to mind from centuries of conflict: guns roaring, cannons booming, flesh burning, bombs exploding.

These are the sights and sounds that remind us of what we know to be a universal truth: no matter where, when, how, or why . . .

War is hell.

Children crying, blood spraying, families weeping. Our moral compass cracks as it falls prey to what Clausewitz refers to as the fog of war – the uncertainty that accompanies the confluence of events, too many of them utterly beyond our control. Frightening us. Paralyzing us.

War is hell.

Forces viciously engaged in a combat to the death – whether over wealth, resources, rights, freedoms, or ideologies. Each side utterly convinced that their moral superiority will see them victorious in the end, no matter the cost.

War is hell.

Lives are at stake. The very breaths that we take and the very notion that we, as human beings, have souls encased in these bodies and superior minds to the others that walk this earth. And that those souls and bodies and minds have INALIENABLE rights that literally define our humanity. This is what is at stake. This is why we fight. This is why war is intimate. Because I fight, every day, to claim my humanity. To assert that I possess the qualities required to be considered a human being by other human beings, and that I deserve the rights afforded as such. That my body, my physical cavity, is a sacred and precious thing. And that NO ONE will protect it – and my rights to it – except me.

This is why war is hell.

War takes many forms. War is the purposeful, engaged actions of a group of people intended to cause harm to another group of people. And not just harm, but potentially death as well. Destruction. Annihilation.

And so when I say that there are people in this world, walking this earth, who have chosen to go to war on my body, on my rights as a human being to assert agency over my own flesh, I do mean war.

And now, they are after me.

They are sneaky about it. Manipulative and tricky, withholding my health care, denying me resources, criminalizing me and claiming that I am too stupid to know my decisions and my actions. Anti-choicers go to war with my body, on my body, over my body, because of my body. And they hope that because it does not look or smell or taste or feel like other wars, that I will not recognize it as war.

But I do. Because this fight is hell. And fighting this war is hell, and one does not escape hell by laying down the sword. There is no escape in such a surrender. The only escape is through my own agency. My own control. My own power.

Power, after all, is an awesome thing. It overwhelms us at times, blinding us to the deeper, better parts of ourselves. It is a scary thing: a Pandora’s Box of sin that we fear and desire and loath and crave in equal stanzas. It is no wonder that so many people go to war to prevent me from having it. To prevent me – and so many other women – from having the power over our own lives. Instead, they would “protect us” from our decisions. From our inevitable wrong decisions.

While the men of power seek righteousness, I seek justice. I seek autonomy. I seek responsibility and agency and moral courage. I seek the recognition and respect and awe of the power that accepts this truth: that my body is my own.

And so we go to war. WAR.

The W is for Women. For worth, warrior, witch, whimsical, whenever, whatever, wrath, waking, want . . . want . . . want.

The A is for Agency. For ability, aggression, autonomy, amplify, anger, ambition, arduous, absolute, anticipate, ache . . . ache . . . ache.

The R is for Responsibility. For ranting, reminder, reflection, resolve, reflex, remunerate, retain, regain, rejoice, renew, review, rave, rage . . . rage . . . rage.

What does war look like? Taste like? Smell like? Images and soundtracks come to mind from centuries of conflict: guns roaring, cannons booming, flesh burning, bombs exploding.

Except now, the war is also at home. At home in my body, on my body, because of my body.

And yet still, they do not understand that this WAR OF MY BODY is exactly that. Of my body.

My body. My choice. My Intimate War.

This post is part of the Intimate Wars Blog Series appearing at Fem2.0 and On the Issues Cafe January 17-18, 2012 in celebration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the release of Merle Hoffman’s memoir, Intimate Wars. You can purchase a copy of her book here. To submit a post for the blog series, please contact Fem2pt0, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter using #intimatewars.

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Abigail Collazo serves as the Editor for Fem2pt0, a pro bono project of Turner Strategies, where she works as a Project Manager handling online communications and media outreach. Abigail has worked on women’s issues in both the nonprofit and government sector for over 10 years, with a particular focus on global women’s rights. Abigail grew up in Westchester, New York, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she is writing her graduate thesis on the intersection between gender and war.


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