Newt In A Tea Cup

{May 30, 2007}   Pirates 3

Ms Elizabeth Swan = Awsomest Pirate King Evah! Yes or Yes?


{May 25, 2007}   Meme!

A – Available or Single? Single but not available

B – Best Friend? I don’t play favourites… I’ve got a few friends I’d die for.

C – Cake or Pie? Cherry pie please…

D – Drink of Choice? bitter lemon

E – Essential Item? What, like my handbag?

F – Favourite Colour? Blue and silver

G – Gummi Bears or Worms? Jelly Babies

H – Hometown? Marseille, France (more like a home metropolis complete with slums)

I – Indulgence? pastries, truffles and cocktails

J – January or February? January

K – Kids? I love them as long as I can hand them back to the parents at the end of the day

L – Life is incomplete without… friendships. Cheesy but so true.

M – Marriage Date? No thanks!

N – Number of Siblings? One older sister

O – Oranges or Apples? going to go for apples but I’m not overly keen on either

P – Phobias/Fears? I’m not comfy with either spiders or balloons.

Q – Favourite Quote. The Ain’t I a Woman speech by Sojourner Truth makes me insanely happy.

R – Reasons to smile. Dancing. Listening to cheesy music with my friends. Joking around. Reading and writing. The warmth of the sun. Smell of bakeries. Pretty lights and moments where things just seem to fit. Firefly and Serenity (thankyou Joss Whedon!) Late nights out, compliments.

S – Season? Winter during the Christmas/new year build-up and summer

T – Tag Three. anyone who wants to

U – Unknown Fact About Me. I’m a fangirl with all that entails

V – Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals? Benign oppressor

W – Worst Habit? procrastination

X – X-rays or Ultrasounds? bwah?

Y – Your Favourite Foods? Pastries! With caramel! Cherries and chocolate. Sushi and prawns and muscles. Carbonara pasta and salad nicoise. Pate.

Z – Zodiac? Gemini

{May 24, 2007}   Invisible Women

A couple of days ago I watched The Magdalene Sisters on Youtube (if you do a search I’m sure it’s still there).

We are introduced to three young girls in the mid-half of the twentieth century- one is raped by her cousin, another deemed too flirtatious by the owners of the orphanage she resides at and the third is an unmarried mother. They are all carted off to one of Ireland’s various Magdalene Laundry’s (like Victorian poor houses) where they are abandoned by their families/guardians, made to do backbreaking work without respite and for no pay, and forbidden all contact with the external world under the pretext of working away their stain of sin. We witness beatings, humiliation where they are made to strip naked and the sisters ridicule them, one girl’s hair is violently shorn off to “cure her of her vanity”, another is raped by the priest, tries to commit suicide and is eventually locked up in an insane asylum; which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When this film was first released at an Italian film festival, the Vatican, of course, took umbrage. So there was an investigation and women who had been in these laundries were asked to come forth.

Out of fear, shame and most probably indoctrination the voices speaking out about this are few and far between. After all this was sponsored by both the Catholic Church and the Irish government- both of whom refuse to apologise and the compensation given has gone to “religious charity projects” and thus back to some of the actual abusers and not the women. There is little incentive for them to relive this. But a few women were found. Women who had no previous contact with the director. And their conclusion was unanimous.

The reality was much, much worse than shown in the film.

According to an article in The Guardian’s archives:

Mary-Jo McDonagh takes a different view, as do the other women who served time in the institutions run by orders like the Good Shepherd Sisters or the Sisters of Charity. “It was worse in the Magdalenes, much worse than what you see. I don’t like to say it, but the film is soft on the nuns,” says McDonagh, who spent five years in one in Galway after being molested by a neighbour. She was spirited away early one morning by a priest and told she had “brought shame on her family”. McDonagh eventually escaped to England after she was farmed out as a servant to a cousin of one of the “holy nuns”, an expression she still uses without a hint of irony. Every other “Magdalene” I’ve talked to says the same: the reality was more brutal….

Thirty thousand in all were locked away in these penal establishments, some for decades, to scrub away the sin of being poor, pregnant, unwanted or for simply being an embarrassment to their families and communities. A few, who had spent their childhoods in orphanages run by the nuns, were put away for being too beautiful, and therefore in the twisted logic of the sisters, too “in danger of sin”.

There were no trials, no inquiries, no nothing. The presumption that you were a sexual being was enough to condemn you. So the victims of abuse were guilty too, and, by bizarre extension, those in danger of corruption by their fathers, brothers, cousins, or just men in general also had to be saved from sin.

Once you were placed on the Register of Penitents your identity was taken away, your name was changed, and you were not allowed to talk to any of the other Magdalene women….

