It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.

by Kat Letwin

I know you get asked this a lot, but: I’d like you to picture a timeline that encompasses the entirety of human existence.

Geological_time_spiral

Kinda like this.

On the left-hand side  of the timeline is the appearance of Homo habilis (2.3 million years ago), the “yesterday’s classics” to “today’s hits” in the KISS 92 FM world of human evolution. I once saw a silverback gorilla that looked hauntingly like my paternal grandfather, so I’m picturing that as Homo habilis, even though it’s not scientifically accurate to do so. On the right-hand side of the timeline is us, today, right this very second. I’m picturing us, today, right this very second, and it’s scientifically accurate to do so.

It was only 200,000 years ago that archaic Homo sapiens, inventors of fire and more fire, gave way to anatomically modern humans, inventors of Motown and physics. In the context of the timeline, that’s so close to the present moment, it’s like we became people just about a decade ago. Which means women were legally recognized as people (in Canada) about a second ago. Which means we, as collective ten-year-olds, are flailing like ragecrying idiots while trying to adjust.

Let’s delve deeper into the timeline; let’s get waist deep in 12th century England. Now, I’m no historian, but here’s how I’m pretty sure it would go down if you were a woman:

One night, your dad and some guy named Snug the Joiner, who he met at the local tavern last week, run into each other at the local tavern after a hard day of being a dad and a Joiner, respectively. They get drunk together. Your dad starts gambling, which he knows he shouldn’t do because the drought’s been wreaking havoc on the crops. Your dad quickly starts to lose, because he never learned how to play dice, and he never wants anyone to find out. He gets further and further in debt to Snug. Your dad offers the farm. Snug is not interested in the farm, because it’s the worst farm in town. Your dad gets an idea and blacks out for a couple hours. The next morning, your dad and Snug barge into the room you share with your brothers and sisters, whom you’ve taken care of since your mother died last spring in a birthing accident. Just before your father pukes all over little Seamus slumbering away by the cookpot, your dad tells you,

“Myne dotter! myne Progenie! Thou shalt be joiynt to this -”

And he points to Snug the Joiner, but starts laughing pretty hard when he remembers Snug is a Joiner and he just said joined, and then the vomit comes with a bracing force. You don’t say anything, but it’s not just because Snug is the worst Joiner in town, it’s because someone has to get all that vomit off Seamus before the stench of pure alcohol seeps into his pores. You worry about who will be there to do that once you’re given away. Snug smiles at you, but smiling can wait – after all, you have your whole life ahead of you to figure out how to smile at your new husband.

That doesn’t happen so much when you go back to the future, or “Back…to the FUTURE!” as Christopher Lloyd once said during his guest appearance on Spin City. Upon returning to 21st century (in Canada), things are markedly better for women as a whole: we vote, we have access to birth control, we can keep our money, and we’re far less likely to die of anything plague-related. Yet, despite such progress into the furthest reaches of the right-hand side of the timeline, the idea of women being in control of their own bodies is still, to us, today, right this very second, kind of mind-blowing.

For fourteen years, I went to Catholic school in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, and Catholicism – as we all know – is firmly rooted in humanity’s past. It’s not uncommon to hear the Bible referred to as an historical text, and in a sense, I do believe they’re right. I think the Bible captures the time period in which it was written in a stunning fashion. In any other book, I would simply find this fascinating and leave it at that; but when we’re dealing with a text that purports to be the perfect word of God, then the social norms of millenia ago– especially those regarding gender– take on a real world, present day immediacy.

Every year’s curriculum, junior kindergarten to the very last year of high school, included mandatory religion classes. From Gr. 1 until Gr. 8, Family Life classes introduced us to the idea of sex and marriage. The two classes were inextricably intertwined. I was taught that marriage was a sacrament, a holy bond between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. I was taught that fallopian tubes were called fallopian tubes, the vagina was called a birth canal, and the clitoris was called absolutely nothing at all. I was taught that I was expected to marry a man. I was taught I was expected to bear children. I was taught that God wanted me to make this prospective man and these prospective children the centre of my life. Above all, I was taught that I could never fulfill God’s plan for me if I didn’t save my virginity for my husband like it was the last shrimp on the cocktail glass.

“What if I don’t get married?” I asked my Gr. 7 teacher.

“Then I guess you’re never having sex.”

“But why?”

“It’s in the Bible.”

It was a tiresome answer to a pressing question. Since I considered myself to be a full human being with a fundamental right to the truth about my body and sexuality, I ignored what I was taught and decided to learn on my own. My school’s library in both elementary and high school had very little in the way of non-religious resource material, which wasn’t a huge surprise, so my parents helped me purchase what amounted to a personal library over the course of several years. I had books about puberty, sex, feminism, queer positivity, and erotica; this was balanced by books about the history of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and atheism. I discovered that what I was being taught in my Catholic school was rooted in a dense, tangled history of misogyny and oppression, and that the Word of God could change drastically depending on the kind of Bible one read (for reference, my school always used the popular and problematic King James Bible, which was first published in 1769). If there was no definitive Bible, and if we were all talking about the same God when he was called Yahweh or Allah, then how could I silently accept “It’s in the Bible” as an answer? I said as much in class. I also said that what we were being taught about our lives and our bodies was wrong. I was told, more than once, I was going to hell.

