Emotional Space


Title: Emotional Space / Medium: mixed media collage
By: Bridgit Gallagher

Every time I fly alone, I cry.  I put on my headphones and let myself feel.  I take up emotional space and allow myself to deeply feel and experience these internal, ancient ruins again.  

As women, we are so often denied this space. 

Women are conditioned from childhood to be emotionally available for everyone else, but are punished when we take up that space for ourselves.  We are perpetually playing house, trapped in the ever-revolving door of mother, wife, lover, and therapist—even if we don’t have children, a husband, a lover, or are not qualified to counsel. 

In the doorway of my demise I stand / encased in the whisper you taught me.

We’ve come to expect our spouses to be emotionally inept, and in turn, have learned to accept the role of emotional caretakers in our relationships.  “Boys just aren’t good at that kind of stuff.”

We are expected to engage in emotionally laborious conversations with male colleagues, friends, and family members; conversations where we listen, give advice, and provide comfort, but are considered “emotional,” “crazy,” or simply “on the rag” when we display our own genuine feelings.

And yet—these men are always right, always logical and correct.  We are the crazy ones.  We are the emotional ones, the hysterical ones. 

The overbearing women of their profound lives. 

Our hearts become martyrs to the angry men in our lives, as we are taught to take responsibility for their emotions. 

Our bodies become silent sacrifices to the violent men in our lives, as we are taught to take their punches.   

“They can’t help themselves.”

As we grow in these lies stemming from childhood, our bodies become severed from our emotions, as we learn from the world to suppress and internalize these narratives.

If you could see but were always taught / that what you saw wasn’t real

The male gaze transforms our humanity into abnormality, into sickness.  Human emotions that are embraced and praised in men are pathologized in women:

Our anger turns us into bitches…

Our sadness, irritation, or impatience is really women being “sensitive” or “hysterical”…

Our self-concern, confidence, and imposing our own bodily autonomy makes us vain, shallow, or whores…

Our demand for respect and speaking out against violence, sexism, and harassment become symptoms: “crazy,” “ill” “manipulative”…

White, cis and heteronormative women internalize these roles best.  They don’t want to be that woman.

These women embrace their oppressors, believing in magical notions of exemption and protection.  They put on the mask of willful ignorance and help maintain the silence of women with multiple marginalized identities, such as queer women, trans women, nonbinary folx; fat women, black women, women of color, and sex workers.  

We’d even eat your hate up like love


And for all this, I unfold into myself—and weep.

I feel my way through the messy wreckage of myself…searching for the feelings I so routinely suppress…searching for the body I once lost…searching for the person I continue to forget to remember… the person that knows me best.

I feel the stories of my sisters.  I bear witness to the intersections of our lives.  I dream of the temple that is our lived experiences. 

And I live there—

And I cradle her—

 And I cry—

And I remember—in a world where we are too often defined by oppressive systems and narratives, it is easy to forget that there are truths and revelations waiting for us in the great beyond of ourselves. 

And I believe—that together, our truths and revelations weave a greater story:  the story of our liberation.