Ain’t You A Woman?: Stand Up For All Your Sisters

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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

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Does My Vagina Offend You, Yeah?: An Exploration Of The Debasement Of Women & Misogyny in Irish Society

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Vagina. Va-gi-na. Noun. The muscular tube leading from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women and most female mammals. Exactly what it says on the tin. So why are a lot of men and women in this country so afraid of vaginas? And I’m not talking about homophobia (even though there is far too much of that still circulating in Irish society). There is a severe taboo around the female reproductive system. Not just here, but around the world.

Whether it’s breasts, the clitoris or our rear ends, the fascination with degrading women is highly prevalent in Ireland. In this piece, I will explore aspects of the female body which have been targeted by males and females in a negative light in Irish society; as well as the lack of rights which females have.

Menstruation & Body Hair: 

Now I know for a fact that a period is not the best feeling in the world. Some of my famous quotes while I have been enduring the horrific cramps have been “Will someone please surgically remove my womb before I do it myself?” or “It feels like there is monsters in my uterus”. But why do we feel the need to ignore it’s actual name? It’s not a curse word.

So now I will direct you to Tampax’s “Outsmart Mother Nature” campaign which is cringe-worthy. Exhibit A:

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Why do the marketing people feel the need to talk down to women in this highly colloquial advert? We’re not children. To assume that women cannot engage in sexual relations when on their period makes us all out to be some sort of monsters:  does “Don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die” ring any bells? A lot of males and females I know are entirely disgusted by what a period entails, but as Georgina, creator of Vox Copuli states: “I refuse to not discuss [my period] because it makes men uncomfortable”.

And why should we feel uncomfortable about what happens to us every 28 days on average? As mammals, female humans have one of the most frequent menstruation periods, which means more fertility. You should be embracing this, not keeping it hush-hush because someone somewhere said it was gross. It occurs far too often for us to pretend it doesn’t exist, or to conceal it’s true identity with a little old lady claiming to be “Mother Nature”. As well as being a natural bodily function, it’s a healthy reminder that you’re not pregnant and you can continue doing rad things without worrying about a baby.

When I asked online “Do you think female body hair is gross?”, the majority of people said yes. I never really thought twice about pubic hair until I thought about how it’s only acceptable to be clean shaven as a woman in Ireland. So I decided to part with all razors for six weeks and see if I really felt gross. And I didn’t. Having body hair is so natural and it’s only been normalized to have a shaven pubic area in Western culture since the late 70s. Why should women feel under pressure to shave? If a guy is really that fussy, he doesn’t deserve your pussy.

Between periods and pubic hair, the female body is seen as ugly in it’s natural state and constantly needs to be modified to suit a males standards.

The Taboo of Feminism:

I am constantly given grief by males and females about being a feminist. Irish people act like it is such a dirty word. Women usually do not voice their opinions on women’s rights in public for fear that being a feminist will make them unattractive to males. Many women turn a blind eye to sexism and many males act like sexism doesn’t exist. The majority of people I have come into contact with believe that feminists are a bunch of angry, man-hating girls. But feminism is about creating equality; not saying that women are superior to men. There is a big difference between feminism and misandry, which you can see here. The definition of feminism to me is:

 “A collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.”

I don’t hate men. My mantra as a heterosexual woman is “Love dick, not dicks”.

Objectification of Women in Public Places & Online:

The cat-calling. The wolf-whistles. All women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes has felt the wrath of verbal sexual harassment in all places. But never has a man been degraded in such a way. Every night out involves another comment on my “massive tits” or my “huge arse” and every single time I get the same response when I complain about it: “They are just being lads!”. This recent idea of a male being a “lad” has somehow allowed it to be socially acceptable for more men to be misogynists.

A prime example of this is The Lad Bible, debasing women every second of the day. It is a website predominantly aimed at males, with the topics of discussion based around “lad” interests: their own masculinity, soccer and half-naked women. I once saw a section called “Something To Cure The Hangover”. It was a post of pictures submitted by males of their unclothed exes. There was obviously no consent from the women, and the page boasts a whopping 1.6 million likes on Facebook. Everyone worldwide is going to make sexual comments or slut-shame these girls. Who deserves to get called a whore by someone they don’t know? Who deserves to hear disgusting comments made about their body?

As well as this, The Lad Bible’s devoted followers refer to women as “wenches”:

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What a nice boy. About one-third of my Facebook friends have liked this page; many of them thinking it’s a bit of “banter”.

Just today, my local radio station was on the quest for “the best boobs”. The majority of the listeners are young adults who are easily influenced. I watched as comment after comment young girls and boys made suggestions, while I and one other woman commented on the obvious objectification of women. Our comments were ignored and the discussion continued. I was not surprised.

Physical Sexual Harassment:

For some reason, Irish males think it is totally socially acceptable to feel a girl up. Many, if not all of my female friends have experienced some sort of physical sexual harassment, in private or in public. I, for one, have been groped countless times in nightclubs and bars; which many girls brush off. But I’ve also been in a situation where a male has forced his hands down my tights, when I’ve repeatedly told him to stop.  Just last week I had a boy put his arms around my waist and forced his open mouth on my closed one. When he retracted, he wondered why I wasn’t enjoying it. Because a lot of males assume that females will enjoy any physical interaction: after all, The Lad Bible believes we are nothing but wenches.

The Evil Feminist makes a very strong and important point in this post:

“Women have to do so little to be declared “man haters”. All we have to do is name male violence for what it is…But for a man to be declared a “woman hater” he has to do so much more. Even when men abuse, rape, prostitute and kill women, they’re excused… His victim’s actions are looked for as if his hatred was a logical reaction to her own actions.”