I suppose I wasn’t too surprised when questions from my classmates – shy questions, curious and scared questions – started popping up like so many newly discovered boners that tented the pants of their religious upbringing. Here are some of the answers I remember giving:

1. No, your vag won’t stretch and sag if a dick’s been in it. No, not even if it was big.
2. No, not every girl is born with a hymen, and some girls naturally break their hymens doing crazy things like gymnastics. Or horseback riding. Or standing there and watching your friend’s brother try and fail to do an ollie for like twenty goddamn minutes.
3. No, you can’t get pregnant from a dildo, unless it is leaking with viable semen, which I’m genuinely hoping isn’t the case.
4. No, girls don’t orgasm from putting in a tampon. Girls tend to orgasm if you rub her clit the way she likes it.
5. No, you didn’t “ask for it” if you didn’t ask for it. Oh my God, that’s never the case.
6. No, abortions aren’t more likely to kill you than heroin. But giving birth is more likely to kill you than an abortion.
7. No, your vag isn’t disgusting. Your vag isn’t a flower. Your vag is a vag, and it’s awesome thpompiere way it is, and whatever has (or hasn’t) happened in there doesn’t affect your worth as a human being.
8. No, I’m not promoting sin.
9. No, you’re not a slut.
10. Yes, you’re a good person.

And these, but for the grace of small rebellions, were not a part of our education.Because human progress is slow. Maddeningly slow. It can feel like a sluggish, inexorable slog towards the future of spaceships and holodecks and complete and total egalitarianism we’ve all been writing fanfiction about, but let’s put it this way: in the context of the timeline you imagined at the beginning of this whole thing, women have only been people for a second, and already we’ve done some incredible things to push ourselves away from the bulk of history that precedes us. For example, I wasn’t stoned to death in the hallways of my high school, nor did my dad sell me into sexual slavery for a minor profit before I caused too much trouble. Which is great! It’s nice to not be killed or enslaved, I think most people can agree on that.

But does that make us equal? Does that mean we did it, we finally did it, and we’re totally all on the same playing field?

Hell no. The thing about experiencing the timeline as we humans do – day to day, month to month – is that we’re still enduring the residual effects of hundreds of thousands of years of both externalized and internalized oppression. It’s an almost incomprehensible amount of time and discrimination to digest and shit out of our collective butts, because human society is constipated with kyriarchy. Things are better now than they were, but how long can we be content with finding true equality tomorrow? Tomorrow isn’t today. Tomorrow is never today. It’s not too much to ask. The fight for freedom from stigma and oppression continues – and must continue – until our timeline finally breaks even.

Kat Letwin sometimes writes and mostly performs theatre and comedy in Toronto, ON. Follow her on Twitter (@letwinka) if you’d like to know when her friends are doing cool stuff.

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43 thoughts on “It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.

  1. Erica says:

    Nice blog entry 🙂

  2. wagnerel says:

    Nice blog entry. So true 🙂

  3. Great read!
    Congrats on gettin’ pressed!!

  4. bernasvibe says:

    Oooo I adore your 10-list! Dig your writing style & soon as time permits I’ll be re-blogging this…2 thumbs UP on your write

  5. We had a class on sexual dysfunction a while ago, and the doctor said something really interesting relating to why women don’t talk about it when they don’t enjoy sex.

    She reckons it’s like this: when little boys are potty trained, they are taught to hold their appendage (because, duh) and they’re never taught that it is a bad thing. Little girls, on the other hand, are taught to practically wrap their hands in a huge mitten of loo paper because “ooooh, don’t TOUCH it!”

    So when a man has erectile dysfuntion or any other problem, he runs to his nearest doctor. Because that is acceptable. But women have to practically be begged to talk about their sex lives – to anybody, be it their doctor or their spouse.

    (I realise that boys and girls are taught that sex is bad, etc, but this was just something that I thought of while reading your post – good work being Pressed, by the way!)

  6. Enjoyed reading this blog entry! 🙂

  7. kimrauker says:

    There need to be a “love” button on here!

  8. Conditions have improved dramatically over just the past two decades. When adjusting for education and time on the job, on average, women earn more than men.

    The reason there is a difference in income, is that generally, on average, women don’t end up with the same amount of time on the job because of family responsibilities that they continue to predominantly assume.

    That information was taken and paraphrased from “Economic Facts and Fallacies” published 2008, by economist Dr. Thomas Sowell.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  9. janemartian says:

    Well said Sista! we must not be complacent just because a few of us have power and influence.

  10. […] It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.. […]

  11. You got a point. The way women are treated is based on a very old system that actually is pretty new to humanity, if you consider that for most of humanity’s history as hunter-gatherers, life was pretty egalitarian. It was only when we started doing agriculture that the real inequality rose up, including inequality towards women that would later be institutionalized.
    Oh, and I’m glad you stood up to what you were taught in your religion classes. Honestly, some of what is taught as being “the word of God” is just plain crazy talk. It surprises me so much that people take it seriously.

