On Sunday I attended FiLiA’s conference (previously known as Feminism in London) and I came home equally inspired and angry. Exhausted too.
It is difficult to hear all the suffering that women can endure but even more difficult to hear how male humans can inflict so much cruelty and pain, and how can they then ignore it and even benefit from it.
When I got home I started asking women on my Facebook page about their stories of abuse, I’ve asked who like me had been raped or assaulted.
And I did add some tag like #ithappenedtome. Little did I know that in the synchronicity of female uprising a campaign of #metoo was about to take over social media within hours.
The morning after my question and the 200 comments that followed my question, I witness the outpouring of stories worldwide in a bigger wave coming from the U.S.A and I was glad.
Because the #metoo for me are not about empathy as most people like to see it, we women have always had the empathy of our collective pain, but rather the evident lack of it from society that has managed to keep us silent. These #metoo are the evidence that we will be silent no more and they are a gigantic shout that says: “shame on you for not believing us, not helping us, not stopping it from happening!”
And to me, as a feminist activist, working around childbirth the closest form of violence towards women I deal with is obstetric violence.
And I immediately thought there is another #metoo. But this one is silenced even deeper. It remains hidden in daylight and that to me it’s what makes it very frustrating and traumatic. It’s called obstetric violence and even to speak of it with those words it’s controversial.
It is a violence perpetrated by both male and female professionals but it is gender violence towards women. It is specific to us women for being women, and it can happen at any point from the gynaecological appointments to the postnatal visits.
It is still hidden because of the denial of institutions and the complicit silence of ignorance, perpetuated by an absence of childbirth culture and a misrepresentation of it in media.
The hipermedicalisation of women’s physiology and the technocracy applied to labouring women has pathologised the culture of birth and has opened the door widely to negligence, abuse, disrespect and violence towards women.
These acts of violence by professionals in labour wards are rooted on the mysoginistic beliefs that women’s bodies are flawed and in need of rescue. They are also rooted in the general treatment of women in society. We are hipersexualised, objectified, disrespected and abused easily and without consequences. Women’s consent or choice, as we are seeing with #metoo, is worth nothing.
Our voices are constantly silenced and that happens in a rape but also in what has been previously called “birth rape”. And of course, also in a work meeting, in a trial, in movies, in the government and in a shop, to name a few instances.
This misogynist privilege that suffocate us has devastating consequences when we suffer it during the birth of our children. And interestingly it seems to be specifically vitriolic in this situation.
Perhaps because birth is where we women can express ourselves instinctively and far from the social conditioning or perhaps because it is an aspect of our sexuality that it is performed in complete autonomy, the impositions from our carers at that time seem to become eager to reduce us, limit us and beat us into submission.
These can be done by infantilising us through language, humiliate us, ignore our needs, forcing us to do things against our active choice, refuse our demands, separate us from our loved ones (including our babies), use force or malpractice and isolate or neglect us, amongst many other violent acts.
Women around the world have been saying #metoo in reference to birth in many countries for many years. But just like in other forms of abuse to women the debate has been focused on #notallmen. These women have heard #notalldoctors #notallmidwives.
But they have also heard the ignorant remarks that try to silence them hurting them once again, such as #youshouldbethankful and the classic “what matters it’s that you and the baby are fine”.
|The Rsoes Revolution Guatemala|
That’s is why as part of the feminist movement, and using the voice that we have found collectively this year, The Roses Revolution Movement is encouraging the survivors of obstetric violence to speak up using the hashtag #mylabour
Because we need to end all forms of violence against girls and women we will join with our voice from labourwards around the world past and present to fight on the #25N with a rose in our hands.