I am reading a fascinating novella by Claire Keegan called Small Things Like These and have learned the scary fact that the Magdalen Laundries, those places where unmarried mothers were sent to have their babies which were then sent off for adoption, did not all close until 1996. In learning more I discovered they were set up by the Irish Free State in 1922 to keep promiscuous girls “safe”. This is not just an Irish/Catholic thing. I remember volunteering for a old people’s mental health hospital and they had just found the old records as to why the people had been placed in there. For one woman she had been incarcerated there when she was 16 because she was pregnant. When I volunteered there she was in her 70’s and fully institutionalised.
This got me think about how is to blame for these women being there? The nuns who mistreated them? The State for setting up the institutions? The Church? The families of these girls? The men who had slept with them? The moral compass of the time? Fear? Probably all those things. But who gets punished? The girls. The women. The babies.
Were these girls totally innocent? I’m sure some were and some weren’t. Were they promiscuous? I’m sure some where and some weren’t. Did they willingly sleep with these boys and men? I’m sure some did and some were raped. But whatever it is the girls and the women who were punished.
Velveteen Rabbi has just written a moving blog called Choice in which she looks at again how it is the women who are being punished for being pregnant with these new laws being implemented in the US. Do try and find the time to read it all. And do not think that because it has happened in the US it will not happen over here. I think it might have been one of the Tory leadership candidates who said they did not think abortion should be included in the UK’s bill of human rights.
I did a binge watch of Liar last night and I mentioned it in a previous post. [spoiler alert] Her case has been dropped because of lack of evidence, which in reality is saying that when it is “his word against hers” it will always be his word that wins through. By not prosecuting he will not have a criminal record so will be innocent. She will always know she has been raped and it will effect future relationships. She will be the one punished.
So whether is it old Christian ways of looking at the world, Magdalen laundries, State institutions, human rights charters, the laws of government in a country, Police prosecution systems, or sometimes just the way we look at people and the things we say …. “she deserved it” amongst other things …. it is always the woman who is punished, who is to blame for being pregnant, for wanting to abort her child, for wanting more to life than parenting.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
It is evil when a group of people take the blame and are then punished for something that it is not solely their fault. What are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it? What am I going to do about it?
I hope that by writing about it I can open a conversation. Hopefully it will be a start. But also I can change my ways of looking at other women; by what I say, how I support, what I allow in my thinking. One starfish at a time I can change my corner of the world.