  12. joshzroper says:

    Well said.

  13. flanbran says:

    I would love to hear your thoughts on God and Religion. Taking from your blog post here, I can see you’re probably not a fan of your Catholic upbringing, but what’s your opinion of God?

  14. Ruben Walker says:

    You said, “The thing about experiencing the timeline as we humans do – day to day, month to month – is that we’re still enduring the residual effects of hundreds of thousands of years of both externalized and internalized oppression.”

    Assuming this is true, why do you think this oppression happened, and why did it persist so long? Why is history, and prehistory, anti-feminist? Who or what made it this way?

    A related question: how are you certain that equality is a desirable or good thing? Or if it is generally a good thing, how are you certain it is good in this case? Are you simply asserting that we should pursue equality, or do you have an underlying justification for the idea?

  15. I like what you say, I like how you say it, I like that what you say is totally true and right and good.

  16. Charles Michaels says:

    hmmmm……

  17. I really enjoyed reading that. It might please you to know, that in one of the adolescent girls therapy groups I co-run, vaginas and vulvas always seem to come up at some point.

  18. […] It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.. […]

  19. harrypeat says:

    The way you write makes me moist. Like a fresh slice of chocolate cake on a dew-speckled autumn morning. More, please.

  20. bernasvibe says:

    Reblogged this on Berna's Vibe~The Way I See IT and commented:
    Freshly Pressed piece & I feel it is VERY re-bloggable…2 thumbs UP on your write…4ever Sincere, Berna(the 1 & Only)

  21. thiathoughts says:

    Very nice entry. Great read.

  22. Karl Drobnic says:

    Sexual freedom exploded for women in North America fifty years ago and has never looked back. It seems to me that your major point here is that some (or perhaps many) schools still do a poor job of teaching sex education, just as many do a poor job of teaching math, science, reading and other critical life skills. But while we often hear about campaigns to improve the teaching of math and science, good on you for raising up the banner of better sex education in schools.

  23. lexy3587 says:

    Great post! Such an interesting take on womens progress in equality related to the really really big picture.
    I only started in the catholic board when I was in highschool, so I at least started off with a bit less bible-based misinformation. Then again, looking back, I seriously question my Grade 7 and 8 health teacher’s qualifications. She told us that semen is small enough to pass through condoms. Like a ghost. Her words, not mine.
    I also had to re-educate a friend in grade 11 that, no, being in a hottub in which a boy came recently is not opening you up to pregnancy. Seriously. Hottub pregnancy. NO. This girl was sixteen before she learned that that was genuinely not an issue.

  24. Marie Alvina says:

    Reblogged this on infinitytimestwo and commented:
    I agree with this wholeheartedly.

  25. I really enjoyed reading your views on this subject(s). Having gone to catholic school when I was younger – but not being Catholic – it was interesting viewing everything from the outside. I think their are many great things about Catholicism, for instance that you really shouldn’t go killing your neighbor, or even the next guy down the block or the next. Also that there is a creator – tho what the creator is or isn’t I don’t think anyone could tell you.

    On the other hand I don’t and never have liked being told that what I want to think or do (unless I’m actively harming someone) is bad, horrible or sending me to hell. Just don’t want to hear it. Especially since it never comes from the religious people I always liked but from the ones who I always think make the religion look bad with their preaching, damning and (generally) violations of the things they seem to hold so dearly to.

    In my opinion, whatever you want to think or do, as long as your really not trying to destroy someone else, is totally fine. And no one has the right to tell you it’s not okay especially by saying its not okay because we “the chosen say so”.

    (Deep breath) okay I’m done.

  26. […] favourite post this week though is to be found on Blasfemmer, called “It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today.” It is a frank and humourous look at growing up in a Catholic school and how horrifically […]

  27. […] It’s A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow! Just Not Today. Never Today. […]

  28. “with kyriarchy”…love it!

  29. gblaw says:

    Reblogged this on gblaw's Blog and commented:
    Tomorrow

  30. byobtraining says:

    Love the title! It relates so well to the start of a fitness program with people. 🙂

  31. monsy91 says:

    Loved the list!

  32. This was a great read. Well said my dear. Loved your 10 answers. You certainly tell it like it is. Congrats on getting pressed and I’m definitely reblogging this.

  33. Awesome! Interesting to see a Canadian perspective on the exact same problems that we have down south here.

    Congrats on FP. I dig the title (I live in Orlando)!

  34. still-not-british says:

    wonderfully stated, I loved reading this!

  35. I enjoyed your post. Not because I went to a religious school, even though my dad is an Episcopalian priest (whose church is roughly half LGBTQ, btw), but because I enjoy hearing about people’s perspectives about perspective, gender issues, gender roles, and resolving those things with our own personal truths. I, myself, have come to have a somewhat socially uncommon life (though it is becoming less and less so), as a stay at home dad. I’m following your blog and would genuinely appreciate a follow, as I’m new here and trying to make something of this. Best wishes. Daniel

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