It’s strange: this International Women’s Day I am just enjoying being me, in my woman-body. That’s it. It’s a kind of embodied spiritual feeling and I don’t mean to promote any cis-normative stuff along with it. I haven’t yet engaged much with content related to IWD. All of the heartbreaking depressing infuriating details about women’s lives and inequalities: I know the shape of these. I am sure I will keep engaging with these on many other days.
Today, though, I am loving being me and born into a woman-life.
Happy International Women’s Day.
[Trigger warning: violence, sexual violence]
This masculinity is sick. I’m done.
The heart of violence in the middle of masculine culture. I reject it. I reject this society keeping this shit dominant, central, lauded. I reject that this behaviour is allowed.
Yeah, I’m talking about a footballer raping (because, really) a dog. This is just one time. That got caught. This shit goes on all the time.
And no, not all men, and fucking whatever.
This is the heart of this masculine violence. You have a penis. Congratulations. So do half the population.
There will be more violent rapes of women, possibly animals and children by footballers, and by men upheld by our society. Sometimes they hit each other, execute a ‘one punch’ death, or just lots of stupid shit involving cars and more violence.
Fucking alcohol. Fucking Australia. Fucking men.
In my daily life I presume 98% of men are pretty fucked. Objectifying me, insulting me with their minds and their gaze. Street level, institutional level, global financial level: hoarding and greedy and violent and idiotic.
I am capable of compassion and other angles. But I gotta rebel.
I reject this as ok to live with. Bringing up ‘boys’ that are idiots but they are being ‘boys’. They were drunk and with the ‘boys’ so it’s ok. They had a night out with the ‘boys’ because they won a game. Or lost a game. They don’t clean the house because they are a ‘boy’.
I avoid, I minimise thinking about it. I hope to cut my habit with taking in heaps of media and internet content because this shit is fucking traumatic. Then I heal, music balm, do my practices.
But it’s not ok.
Other than isolating my family as much as I can, activism, or living on a woman’s community, I dunno about answers. Maybe campaigns that destigmatise speaking up about men being violent. Maybe all of these.
Just so we’re clear, the responsibility to figure out how to make my invisible labour visible is not mine. My immaterial labour, my unpaid labour, my labour that is given no value. It is not my responsibility to figure out how to make these visible in my relationship and my home.
It is systemic inequality. Deep systemic inequality.
Of course, deeply internalised. So that’s where it’s tricky. Because, of course, I have to deal with this in my life. Moment to moment. And, yes, individuals are part of the ‘society’ that needs to bring about change.
But goddamnit, mother flipping responsibilising individuals is bullshit. Especially women. Especially mothers. At home. Who feel invisible and undervalued anyway.
It’s ten to nine on a Monday night. I am so ready for bed after a marathon day. You know, of mothering and dog-caring and cooking and baking and cleaning and walking and throwing the ball and not getting a nap and constantly moving, doing multiple loads of washing with a toddler who has times of clinginess that make my goal-orientated mind buck. And all of the emotional management that comes with parenting and getting through such a day.
Now the toddler is being settled, I have eaten, showered, finished a cake and am sitting. Time for unwinding and trying to reconfigure my body to go to sleep early.
It’s super hard to do. Yeah, I have read research every now and then that says that we are pretty hard-wired in our sleep preference. Mine is pretty weird as it is, and definitely not in sync with my little one’s.
Anyway. I know millions of people go through this stuff, and many millions go through much, much worse.
But, you see, I have been firmly nudged by an internal voice to write. Just write.
The Guardian published a follow-up to their story on endometriosis, which features readers’ responses. It is still heartening, sad, and lightening for me to read of others’ experiences. My (slightly edited) response is in there too. Thanks Guardian. Here’s to awareness, better diagnosis and treatment, and, hey, widespread cultural change. Well, you know, I gotta hope.
