Maybe we have not all been that woman. But we have all had a scent of it; maybe even just a glimmer. We have all; each and every one of us women, no matter where we hail from or what we believe, have felt fear under a patriarchal force. We have felt violated, used, torn, exploited, wasted, bruised, beaten, forgotten about, lost at least once in our lives because of the society we live in. And each and everyone one of us has picked ourselves up (often with the help of others) on more than one occasion and said we would not let it happen again. And maybe it will not happen to us again, or our friends and our sisters again; but it will happen to many other girls, women and transwomen around the world. We cannot leave anyone behind any longer.
Earlier this week, it was reported that a young woman who immigrated to Ireland was denied an abortion, despite being traumatised, scared and suicidal. Not only that, but she was led to believe that should would receive an abortion on the grounds of The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013); which states that abortion is justifiable when the pregnancy in question endangers a woman’s life, including the risk of suicide.This law came into effect on the 1st of January this year, and still the State is acting as if it does not exist.
Irish Times correspondent Kitty Holland interviewed the young girl, who had been raped in her home country before arriving to Ireland. She was unaware that she was pregnant. She was lost in a new place. She was turned away and betrayed by the IFPA, who delayed her in seeking an abortion. She attempted to take her own life. The young woman told Ms. Holland what she told the nurse:
“I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself.”
The interview only becomes more harrowing as the young woman depicts the moment she was refused an abortion after fighting so long for her right to one:
“You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.”
This becomes more than just a pregnancy issue. This is destroying someone’s mental health, their psyche, their life. Abandoned by the State, the young girl also said that she feels like she has been “left by everybody” and she is enshrouded with shame. But none of this is her fault; and yet still this place we call home can make one vulnerable young woman look like a monster because she wanted justice for herself.
I, along with many others, have been criticised and condemned for adopting a pro-choice stance. I have been called a murderer, disgusting, immoral; and on more than one occasion, a Nazi. All because I believe that pregnancy is a choice (which it is) and I believe that a woman should have the right to her own body (which each and every woman does). And still, these people do not put themselves in the situation of any woman who has been betrayed their rights over the years in this country and worldwide. Just because something does not affect you directly and/or your circumstances allow you to have a different outcome to another person does not mean their rights are non-existent. We can no longer pretend that these injustices are the moral thing to do because Ireland has “always been that way”. The UN are right: the Irish state treats women like vessels. All of us. And it does not matter if you wanted to have a baby or not, or you want to ever have one for that matter. We are still expected to be incubators; every last one of us.
And this denial of health care and reproductive rights is not the only thing Irish society has done to reduce women to dust. Think of the young woman at Slane in 2013 who was hospitalised after she was a victim of extreme abuse and harassment online. Think of the transmisogyny of Irish society which led to mass online bullying of a transwoman in Limerick city. Think of the women at the Magdalene Laundries, one of which is not far from my front door. Think of all the Mother & Baby homes. Think of the unrepresented and disrespected sex workers that have no one to protect them. Feminist writer Bell Hooks once said: “Being oppressed means the absence of choices”. That is exactly what we all are in this society: oppressed. And you may not want to acknowledge it; you may not even realise it. But you have less choices than any man does if you are a woman or identify as a woman in this State.
You know what? We are all that woman. We are the women staring at themselves in the mirror — crying — wishing it was all different. We are the girls that sit on the curb outside the nightclubs waiting for friends because some creepy guy molested them on the dancefloor. We are the girls filled with shame because that is what we are told how to feel. We are the women who are catcalled and beeped at; and we are told: “It is a compliment”. We are the girls who wake up every morning feeling successful and happy and somewhere along the way we are shut down by a “higher” male power. We are the lonely girls. We are the girls who don’t want to be boys. We are the sad girls. We are the women making ourselves sick with worry, scrambling on cold bathroom floors. We are the the broken girls. We are the “Want You To Make Me Feel Like I’m The Only Girl In The World” girls; but they will never give us that. We are the college dropout girls. We are the single mothers. We are the girls who lay victim to revenge porn. We are the X Case. We are Migrant X.
But most of all, we are the girls that should not; that will not back down. Support your sisters; and not just your cis-ters. We cannot lose the battle.
“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism”, to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.”
– Bell Hooks