With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, how can we redefine American womanhood?
My first genuine comprehension of the word “choice,” surfaced within an hour of entering New Delhi, India. It was 2008, my family and I landed late into the night. My father stayed behind at the airport, waiting for our lost luggage to arrive via the next flight by India Air. The rest of us cruised through dark boulevards charged by busy headlights, lines of frail tents and feeble shacks combusted curbsides. It was February, the almost-midnight air was brisk. Women, both young and old, gathered around mini bonfires for warmth. During the car ride, I ironically understood the meaning of choice from scenes that exemplified the lack there of.
Half a year later, a similar sentiment sank in once again when my family and I visited an orphanage in Cambodia. Children beamed with smiles as we strolled through the premise and wondered what would’ve happened if such institutions didn’t exist. When I found myself particularly bonding with young female orphans, I also secretly made a promise that I would spend the rest of my life giving as much as I’ve been given. Once at a party in Paris, someone asked me if I volunteered because it made me happy. I simply told him, “No, it’s because I’ve traveled and seen a world where women suffer due to, not little but, zero opportunities.”
If there’s one universal commonality, it’s that there are quite a few things we don’t choose in life: our gender, the family we’re born into, the country we’re born in, and the health conditions that we’re born with.
In 1991, my family and I immigrated to the U.S. where I learned how to be an American woman during adolescence. Though I wasn’t Caucasian and boasted neither blonde hair nor blue eyes, my teenage self subconsciously acquired: an inexplicable confidence, a strong belief to exercise my rights, and the need to voice my opinions. After all, didn’t we all become really good at yelling at our parents, “You’re not hearing me!” “I have the right to do this!” “I’m going to because I can!”
We, as modern women living in First World societies, have a plethora of choices at various stages of life: where we go to school, the trajectories of our careers, the partners with whom we spend the rest of our lives…or not! Sometimes, even I chuckle at the idea of how ridiculously easy it is to pin point a destination on the world map then express with excitement, “Yes, there it is. I want to go THERE next weekend!” With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, are we seeing the beginning of our choices fading away?
For this, I return to all that I now can’t shake away as an American woman. Confidence, belief, and voice.
I’ve spent the last week in Ibiza, diving into the deep teal waters of the Mediterranean, snorkeling along families of glistening fish, lounging by the pool, feasting on shots of hierbas ibicencas after every meal, partying until 5 a.m. at world famous night clubs, devouring endless plates of calamari. Both fried and grilled. Every day. For the first time in my life, I stopped worrying about what my face looked like without makeup on and how my body appeared in a bikini. Is it perfect? No. Is it mine? Yes. At 41 years old, I’m finally starting to feel good in it, simply because this is what it means to live our best lives. This is what it feels like to celebrate womanhood!
Confidence. That’s American (and maybe with a dash of European.) Now, onto belief…
I believe that American women’s rights are slowly draining. When I view the technological progression and ease of access in other countries around the world, it is astounding to witness – not lack of choice, but – choices being taken away from American women. In Taiwan, a woman’s journey to freeze her eggs is not only extremely affordable (three times less than in the U.S.,) it is also luxurious and hi-tech. In France, it’s not only incredibly easy and cheap (approximately €7) to access the morning after pill, it also comes without judgement from pharmacists. But I also believe that the world works in cyclical ways, for more steps forward and further breakthrough advancement, we’re undergoing the present moment.
And then, there’s the voice.
Now is the time to educate ourselves, and do the research. So we can utilize our voices to support organizations aiding women to access their needs in states where their rights have been revoked. Now is the time, not simply to complain or to engage in conversations about how embarrassing it is to be an American but to act. Actually do something to help, either on a state level, or help smaller non-profits that are doing the work.
For those of us who live outside of the country, our geographical location isn’t an excuse. You may view it as a privilege for now, but remember that boasting about how terrible America is and that you’re glad you got out isn’t honorable. Women empowerment is about lifting others, so start asking yourself how you can take part. You’re an expat, but you’re still an American. Without our country, you couldn’t be where you are. I certainly know that, for sure.
That’s what being an American woman is all about. Amid setbacks, our voices remain, our actions matter. The overturn of Roe v. Wade, in fact, doesn’t affect me one bit. I’m in my forties, I’m a Californian and I live abroad. But I am a woman, and I still believe in our country. Most importantly, one woman equates to her family and ultimately, her community. So, what are you going to do about it?