This is our truth, tell us yours
Cn for violence against women
A note on language. In this piece I focus on the experience of cis women when pregnant, they are not the only people who can become pregnant, but I know little of other genders experiences of pregnancy, and despite searching found no data concerning domestic violence of other genders during pregnancy.
The story today of a woman, assaulted in her eight month of pregnancy, beaten so badly she is in intensive care, and the baby she was carrying killed, has been headline news. Reporters have described it as “shocking” however violence against women who are pregnant, and particularly domestic violence (as the police believe this to be) is in fact a common occurrence. Thirty percent of women first experience domestic violence in pregnancy, it is even classed as a risk factor, and those who are already suffering from domestic abuse often find it gets worse during pregnancy.For so many the romantic dream of rocking chair and baby books is replaced with broken bones and black eyes.
Pregnant womens bodies are never quite seen as their own. Some argue from an evolutionary biology standpoint that this is because people are recognising the future of the species. However as someone who has been on the receiving end of those stomach pats and intrusive questions while pregnant it is a boundary violation, a belief that your body is public property Of course some women live with this daily, women of colour, trans women, queer women, sex workers, all face government, judicial, carceral and societal controls on their bodies. All face strangers believing they can touch, question, demand and deny because their bodies are not seen as their own. Lesbians are asked “what do you do” trans women asked to describe their genitals or surgery, black women have their hair touched, are forcibly sexualised,sex workers are told they are not capeable of consensual sex. To be a woman oppressed on more than one axis is to be a woman whose body is never her own.
I would argue that in pregnancy cis women, slip down to join all us lesser women, showing how vulnerable the position of all women is,and how foolish those handmaidens with their OBEs are to believe that they are every safe at the Masters table. This is not to say that any women is safe from patriarchal violence, but the statistics do not lie, some womens bodies are considered not to be their own, and violence towards them is tacticly approved or condoned.
We simply need to look at how the right to abortion is controlled to see how patriarchy believes our bodies are not our own. Once a woman becomes pregnant she is no longer allowed to make basic decisions about her own body, including in many places the most basic of all, whether she wishes to be pregnant. Those hands that reach out to touch a belly, or a black woman;s hair are the same hands that blockade a family planning clinic or vote to criminalise clients.
The most basic of human rights is the right to bodily autonomy, and for all lesser women it is a right denied us. It is a right we fight for daily, and in so many places we are losing the fight. The saddest thing is that many of those most strongly denying us our basic rights over our own bodies are feminists, are the women who think they are safe at the masters table. Until they become pregnant, or disabled, or old, and discover the reality lesser women inhabit, that there is no such thing as safety.