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THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN: IS IT ABOUT ANIMALIZING US OR CLITORIAL ENVY?

April 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM

THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN was the title written in bolded black on the plain white paper cover of the June 1991 report. Presented to the House of Commons by a Sub-Committee assigned to examine the status of women in Canada, it contained the following descriptive paragraph,

A woman['s]...ex-partner was convicted of aggravated assault against her. [He had]...hung [her] by ropes, naked, from the beam of a barn and whipped [her] to a state of unconsciousness. The assault took place in front of the male's three children. The sentence he received was a $200 fine and three years' unsupervised probation. The woman sat, disbelieving, as he was also fined $500 for an unrelated charge of possessing illegal venison. Based on this sentence, one could argue that in the future moose and deer would be safer from this man than the woman he tortured.[1]

Let's get really tough about gender reality. Based on the penalty there can be no denying that this woman's worth and value was out-stripped by the dollar penalty placed on the worth and value of the illegal venison. This report is 21 years old. Let's consider other examples of 'the value' of women and girls here in Canada, the US or around the world.

Lynne, who was held captive, tortured and trafficked for over four years by her spouse and three of his fellow perpetrators, said to Linda and I that once she was "broken in"—gang raped by these three perpetrators—they never called her by her name thereafter. They called her "piece of meat."[2] Lynne was also 'a piece of meat' to the client-perpetrators who bought her body to torture for their pleasures. Maybe we could say, when comparing her life-threatening ordeals to that of the previous woman, that at least she was considered as valuable as a piece of meat. Not that I will ever accept such dehumanization but, following the mind-set of the global degradation of women, Lynne's ordeals continue to be a reality for many women. Lynne's worth, considered to be nothing more than 'a piece of meat', is but one example of the 'life' of hundreds of thousands of women and girls enslaved by human traffickers around the world. This is not a new reality—it is an old reality.[3]

Other women have told Linda and me how, either as children or as adults, they were forced to wear dog collars attached to an animal leash. They speak of how they were forced to be on all fours and forced to eat off the floor like a dog. When trafficked to a farm being forced to be with and drink out of the animal troughs was also a reality. Clearly this speaks to how the women and their bodies were animalized by being made to feel and act like animals. They were animalized and dehumanized.

During torture and captivity many women speak of ordeals of forced impregnations and abortions. Lynne conceived five forced impregnations and five forced abortions that were inflicted by severe beatings directed at her body and her uterus. One pregnancy she estimated lasted approximately 20 weeks. The torturers flushed the fetuses down the toilet. Lynne told Linda and me, when she re-remembers, she hears the painful sound of the toilet flushing. Although she felt grief, she was thankful that the beatings to her abdomen forced her uterus to abort the fetuses, for she dreaded to think of what the perpetrators would have done if she had delivered a live birth.

Then, along comes a recent statement by U.S. Georgia Republican State Representative Terry England, who spoke in the chamber in favor of making it illegal for a woman to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks, even when a woman is carrying in her uterus a deceased fetus.[4] When making his presentation he compared his perspective to his heart-breaking experience of delivering dead calves and pigs. In the clip of his presentation he made no comparable mention of trying to imagine that it could be a heart-breaking experience for a woman to be forced to carry a deceased fetus. He obviously did not consider the value of inducing a deceased fetus if it was medically safe for the woman as a means of reducing her suffering. Tossed into his presentation were references to previous House discussions on dog and hog hunting and chicken fights and the worth of chickens. For me, such a conversation expresses another form of animalization—that of comparing women and their bodies to that of animals. I venture to say his opinion did not include feeling heart-broken for the Lynnes of this world, nor thinking of providing her with the option of delivering a deceased 20 week fetus had she been rescued at that time from her state of torture and captivity. Nor do I believe was a thought given to men's responsibility for her 'condition'.

It appears to me that political discourses such as that of Terry England are ripe with controlling women's reproductive organs at various stages of impregnation, be it women's right to abortion or early inducement of a 20 week dead fetus. Mr. England could have stepped into a discourse on men's organs. He could have asked the House to consult with drug companies to develop a morning-before pill that would render the sperm immobile and unproductive. But no, it seems focusing on controlling women's organs took priority.

These examples give me no choice but to ponder about the war against women and women's uteruses. For instance, pregnancy is also a known trigger for some men who choose to be violent against a women partner or spouse they impregnate. So they also use the weapon of physical violence—they beat her, focusing on her abdomen, on her uterus, and the pregnancy it holds. Or, directing blows to her perineum which is the site of her clitoris and vagina. Freud tried to have us believe that women had penis envy; maybe it would be more appropriate to wonder if his theory hid clitoral envy. Maybe, just maybe, I've stumbled on an explanation of the need to attack 'unconscious' patriarchal clitoral envy.

