About a block west of the corner of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue lies Walter Pierce Community Park. A playground, baseball field, dog park – it has it all, even benches where the homeless population seeks some comfort during the night. I usually cut through the park on my way home to Ontario Street, a lesser known, smaller street off to the side that lies directly opposite the swing sets and seesaws. The thing is, sometimes it’s dark out. I know summer is drawing to a close when I return home on a weekday after dinner with friends, and pause at the entrance to the park, just as the sun is setting beyond the tree line. The entrance is lined with benches and bulletin boards, a paved path curving its way into the brush, inviting you to come and to stay and to play for a while.
Usually I turn away, walking straight on Calvert and turning further up on Adams Mill Road, adding 7 minutes to my commute. I wish that as a woman I could be as strong and as brave and as confident as my words claim that I am. I wish I didn’t have to force myself to turn away. I wish I could say “screw you!” to the world, to the dangers of a dark, deserted park, and defiantly stride down that path. I wish I didn’t cry as I turned away from the park. But I do. I do that sometimes. Cry, I mean. Oh I rant and rave and scream and swear, challenging the world and its misogyny and hypocrisy. I call out my friends when they make sexist jokes and I support women’s empowerment in every way a person can. But sometimes, I just cry.
I wish I could always be the change I wish to see in the world. I wish I could say that I want women to be able to walk through a community park at night, and therefore I’ll do it damnit, just to show the world that it will not dictate my actions to me. That it cannot force me to change my behavior or to view myself as any less capable because of my sex. But it can. But it can and it does. And so I cry.
For the ravaged vaginas of Darfur, for the sold virginities of Saudi Arabia, for the bruised skin and broken bones of America, I cry. For the pay disparities, the burden of proof, the fear of rape and for the stares of men as I pass them, making me feel as though my body is something I need to protect instead of something I need to love . . . for the feeling that being a woman is a bad thing, for that, I cry.
Because sometimes, I love my body so much, and I love the legacy that being a woman grants me, so much. Because I love the curves of my love handles and extra fat on my thighs. Because I love the hair that grows all over me (I am a mammal, after all) and the sensitive skin beneath my breasts. And because the world cannot always see this, sometimes I rant and rave and scream and swear. But sometimes, instead, I cry. And until the world cries with me, for the oppression and the fear and the humiliation and the pain, until then, I turn away from the park at night.