Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Whose vagina is it anyway? *Warning* Rape / abuse triggers

Says it all.
Did you hear the one about gender equality...

I don't have a daughter, but if I did I would certainly be careful to pass on the following points to her as she reaches puberty, and through her teenage years:

Perfect ad, cuz we all love the hurdlin' while on the rag.
  • Your vagina will be a constant source of embarrassment to you, from about 12 years when it starts to bleed monthly. Deal with it in the most convenient and sanitary way possible and don't let it disturb your productivity. (I hope she will fight through the bullshit and come around to thinking positive about her menses, detailed here.)
  • Some boys and men will become obsessed with your vagina, and try to put their fingers and penises inside it. Just a fact of life. Be aware of this and defend it accordingly. Not aggressively though, nobody likes an aggressive female, just a little more assertive than usual, but don't forget to smile, nobody likes a crank.
Forget the miniskirt, just HAVING a vagina makes you a target at times
  • If you wear a miniskirt (anything above the knee) expect total strangers to discuss your clothing and the possibility of getting into your knickers. You can hardly blame them, you chose to wear the skirt, I warned you. You know men and their urges. (This happened me so often in my teens, strangers hands under my skirt/on my ass in a crowded bus/shop/street, that I almost came to expect it, and almost never saw the owner of the hands, despite aiming the odd kick at a shin. There was no place to report it, no words to describe it, nobody to tell. Just a fact of my life. The one time I got a "grabber" thrown off a bus, he was let on at the next stop. He'd legged it all the way. Like the fucker in Terminator 2.)
  • If you choose to get intoxicated you will need another person to look after your vagina, as you won't be in a fit state to defend it from the males around you, and you, by drinking alcohol, are letting people know you are not prepared to defend your vagina should you need to.
  • If you were "minding your own business" when you were raped, that should be proof enough that you didn't ask for it. Like the recent case in Cabra here. Likewise if you were modestly dressed, or actively saying "No".
  • If you are unlucky enough to get raped, and were sober, and the man/men were strangers, you might not be blamed for it.
  • There are varying degrees of rape, some are worse than others. If the rape victim is a nun (see here) or older woman, her vagina is not supposed to be entered anyway, so this must be the worst kind. If the victim is a mother this is probably next, child abuse isn't seen as rape, it's just abuse. Rape only gets called rape once the girl is over the age of accepted sexual activity. Rape of clubbing scantily-dressed teens isn't a surprise; they were dressed provocatively.
  • If you walk somewhere alone you are putting yourself up for "it". (Try being a 20 year old blonde in southern Spain for a year. That'll put you in your place.)

  • Don't worry, you'll get one self-defence class in school about defending yourself from rape. No, we don't teach the boys not to rape, no need, no point, they are helpless to their hormonal urges. Tips for girls to avoid rape are here, tips for boys not to rape are... here. (Phew, found one.)
  • If you are in a relationship and already putting up with mental/physical abuse, and rape gets added to the equation, you will have a hard time getting justice.
  • If you are married, and people like your husband, and he rapes you, it will be even harder to get help. You see, you kind of signed over your vagina when you got married. And marital rape has only been a crime in Ireland since 1990. And only one jail sentence has been given out in the 24 years since, see here.
  • Your father is the legal custodian of your vagina before you get married. He will vet prospective suitors and ensure they will respect the vagina until he deems them fit to enter it (see the US "purity portraits" here) then he will pass you over to your future husband in a legal ceremony witnessed by your friends and family, your wedding. Your priest may still assume you will avow to "obey" your husband. It's tradition.
  • Once you're married, you need to change your name, to show people who now owns your vagina, ain't your daddy no more. (A great Guardian columnist puts my thoughts about name changing into print here.)
How many people really NEED to be looking up your vagina in labour?
  • Any man or woman wearing a white coat has immediate access to your vagina at all times, especially when you are pregnant / in labour. You have to actively ask them NOT to enter it with their fingers or instruments, and even then, if they want to, they can and will because THEY own your vagina. (This one was held up in court recently in Ireland, see here. Midwives are not exempt either, some own your uterus too. One told me in my first pregnancy that I couldn't possibly have felt fetal movements from 10 weeks, so she'd write 15 weeks on my chart. That told me.)
  • You should get used to males in your school, work, peer group talking about your vagina as if it is public property, speculating about it, and generally reminding you it is not yours alone. "Frigid" and "slut" are two extremes, but most females get to both ends of the spectrum in a lifetime. (See more examples at "everyday sexism" here.)
  • If you get raped, probably the last thing you want to do is talk to a male police officer, but you can make a special request to speak to a female officer, isn't that kind? And you won't be allowed shower until they take semen samples, which may not be until the next day. That is, if you report it. It IS a lot of palaver. There are 16 sexual assault treatment units in the Republic of Ireland, you may have to travel a couple of hours to the closest one, see map here.
  • Sure, in all these countries, marital rape is not a recognised crime, so their vaginas belong to their husbands: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, China... full list here
The escorts. Guardians of the vaginas.
  • As long as the Rose of Tralee contest gets televised, we will be nowhere near teaching Ireland to respect women. We will still be objectifying them, judging them on looks, charm and talent, and pairing them up with chaperones to keep them "safe" while in the contest. Gay winner or not (see here) the contest is a disgusting reminder of all that is misogynistic in our culture. In their own words "People sometimes ask if The Rose of Tralee Festival is a beauty pageant. The Rose of Tralee Festival is a multi-faceted event that celebrates the many attributes of modern young Irish women." Not saying "no" then?
  • As a teenager of... ooh... 14 years old I had a middle-aged man put his hand on my thigh and leave it there, quietly reminding me that he had some rights to my body should he feel the need. I hope his daughter and wife were better respected.
  • In college ten years later, reporting a fellow student for groping me during a class, I was told by the course heads that there was very little they could do, and why didn't my then fiancee just kick the sh*t out of the guy himself.
Angry? You bet I'm angry. I'm seriously pissed off that another rape has been reported with a bullshit phrase ("minding her own business" see the Cabra case above.) I'm seriously pissed that we call beauty contests a "bit of fun" and "harmless" yet size up every female onstage for her looks. I'm grossed out by the bikini-clad girls in tabloids, and the men who buy that shite, and sorry for young girls who see this as normal. I'm disgusted that the sea of pink in girl's clothes departments is being bought up and thrown at our future TDs and government officials, pinning them into princess stereotypes from Day 1. 

