Giving Tuesday: Jennifer Mandelblatt’s Story

Categories: Giving TuesdayMisc.
11/28/2017

As I navigate my role in the world around me, I find myself caught between being an inconvenience and being a bitch.

The me who is the inconvenience is the me who uses my voice to say sorry again and again.

The me who is the inconvenience is the me who has battled with my body since fourth grade; who wears coats inside warm rooms to hide a body that is not delicate, pretty, or convenient; who questions my worth when my body doesn’t look like it’s supposed to; who is terrified that this body will offend someone with the space it occupies.

The me who sat on a nearly empty metro car when a man got on and took the seat directly beside me, despite the completely open benches around the car.

The me whose lap he rested his hand in and whose body his arm pressed into, holding me still. Whether his arm and hand were placed intentionally or not, I stayed silent as the panic crept from the pit in my stomach to the hairs on my neck. I feared that my body took up too much space and he had no option but to leave his hand in my lap.

The me who is caught in between is the me whose voice is wrong.

The me who is caught in between is the me who was called a scornful hooker on a blog I wrote; who relayed this story to a speaker preaching empowerment; who sat there as the speaker suggested that perhaps it would be safer if I stopped writing; who wondered if she was right. The me who is caught in between is the me who wrote an impassioned speech about a cause close to my heart. Is the me who recited the speech aloud for the first time, hoping that the listeners would feel what I felt. When I was done, my instructor told me, “You women have a tendency to get too emotional when you try to make a point.”

The me who is the bitch is the me who knows the power of my voice. The me who is the bitch is the me who wonders when I lost the audacity to shamelessly speak my mind; who confidently wore a keychain through the middle school halls that read “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas,” but who today has to will myself to be bold, strong, proud and hold my head up high. The me who is the bitch is the me who went into the class debate, which counted toward our final grade, ready to win. Is the me who spent days preparing and began advocating for our position the moment the timer started. The me whom the man on the opposing team renamed “bitch.” He neither used bitch as an adjective nor in a moment of frustration when he forgot himself. No, he made “bitch” my name and spit it from his lips when he talked about me.

But now, as I take my place alongside the women of Platform, I find my voice growing steadier and stronger. Surrounded by these women, possibilities have become limitless and ideas have become reality. Because of these women: the me who says sorry again and again is learning that being inconvenient allows me to disrupt patriarchal norms. The me whose voice is wrong is learning that my tears and passion guide my heart to doing what’s right. The me who knows the power of my voice is learning that this brand of bitch is synonymous with leader.