Consider, for example, that millions of little girls, even as infants, suffer female genital mutilation (FGM), which has recently been named torture by non-state actors by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.[5] FGM attacks or cuts off varying amounts or all of her clitoris and labia. No mind if this may cause her to die from haemorrhaging; no mind that this causes her severe torture pain and suffering; no mind of the risks for infections, urinary tract problems and mental trauma; no mind if it causes complicated and painful deliveries; no mind if it causes fistulas,[6] that result in uncontrollable leakage and odors of urine and/or feces that provoke her experiences of relational and social exclusion; no mind if it destroys all her responses for sexual pleasures. But wait, maybe this is it—attacking her clitoris is really about attacking clitoral envy, expressing another violent way to impose a war on women and girls and their female organs.

Tragically, women them Self can/do absorb the patriarchal dominant, oppressive and violent gender-based attitudes of the war on women and girls and their bodies. Although women are the practitioners—the cutters—of FGM, activists realize that to eliminate FGM patriarchy must be addressed. Male-dominated social and cultural attitudes must be challenged and transformed. But women them-Self must also begin to respect the naturalness of women and girls' bodies and act to eliminate all practices that contribute to the pandemic violent war on women and girls and their gendered organs.

With this effort towards elimination in mind, Linda and I must give kudos to Lynn Schirmer's art project (not the Lynne clitorispreviously mentioned) on the natural flowing shape of the clitoris, pictured here. These are links to her clitoral art project: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/in-her-pants/content?oid=13181200 and http://afterdinnerparty.com/

Not only is it important for all women to value and respect their bodies, it is healing for the dignity of women and girls who were tortured by non-state actors into blaming their gender organs as the reason why the torturers tortured them. It was/is never their fault. It was never the fault of their body or their gender organs. It is and was the torturers' intent to do harm—to torture—to inflict acts of destructive sexualized violence because it pleasured them to do so. Transferring blame to the women and girls they tortured was/is always the torturers' expression of gender-based misogynistic and manipulative lying. It was and is their patriarchal war against women and girls.

So maybe, just maybe, I have worked my way though the underpinnings of the war against women and their bodies—that of uterine hatred and clitoral envy destruction. A war that has been coated in many social devaluations of women and their bodies, a gendered war kept bruised and swollen by all the dehumanization, animalization and objectification that have been directed at her and her gender organs.

On May 12th, 1982, when Margaret Mitchell, one of the few women Members of the Canadian Parliament at that time, stood in the House of Commons to state that one in ten Canadian husbands beat their wives regularly, the patriarchal laden system gave voice and sound to misogyny. The uproar of male shouts and laughter made it impossible for her to be heard.[7] Such social-political misogynistic patriarchal laughter deepens women's humiliation, reinforcing her dehumanization, reinforcing her degradation to a 'piece of meat', to forms of animalization, and reinforcing the attacks directed at her body's gender organs.

Tragically, indeed there has been and is a raging war on women and their bodies!

Jeanne Sarson

www.nonstatetorture.org

References

[1] Sub-Committee on the Status of Women. (1991, June). The war against women Report of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of Women, (p. 25). Ottawa: House of Commons.

[2] Sarson, J., & MacDonald, L. (2009, Winter). Defining torture by non-state actors in the Canadian private sphere. First Light, pp. 29-33. Available http://ccvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/firstlight2009.pdf

[3] Bell, E. A. (1910). Fighting the traffic in young girls or war on the white slave trade. Publisher: G. S. Bail.

[4] Peck, A. (2012, March 12). Georgia Republican compares women to cows, pigs, and chickens. Think Progress, Health.

[5] Méndez, J. E. (2011, June 1). Female Genital Mutilation: Progress-realities-challenges. Side event sponsored by Women's UN Report Network, Worldwide Organization for Women and NGO Committee on the Status of Women-Geneva.

[6] Fistulas are trauma tissue passageways that develop between a woman's organs such as between her vagina and her bladder or between her rectum and her vagina that are not normally present. These passageways then cause uncontrollable leakages of urine or feces which cause the odors.

[7] Watt, J. (2008, February 24). Margaret Mitchell's new tell-all revisits landmark moments in Canadian politics and her career. Available http://www.rabble.ca/reviews/review.shtml?x=67781



Category: NST

Jeanne Sarson

As a writer my focus is on sharing the supportive and research work that began for Linda and I in August of 1993 when a woman ‘introduced’ us to the reality of the torture victimization she suffered, that was inflicted by private individuals or ‘non-state actors’. Linda and I hold a relational feminist and human rights perspective so my writings reflect this position, as does the editing that Linda and I do. Being entrusted with person’s victimization knowledge and healing work our goal also includes sharing their voices in our articles. Without this participatory partnership we could not break the global patriarchal socio-cultural resistance that has silenced the existence of the many forms of non-state torture (NST) victimization that can be/are inflicted from birth. Writings share our wisdom and focuses on gaining the human rights of victimized persons not to be subjected to torture, and to assert the necessity that NST must be specifically and distinctly criminalized in all nations on this planet.


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