Photo taken at Rootwire Festival by B. Hockensmith.

I wrote this Editor’s Letter this morning to be in our February issue, but I felt compelled to share before the issue’s release.  My magazine, my choice?  You bet! The February issue will be a Special Tattoo issue, so make your plans now to snag yourself a copy.

I’m feeling rather inspired this morning, putting the finishing touches on this layout, but most of all, reminiscing about the huge amount of Women’s marches that went on this past weekend.  I was not in attendance physically, but was there in spirit (and Snapchats).  A phrase that has stuck with me that was cried out during the march, is “My body, my choice,” which is rather applicable to this upcoming tattoo issue, if you think about it.

Most will immediately assume that “my body, my choice,” is referring to abortion, or the pro-choice movement, but I know the girl that started that chant, and I have been speaking to her as well as many women in my community a lot lately.  “My body, my choice,” means so much more than a stance on abortion.  It literally means, that this is my body and I get to choose what is done with it. As I grow and become more self-confident, finding myself and my place in this world, I am finding myself rejecting all of the outside voices and influences that want to decide what I do with my body.

I grew up getting grabbed and groped by horny middle school boys, often swindled into giving them what they wanted through manipulation or even gas lighting.  Many of my first sexual encounters were thrust upon me, and were often humiliating and confusing.  I carry this with me even still.

All the while, as soon as I grew breasts I was strapped into a push-up bra.  The “whale tail” trend of thongs was super popular as I blossomed into a woman, and you know that’s what I chose to wear because my fellow classmates were wearing them, and all the guys were talking about them. Even as I grew into a woman, the pressures didn’t stop.  I must shave my legs every day, I have to wear tampons instead of pads, I have to wash my hair every day, I have to shave my armpits and wear deodorant.  I have to sit lady-like at the table.  I have to be pretty, yet prudish. Slutty in bed but a lady on the streets.  I have to have sex – but not too much, not with too many men.  I have to like what you like in bed, and do it when you want it, and be enthusiastic about it, too.

After a lifetime of being told what to do, I’m ready to snap.  We torture ourselves just to make everyone else happy, particularly men, and I’m telling you right now, to stop!  Please stop before your inner light is stamped out and you forget who you are, or even explode with anger or violence.  It’s no wonder that women are marching, screaming, shouting.  We have voices and we intend to use them.

I think my problem before, was that I didn’t know my own worth, but now I know.  I have replaced self-loathing with self-love. I never deserved any less, even though I thought I did.

And men, your body is your choice, too.  Your path is your own and you deserve to find your own happiness.  I know that you are not exempt from pressures, so please know that I love you, too.  But I have to speak up for my ladies, who have been historically under the thumb of society and are still trying their best to break out.

So men and women, I hope you take the phrase “my body, my choice,” and apply it in a way that makes you feel liberated and free.  Get that tattoo that you’ve been thinking about, and get it for yourself.  My favorite part of tattoos is that it tells our story, it is self-expression a form that you get to carry with you forever.  It is an amazing way to decorate and adorn our body — however we damn well please!  Your vessel is yours and yours alone, and it is beautiful.