Embracing My Bitch Self

A friend and I got into an interesting conversation over dinner the other night. Old wounds were brought to light and I was reminded that I still have healing to do. My friend asked me why I lie down and take “it.” “It” being confidence-crushing, self-esteem-erasing emotional abuse. He reminded me that I’m stronger than that and I don’t need to be passive when someone attacks me. Last year I was assaulted. The assault was mild, but my psyche was still affected. During the assault, time stood still. I froze. I had no reaction. I didn’t fight back, and I wish I would’ve, I wish I could’ve.

In college my boyfriend at the time once held me down after I refused his sexual advances. I thought he was going to rape me. In those moments, too, I froze. I wish I had fought back, bitten him, kicked him, screamed at the top of my lungs. Instead I was lost in the surreality of the moment, frozen by the disbelief that someone I trusted might actually violate me in the most horrific manner possible. He didn’t, but I still got a taste of that fear.

As a child, I had an emotionally-abusive stepfather for a few years. So many times when he was yelling at me or my mom, I wanted to scream back at him, I wanted to shove him out of our home, I wanted him to be gone and I didn’t care how. But that’s not what nice little girls do, so I kept my mouth shut.

Physical and emotional abuse make the victim feel powerless and helpless. I’ve held my tongue during many incidents of emotional abuse for fear of only making my aggressor angrier. The thing about remaining passive, though, is that it doesn’t work. We need to learn to stand up for ourselves, and if the aggressor doesn’t back down, to remove ourselves from the situation. I know that isn’t always easy or possible, but it is necessary. We need to stop worrying about being “nice,” “ladylike,” and passive. We need to own our space as women and remind the world that we do, indeed, have a right to take up space, to speak our minds, to control our bodies, and to fight back when we are attacked. Men can be victims, too, and right now we all need to stand together.

After an emotionally-trying 2016, I’ve decided to embrace my “bitch self,” as another friend called it, and make 2017 the year I fully accept and love that part of myself. My bitch self speaks her mind, doesn’t take shit from anyone, doesn’t sugarcoat the truth, acts with purpose, takes care of herself first, stands up for others, doesn’t try to temper her passion, loves fiercely, and cuts out those in her life who would try to bring her down. I encourage everyone to embrace her (or his) bitch self this year. Those coming into power in this country will try to silence us, hold us down, take away our rights and freedoms, so we must fight. The world needs us. We need each other.

All I Needed

I needed you

but you needed to be

somewhere else

So I put off needing you

for a little while

But then the needing crept back in

and I asked you

I asked you to return to me

and you said

“Not yet”

So again I put off the needing

shoving it aside

telling myself I was okay

Convincing myself that I could

stand needing you and not

having you

a little while longer

But something happened

every time I needed you

and you weren’t there

I had to stand on my own

I had to be there for myself

and every time

I fell apart

I put myself back together

without you

Eventually I realized

that I never had you

and that I never really

needed you

I only needed myself

So I want to thank you

for showing me how to

stand on my own two feet

how to truly follow

my heart

and be true to my soul

and for showing me

that all I ever really needed

was me

From Breaking to Becoming


After you left

I forgot the sound

of my own laughter

I forgot

how to move my lips

into the shape

of a smile

I forgot

how to take

a deep breath

I forgot

how to stop blaming

myself for everything

bad in this world

I got lost

in the shadows

of my own soul

and forgot

that I even had one

Slowly miraculous things

started to happen

I’d go hours without

thinking of you

The moment I remembered

would stab my heart

but each time

I got stronger

I survived

I am still here

I remembered

I had other reasons

to live

to love

to laugh

My world stopped revolving

around the sun

of your false promises

I became

my own sun

and nothing

will ever

put out my fire again



Setting Boundaries: What Horses Can Teach Us

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses issues of bodily autonomy, and may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual trauma.

“I’m not comfortable with you standing so close and touching me. Please stop.”

At least three times, I had asked a drunk male acquaintance at a party I recently attended to back off. Each time I asked a bit more firmly. I repeatedly walked away from him to interact with others and escape his inappropriate advances. When he approached me again and interrupted a conversation I was having with a friend by touching my thigh, I again told him firmly to stop touching me. When it didn’t work, I raised my voice and gave him the equivalent of a horse kick. No, I didn’t literally kick him or physically assault him in any way. I do not advocate physical violence in any situation. But I did verbally stand my ground. I told him it was unacceptable no matter how drunk he was to continue harassing me or any woman after she had repeatedly asked and told him to leave her alone. And what was his reaction to my standing up for myself so strongly? He called me mean. Because in our society, when a woman demands what should be a given—bodily autonomy—she’s considered a bitch.

This is only one of many, many times a male—ranging from acquaintance to stranger—has touched my body without permission, and it could have been worse. Other women have experienced much worse. But the cause is the same—the patriarchal notion that women don’t have bodily autonomy. We treat animals in much the same way. I’ve seen countless horsemen (and women) touch, groom, saddle, and ride a horse when the horse was clearly uncomfortable. How many times have you entered a horse’s, dog’s, or other animal’s space when it was giving you signs it didn’t want you to come so close? The importance of respecting bodily autonomy for women, horses, and all animals cannot be emphasized enough. 

We must build relationships with our horses and earn their trust. We must view other humans and animals as equals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We must not enter another’s personal space without permission. How often do we objectify horses in much the same way women are objectified, determining their worth based solely on conformation/looks? How many times do we enter a horse’s or other animal’s space and begin petting them without heeding warning signs they’re giving that we’re moving too quickly? We must awaken to the fact that horses are sentient creatures. They feel fear, love, affection, grief, and joy. We must realize that all humans and animals deserve to have bodily autonomy.

Horses excel at setting boundaries. They give nonverbal warning signs when their space is invaded, pinning their ears, baring their teeth, and sometimes partially lifting a hind foot in warning. If the invading horse or predator chooses to ignore these signals, the horse will deliver a painful, sometimes fatal kick or strike. Humans can learn a lot from the way horses set boundaries: give warning signs; give the intruder the opportunity to walk away; gradually escalate the intensity of the warning; and, if necessary, deliver the kick or strike (again, not actual physical violence—rather standing up for yourself in a highly assertive manner and/or getting help, including the authorities, if necessary).

Sure, the intruder may call you names, but so be it. His or her opinion of you matters not. What matters is protecting yourself and setting boundaries you’re comfortable with. I believe we can all do better. Bodily autonomy is certainly a feminist issue, but for feminism to be successful, it must be inclusive. Women are not the only ones suffering from violations of bodily autonomy. The journey is far from over, but one step at a time, we can make this world a better, safer place for women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, young girls and boys, horses, and all other animals.