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Women's History Month Letter

Women’s History Month, Trafficking in Sex Ed, and Womb Envy

Dear Rosies,
As we kick off Women’s History Month, my first instinct was to point out that there is no “Women's History” - there’s not a universal history of 50% of the people on earth. It's really more “Woman's History”: hyper-localized to your nation or even your state; to your race; to your caste or educational or economic class; to your religious milieu; even to your family of origin with it's unique view of women. Even if we look at public policy, it differs depending on these kind of criteria. For example, we often say "women earned the right to vote in the United States in 1920". But in fact, if you were living in Wyoming, you got that vote (as a white woman) in 1865- and if those women are your ancestors, you'll have a different inheritance. And if you were a black woman, you didn't get that vote until 100 years later, in 1965.
Looking at the specifics of your own history, knowing where you came from and knowing how different that story is for other women, is a really beautiful investigation, one which invites deep empathy. Try sitting with the question,"What part of my personal identity and experience is framed by the history of being in a woman’s body?" -  and see what comes up for you.
Because of Rosebud’s emphasis on body love, body literacy and sexual wellness (and my personal mission of liberation from all unhelpful beliefs and frameworks that are anything other than love and wonder), for Women’s History Month, I found myself drawn to telling the story of our sexual and reproductive rights, and the history of sex ed.
Once I started researching and writing, I came across so many incredible stories of how hard people have had to fight to simply talk about how human reproduction works without being jailed, much less express their true sexuality. A couple of stories in particular, those of Ida Craddock and Mary Bennett, who were (among thousands of others), persecuted by a rabid postmaster general, Anthony Comstock, a self-appointed  anti-vice activist, for disseminating educational materials on how the human body works through the mail. Such is the prohibition against knowing your own body, which continues today, showing up as censorship, general ignorance and unequal knowledge state-by-state on even the basics of safe sex.
I also found the opposite: across all of history there were pro-body liberation movements. To my surprise, I learned about a Christian sect from the 2nd century, the Adamists, who believed in free love and nudism, in our utter innocence and born perfection, and that the Garden of Eden was at hand. They were later labeled heretics, which only underscores the tension between natural human desires and constructed moral frameworks. 
This thread that celebrates the divine essence of human embodiment and relating runs consistently over thousands of years of recorded history. The Free Love Movement of the mid-1800s emerged amidst a backdrop of strict Victorian morality, championed sexual liberation and challenged institutional control over marriage and sexual relations. Advocates such as Victoria Woodhull argued for the decoupling of love from legal and religious strictures, advocating a vision of relational and sexual autonomy. The ZEGG movement in Europe after WWII (which continues today at Tamera in Portugal), is another example, and there are many others. These movements stand as antidotes to the oppressive moralization that seek to make the body wrong and to make women less then full, autonomous people.
You can see both of these historical threads converging in today's ongoing struggles for female bodily autonomy.

The legacy of shame-based morality persists, influencing contemporary debates around reproductive rights, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Laws and social norms continue to reflect an undercurrent of control. While people seems to universally desire self-determination and to have their own choices respected, they often want to deny others that same choice. In the U.S., this is epitomized in the fluctuating legal battles over abortion rights. The discourse around these issues is heavily laden with moralistic language, reflecting deep-seated beliefs about sexuality and reproduction influenced by religious doctrine. The struggle is not merely legal but deeply cultural, reflecting centuries-old conflicts over who controls the narrative around sex and the body.

Internationally, the struggle manifests differently across cultural and religious contexts but is unified by a common theme: the battle for autonomy against imposed moralities. Whether in the fight for access to contraception, the right to abortion, or the resistance against forced modesty and marital obligations, women worldwide confront systems of control that seek to dictate their sexual and reproductive choices

You can’t know women’s history without knowing the deep struggle to control her as the carrier of life, something a man will never be able to do. This reality has resulted in all kinds of constructed moral frameworks around what is virtuous behavior and what is sinful behavior. It’s all a patriarchal power play. 

It’s time to let those frameworks dissolve.

In the future, the sacred act of bearing is supported and honored, but not controlled.

The culture knows how much women cherish and respect our bodies and our babies.

The culture trusts women to know when it’s safe and wise to conceive, and how to bring a healthy child forth into receptive and loving container.

The culture bows to our individual wisdom and naturally acknowledges that all beings have the freedom to make choices about their own body without coercion or control by external moral or legal authorities.

The State is not in the bedroom or in the doctor’s office. 

We trust ourselves, and we trust others to make the right choices for them.

Our hearts are with the pregnant women in Texas and their families and in many places in the south who are fighting the state simply to stay alive, to protect their own future reproductive capacity, or to prevent any amount of additional suffering-  including many suing the government for egregious harm. Our hearts also go out to the dedicated OB/GYNs and healthcare practitioners in these places who are limited in their capacity to serve our sisters with all the medical tools at their disposal.

With Love,
Christine, Founder, Rosebud Woman