The Guardian published an article on endometriosis, hurrah. I wrote this comment:
Thank you to the authors and editors for writing and publishing this article. I saw the call-out for input from readers and I didn’t respond in time, which is a bummer. However, having this published is profound for me nevertheless. I have endometriosis and it has meant huge amounts of cyclical suffering. Truly indescribable levels of pain. Coming up regularly. To work around and try and plan a life around. I have also internalised shame and the taboo of speaking up about it, which also meant 20 years of suffering before having a diagnosis. (I touched on this in a blog post, here: http://slapsista.com/woman-woman-woman/). I really value de-stigmatising pieces such as this, and I hope that other women get diagnosis and treatment much, much earlier than I did. My fertility has been ok so far, I have had two pregnancies, but even with surgery, which I have had, this is a life-long condition that can recur. I urge any women with painful periods to seek out a helpful GP and gynaecologist: and if they are not helpful and compassionate, keep seeking! Because of my experiences with doctors (and, at the time, having bad side effects and seeing a negative portray of the Pill), I moved from a medical to a ‘holistic’ path: which resulted in many years of expense and frustration, all because those practitioners were actually compassionate. However, I can testify that the herbs didn’t help. Endometriosis Australia in Australia are a helpful organisation (they also have a Facebook group). Thanks again Guardian (for this and the PMDD article, which I also have, the thrills).
I was at a clinic that does, amongst many things, abortions. A lovely, fit, healthy and agile security guard let me in at 8am. He was helpful and clear. This was pretty much the only time a security guard near me has created a feeling of security. (I mention him because I get really into noticing how people act and work in medical settings. So much of the environment is pinging and harsh and neon and shunting, that those micro-interactions where some empathy or courtesy can be passed on mean even more. Ok, the low-down: overall, I had fair interactions with the medical staff, I give them a high pass, and one high credit each for one reception-man and one male anaesthetist, which just goes to show, Annalise, don’t rule them out because they are older White men, even if it’s early and you haven’t had coffee or much sleep).
I was thoroughly administrated, signed, and checked, and went through my medical process. (Also, what is anaesthetic? What is it? I mean the black time gap, that isn’t even black, and then the coming back, but knowing that it is taking a while for your consciousness to come back to fully knowing itself, that all-pervasive sense of ‘me, watching’ that is life? What happens when you are gone, and then slowly coming back? It is truly weird).
When I came out, a little woozy and not really, quite, myself, the security guard helped me with the gate (see, love his work) and there were four people, old men mostly, in a huddle on the footpath singing something lacklustre. The anti-abortion moralists, I guess.
I heard my baby going “HAAAAAAAA” at the sight of me as she and my partner rolled towards me. We made our way back to the car, then realised the cafe we want to go to is back past the clinic, so we walk back past it and nod at the security guard again who says “see you later”, or something, and one of the old men is clocking us and then says, “lovely baby you’ve got there” and my partner says half-explosively, half-under his breath “what would you know about having a baby?” because, Jesus Lord, WHAT WOULD THEY KNOW?
There is no way that anything to do with any of these women’s bodies is their business, or something that they know. This judgement I own. Whatever the reason or backstory. Sexual assault. Consensual. Forgot. Accident. Drunk. Unplanned. Planned, but changed our mind. Her mind. Lost a job, broke up. Whatever it is, or isn’t.
Bullying women? Oh yeah, brilliantly Christian that is. I hope Jesus smites every one of them.
When whoever walks out of that clinic, probably coming out of anaesthetic, into a crescent of strangers judging them with a mumbling hymn and stare-y-man eyes: fuck off.
Who are you going to convince of your wonderful opinion by standing on a cold footpath with a security guard watching you, anyway?
(This clinic was also a weird mix of public and private and intimate and awkward. Most medical places are, but this one particularly so. I honour the private aspect, even as I am writing this on the nets, and even as this place of private women’s business was also a part of daily life with it’s phones and it’s trying to figure out parking and wondering how many waiting rooms there can possibly be. Still, I noticed the stressed faces and red eyes of women waiting in there and) –
The. Last. Thing that anyone there needs is these dripping hypocrites outside. Who assume that my partner and I would possibly want to hear their comment about our baby and be on the side of the good procreators.
I am on the side of women. Sentient, conscious women who live in bodies and deal with all kinds of shit.
Pro women. Pro women choosing. What they can, when they can. Pro women’s lives.
I get jealous. Of so many things! Or so many people. See, I have many passions and, I guess, still, ambitions, so then when I see an academic or writer or musician or performer or dancer doing something kind of like I would like to, I am jealous. So there is a lot of opportunity to feel this way.
It is somewhat less intense than when I was younger. There is a longing to find a better antidote, and maybe I will, but these are the ones I know so far:
Enjoy what I have.
Enjoy what I am doing.
Enjoy the love with others.
Appreciate what I am doing.
In a way, the last is the hardest, to really feel like what I am doing is ‘enough’. Of course, this can be while feeling close to the edge of burnout or at least being constantly stretched in motherhood, housework, and trying to do some thesis revisions and small business work. So there is a pushing and then a ‘never enough’ feeling.