…Technically, every woman who entered one of the closed laundries did so voluntarily, following the example of Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who became the “13th apostle” of Christ, after whom the convents were named. But there was nothing voluntary about the grinding work, the beatings, the breast-binding, the head-shaving, the forced fasting or the humiliating weekly mortification sessions, when the women were stripped and laughed at for their vanity. Now this technicality, the notion that they collaborated in their own imprisonment, is denying the bulk of the survivors proper compensation for the years they spent in servitude.

And what’s even more horrifying? The last one of these bastions of abuse was shut in 1996.

I keep trying to throw my mind backwards; I see myself, perhaps, fifty, seventy, perhaps more years ago. And I start trying to think how different I would be; what would I do all day? It seems to me that all the things I enjoy now would mark me as mentally and morally deficient. My love of fiction, messy room, education, provocative fashion, philosophy and theology, my intense late night parties, my desire to never marry, my resolve not to ever give birth, writing stories, my drive for independence, habit of flirting and so many more things… These were all considered inappropriate if not dangerous to the good of society if coming from a woman.

Would I alter myself to fit; repress everything that makes me who I am? And if I do that would I not go mad from depression, repression and boredom?

And the more I think about it the more there seems to be only one place a person like me could end up in that world…

I’ve done some research on women and mental health history, spurred by reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and my stomach feels like a big rock has been placed in it’s pit. Imagine this world where the author confides that in her research she was approached by…

a man [who] told me about being taken as a child to visit his mother in a psychiatric institution and how she would whisper to him, “I shouldn’t be here. Help me, help me.” As an adult, he found out the reason for her incarceration: her admission documents said that she “persistently and obsessively read books”….

…It is a book I have wanted to write for a long time. I tried to start it more than a decade ago but I ended up abandoning it to write what became my first novel, After You’d Gone. This was in the mid-90s, when the aftershocks of Thatcher’s care in the community scheme were still being felt. The large Victorian-built asylums had been closed down and as many as 20,000 people were sent out into the “community”.

Around this time there were stories circulating about some of these women – they tended to be female, more often than not – who had been put away in their youth for reasons of immorality. They had shown too much interest in boys, or not enough; they had had an affair or even got themselves pregnant.

Sometimes they had been put away for almost no reason at all. A friend told me about his grandmother’s cousin who had just died, a month away from being discharged from an institution in the Midlands. She had been committed in the 1920s, at the age of 19, for planning to elope with a legal clerk. I spoke to someone whose aunt had been incarcerated in Colney Hatch, north London, for “taking long walks”…

…[It was] A time when a man could commit a wife or daughter to an asylum with just a signature from a GP. A time when it was considered a sign of insanity to refuse to cut your hair. Or to be found trying on your mother’s clothes. Or to turn down offers of marriage. Or to show reluctance to sit on your relatives’ knees. Or to not wash your kitchen floor for a week. Or to feel sad and weary after having given birth. These were all written in asylum records in the early half of the last century…

…Once you were put inside, the “mad” label foisted on you would, in all likelihood, become true, not only from the shock and horror of your new surroundings, but also courtesy of the “treatments” you received. It must have been hard to retain mental stability in the face of comas induced by insulin injection, or a combination of straitjackets and cold baths, or the more severe, invasive procedures of cliterodectomies and frontal lobotomies. Society’s view of you as insane could, in such circumstances, become a self-fulfilling prophecy…

It’s grim, grim stuff and it’s our heritage which we have to face. It’s very difficult to find information about all of this; the women where erased from the family and community, and their voices ripped out of their throats.

This page has some very interesting information on the issue… Imagine being “frigid”, lesbian or a spinster meaning you would be incarcerated and then raped as a standard procedure to cure you. Imagine being hospitalised for “flirting”… Having any emotion meant you were “hysteric” and worthy of solitary confinement…

This is all so chilling to me; it’s another world and yet the vestiges are familiar. “Frigid”, “hysterical”, “all she needs is a good shag” etc… The enforcement is so different and yet a lot of the Lexis and basic theory is frighteningly similar. An invisible permeation or our understanding where any vocal disagreement is taken to reflect more on the defects of the plaintiff and their complaint rejected; where the most extreme horrific abuse can be spoken off only in the most polite and agreeable, mild terms unless we are to be marked as worse than the perpetrators and not worth speaking to.

I’m not sure what more to write… There has to be a moral beyond my initial response, poking through the denying fingers covering our societies eyes ; about labelling us as defective, diseased, wrong and needing treatment if we are people and not cut out of cardboard to an ideal ; a warning about the black ink of tick boxes and diagnoses seeping over the skin of our humanity ; that our own good cannot be found in our effacement ; that our complaints are not resolved because of this excuse out of societal responsibility ; it happened so, so easily, silently and completely in so many ways ; that if women have been or are fainting flowers it’s because we’ve been living in the shade of a giant foot trampling us down; that we are complete as we are; don’t listen to those words; don’t, don’t don’t…

…but all I can hear and echo is the resounding silence of bleached corridors and hard, clockwork trodden floors.

et cetera