This is easily backed up by the statistics of rape in Ireland. In 2011, over 2000 women came to the National Rape Crisis Centre for help. Over 90% of them knew the perpetrator. But think of all the women who are silenced and live in fear? Rapists are very rarely convicted in Ireland, and the laws regarding rape and sexual assault are so degrading to women.

Abortion Laws:

It is illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Ireland unless she threatens to commit suicide or her life is in danger. A woman cannot have an abortion if she is raped, is pregnant by incest or if her child has fatal foetal abnormalities. Basically, a woman has no choice here unless she is on her deathbed. And while The Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Law is extremely degrading to women, it is a step forward to having control over our own bodies.

But we will still be called blood-thirsty murderers and whores by the likes of the Youth Defence and misogynistic TD Jim Walsh. The anti-choice side of the debate is filled with women-hating religious extremists who ignore the women’s right to her own body. The lack of proper sexual education in Ireland is abysmal. Holland boasts the lowest abortion rates in the world with abortion available on demand. Sexual education is not something you need to learn on an exam, it’s a necessary part of human knowledge. And by sexual education, I do not mean the Youth Defence’s suggestion that women need to learn about how to avoid getting raped.

These are only a few things that have been normalized over the years which allow blatant misogyny in Irish culture. Sexism is rife in the Republic and there is an obvious need to combat the sexism in our society. Our country seems to be still in the hands of Dev’s Ireland, where the women’s place is in the home. A female TD being groped by a fellow colleague whilst in the Dáil barely caused a ripple in the media. I’d like to mention that this happened whilst he was under the influence of alcohol during a debate over women’s reproductive rights.

The silence of Irish women must be broken; the sexism must be stopped.

Why Pro-Choice Should Always Matter

6a00d8345357ef69e20168e88ef177970c-500wiI’m not usually the type of person to beat down other people’s views, although I may come across that way, because I am very strict with my opinions. But the Pro-Life campaign in Ireland is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever come across. Not only is it a movement to keep abortion illegal, it is a movement against women’s rights, a movement of conservatism and oppression.

The main contributors to this cause are the Youth Defence, who are borderline Westboro Baptist Church crazy. Their webpage contains laughable accusations that abortion is “murder” and evidently tries to distract the reader through colloqualism, as there is an extreme lack of factual information. Their merchandise is bright and colourful and attempts to create a vision of idyllic, elated community which support this cause. In reality, the Youth Defence are a group of ignorant, bigoted human beings who clearly do not understand the meaning of the word “choice”.

The amount of incorrect data which the Youth Defence use to gain support is enormous. False claims that the government was willing to abort babies up to 9 months fuel their campaign. In reality, 90% of abortions take place before 13 weeks. Their posters claim that “Abortion will not treat suicide”. Yeah, everyone knows that. As suicide is often a result of depression, brought on by the pressures of life; the trigger could be an unplanned pregnancy. The most ludicrous statement that the Youth Defence has made was that women “need to learn to avoid rape”. This was a statement which was made after they pulled this stunt; something which offended me so much that I was left shouting and screaming for hours.

I have engaged in several discussions on their Facebook page which did get quite heated. I was called a fascist for stating that women should have the right to choose and the right over their own bodies. A few of my friends were called abusive for voicing their opinions, with the males being called “creeps”. They called the pro-choice movement “conservative” and claimed it supported the murder of babies. The majority of the Youth Defence supporters are misinformed and are still grasping on to Eamon DeValera’s vision of “dancing at the crossroads”, where women hold a traditional role and have little rights.

What surprises me most is that the majority of the pro-life movement is women. It is shocking, disturbing and depressing that females are willing to let men have more rights than them. Look at Wendy Davis: she spoke for over 10 hours to kill the anti-abortion bill in Texas. Miss Davis is a hero in the face of feminism. She understands that each woman is different. She understands that having a baby is a terrifying and life-changing experience, which many women aren’t ready for. Having a child could make or break you. Only you can decide what is best for you; not the state. Not one female TD would do such a thing for Irish women.

And disallowing a woman to make her own choices is treating every Irish female woman like a second-class citizen. Branding abortion as a criminal offence defines women who have gone through the process as felons. In the eyes of the state, if a woman has an abortion, she is seen as a murderer. Murderers in Ireland must serve life imprisonment. Now if this woman was raped, her rapist wouldn’t even get close to serving that time. Many rapists actually avoid imprisonment. So women are seen as lesser than men once more in our quaint, traditional Irish State.

It is 2013. The Dáil is male-dominated with 141 males to 25 females. And this gender imbalance has been a tradition since the foundation of the Dáil in 1919. Majority rules which leaves the women in the dark. And besides, why should the state have a say in what’s best for you? Those who run our country have only done the best for themselves over the past few decades.

As well as this, we are a state still in the clutches of the Catholic Church. Although their power has been lessened significantly, our constitution, education system and political parties are highly influenced by their teachings. It is another organisation driven by men.  An organisation which has no concept of what is best for women. Bishops have been claiming that the Abortion Bill proposes “the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child”. I’m not even going to type what I think about this. You can all imagine me screaming and throwing things around my room. And because of this influence of the church, children are being indoctrinated to keep the taboo of abortion in Irish society alive.

The fact that women are willing to put up with misogyny like this is incredulous. Pro-choice is about giving liberty to women. The legalisation of abortion will not result in mass-termination of pregnancies, and it is certainly not murder. It’s my vagina and I can decide what I want to do with it. The government doesn’t own me and you shouldn’t let it own you either. Everyone is entitled to do what they want with their bodies. Men have full control over theirs, so why shouldn’t we?

Power to the pussy. Don’t let them kill the bill.