If I was all practical about it, I could see that there will always be others that I could be jealous of. Actually, there are many, many more artists and academics and writers than I know of, than I could possibly imagine. So I could accept that.
Breathe with that.
I could also accept that this jealousy has been around in my life, and may well for a long time to come. I hope to keep tempering it, but it may just happen. It is a feeling, a state, a perspective. Breathe it in and out.
I could also all-practically think that I had such a yearning for motherhood, such a craving and, yes, such jealousy towards others who ‘had’ it, and now here I am. So I can be grateful. Breathe in the gratitude. Know that this is such a gift (this one isn’t hard, I feel this through my days anyway). Well, sometimes when I am really tired and things seem frustrating it isn’t easy, of course, and that’s all good and real, man. But I am deeply grateful. Not that this has to be held up as the pinnacle for women (dear Lordy no), and for some, it is a hugely profound process as well.
I am also keenly aware of ladies who may be yearning for children and for whom it doesn’t happen. Just compassion and love for them, and silence.
Well, that has brought me right down into quiet acceptance. Thanks, writing.
Maybe some of the constant streams of words that go through my brain as I press buttons on the microwave take the clothes up put the machine on pick her up get the dog will start being typed out. Maybe.
I am grateful.
International Women’s Day comes around again. The same articles about ‘we have come so far and there is so far to go’. Who is the ‘we’? Do women need to do more freaking work?
Ok, so I am tired. In myself, from mothering and sleep deprivation, and because of my two conditions, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and endometriosis. Both of which I am realising have fatigue as one of the symptoms which may help explain that cyclical feeling over the years that I know I ‘naturally’ have more energy than I have available.
Both of which, also, have been long journeys through isolation and actually believing myself. Believing that yes, this really is this horrible. I can say it out loud. No-one else will ever feel what this is like, but I can seek support. I can say that that support isn’t freaking working. I don’t have to stick with this practitioner or doctor. I can tell this shame about having a woman’s problem to fuck off.
Long journeys towards articulation and assertion. Acknowledging this shit. Accepting how much of my freaking life they take from me. My time, my energy. Not every moment is gone, but many are just so consumed by symptoms. Still, I have practiced awareness and equanimity and being, while having the symptoms. Which has it’s riches.
I am going to an Endometriosis awareness raising event today. Not where my energy is at, it would like to nestle into a fur-lined cave and wait for this bleeding and repair, repair, repair. But I committed, and that’s also a good thing, for me to commit to getting out of the house every now and then.
This internal battle has not only been with symptoms and how to live with them and find answers or diagnoses or treatment, but against shame and stigma and the confidence to speak. Or, to write. To let my body speak.
So much of it comes from conscious and subconsicous messages that I received as a kid and throughout my life to be nice, not to complain, to be a beautiful performer, that to win at intellectual achievement my gendered body needs to not exist. This is some kind of mix of my interpretation of the messages, and the messages themselves, from school, family, ballet, etc. I interpreted not having fatherly support as having no ground to rest on and admit that it hurt. I interpreted the hushed gossipy way I heard that a woman had endometriosis that it couldn’t possibly apply to me, hers must be unimaginably worse, even though I then endured years of cyclical hell. Even though in that house as a teenager I literally vomited from pain.
Silent curse. This feeling of being born with a silent curse of being female in this world. The fury erupted at this, particularly, when I did some kind of solo performance in drama for the end of high school. In some ways I hadn’t fully experienced all of the weird implications of this that hit once out in the sexual field or whatever, but it’s like I sensed them and wrote this piece just full of sheer disbelief at the task of being female in this world. So much to say, but so much wordless fury.
Every IWD I still have this fury. Every time I flick past news headlines or a share in my News Feed about some horrible fucking abusive, murdering, sexually fucked up man and a woman’s name ending up as a court case title. Daily weirdness and deeply habitual protectiveness when I step my body out of the door.
This isn’t all of my life, this isn’t every moment. My consciousness and intellect and creativity are bigger than this. And it is a mesh that filters the interaction between me and the world, this gender thing, having a body and a ‘self’ that is treated in these weird fucking ways.
I have a baby daughter. She is, of course, miraculous. Funny and alive and direct. I pray that I continue to undo my own stifling as I model living to her. I will physically protect her. Encourage her to speak, swear, be ugly, be funny, be her, be critical, express. I somehow have this task of figuring out gender and housework. When I get some energy to deal with it.
A strange combination, exhaustion and fury. I wonder what will come through the middle.