I'm angry at every middle-aged man in a suit who walks the streets smugly, because he DOES rule the world and he ISN'T worried about someone dragging him down an alley to rape him. I'm angry that people don't take the words of Sinead O'Connor more seriously when she talks about separating church and state, see here. I'm wondering where are the other voices clamouring for social change. Certainly not in the mainstream media, and Sinead's word has been discounted ever since she admitted to mental illness, see here.  I'm annoyed people are so complacent about the catholic church, accepting compulsory baptism for school registration instead of fighting the system. 96% of schools are under religious patronage, see here. I presume all hospitals are too, see here. I'm annoyed I missed out on the Count Me Out thing, so the goddamn church is counting me IN. 


I'm also wondering why people aren't more angry about refugee camps in Ireland where war-trauma affected families are living in prison essentially, 1400 children in our refugee camps in December 2013, see here and here. What about the children in state care that went missing? Oh, none were sex trafficked according to the HSE. Wrong, see here. I'm annoyed walking through streets full of "massage parlours", wondering who's behind the doors, in the upstairs rooms, what conditions are they living in and are they ok.  I'm annoyed I politely laughed when I was told "You'll need a thick skin to work here" after enquiring about a possible job in a male-dominated workplace. I've realised I'm pro-choice, which means pro-abortion, after hearing the details of the recent case of the suicidal rape victim denied an abortion here




I'm stunned at the lack of state recognition for the Survivors of Symphisiotomy (pelvic bones broken during labour for no medical reason, women tortured from the 1940s to the 1980s in Ireland, see the Wiki page here) even though the UN called it a human rights abuse, the Irish state is ignoring it, see here. Imagine the strength these women have to muster up to fight for justice, coming from a generation not allowed work when married, and never even fed the line that they were "equal". I'm saddened every time I hear a hospital birth story, because in 90% of cases I've heard each woman went through an unwanted intervention / awkward situation, feeling violated yet voiceless. In years to come will we have "Survivors of Episiotomy without consent"? Why are our C-section rates up to 40% in some hospitals when the WHO recommends 15% average? Men are still cutting women open, telling them their vagina isn't good enough, they own it. They still do.


Right now I want to crawl into a hole and wake up 400 years hence, when this will all be called the Dark Days and Ireland will have an egalitarian society, where vaginas will belong to their owners and celebrated for the wonderful, pleasurable and life-giving body parts they are. In the meantime I will continue to guard my vagina, to choose non-white-coated caregivers in pregnancy and childbirth, and to prepare my sons to respect the vaginas they meet.


Rant over.

Phew.
I'm off for a cuppa.


5 comments:

  1. Yes, yes and more yes. I have a two year old daughter and want to go live in a cave with her. I feel totally overwhelmed at times and don't know what to do but this blog post is a good place to begin.

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  2. Ruth, I firmly believe that what you put in, you get out. Especially in the early years. So I think clear communication from day 1 about her body parts, and allowing her choose when to bath and have a nappy change etc is key, so she never gets used to being "overruled" when it comes to her body. That will go a long way to teaching her to "own" it, and hopefully give her the confidence to stand up and defend it if she ever needs to. I wrote a previous post about avoiding child abuse here http://www.themamashipblog.com/2012/01/stranger-danger.html, and I think limiting her exposure to mass media would be great, magazines, tv ads etc, as well as modelling healthy body attitudes. A blogger friend has fantastic body image awareness articles on her blog, like this one http://starvingartistink.com/the-shape-of-a-mother/. Being aware of it is half the battle I think. xx

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  3. Thank you! I read your post before on child abuse and found it great. So far we are managing to avoid most media stuff.
    I guess it just feels scary that I can only arm her as much as possible but the world still sucks.

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  4. This is everything that is disenfranchised in Ireland. Thanks for verbalising it, great read. I think that the HeForShe campaign has raised a lot of awareness of some inequality issues we have in todays society, albeit a simplified account.

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  5. This is really a wonderful post.

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