My body isn't mine

  • Posted on: 13 March 2019
  • By: wor-admin

Originally published in Italian as Il mio corpo non è mio by Carlotta Pedrazzini in the rivista anarchica, issue #430.
Translated by Taylor Rift.

There are things that women can't publicly say about themselves and their bodies. And with this silence the patriarchal domination is always strengthened.

To think that thought is in its essence free is an error. Because, while the word, which is an indispensable instrument for thought, is not free, the efforts made by the intellect to think will be frustrated, just like a shoemaker who tries to make a pair of shoes without their tools.
Voltairine de Cleyre

The bodies of women are a public place, and so mine is too. Absurd as it may seem, my body does not belong to me. It's not just mine, but it belongs to the state, to god, to my family. It belongs to the community, to the nation, to a collective entity that's superior to me. Because of this I cannot dispose of the thought: there are laws, moral and religious behavioral norms, rules that state what I can do and in what way, and what's forbidden to me. My body is, if necessary, regulated, crossed, touched, pointed out, stepped on, judged, assessed, violated, ignored, exploited. My body is also a battlefield. On it are fought many wars: repressive and securitarian, economical, for the greatness of the nation, against migration, for the continuation of the race, by religion and by cultural domination, by colonization and conquest.

My body is only a piece in the mosaic of the ancient consolidated patriarchal hierarchies that intend to preserve themselves. My body stands at the base of a pyramid of power and holds it up.
My skin, my organs and their functions, and my bodily needs are not just mine, but they have a collective, social, cultural, and political value. And if I wasn't a bad woman, a traitor of the nation, an egoist, I would understand. I would understand that being a mother is an experience that concerns the community, the race, the fatherland, and not just me. I would understand that traditional marriage is the righteous core of a regulated society that's worth living in, in which family bonds of blood are the only glue. I would therefore understand the reason why my body cannot only be mine.

When can women speak?

It's funny. My body is a public place, but there are things about it that I cannot speak publicly about. Not easily, at least. And not without consequences. There are topics that concern my body that I can confront only in a determined way, a right way.

Sex, for example. My body is constantly sexualized, but I can't speak freely about sex, neither can I inform myself openly on the topic, nor do programs for sex education exist that are public and without cost. I am allowed to speak about sex only in relation to reproduction. I am not allowed, on the contrary, to speak publicly about sexual pleasure, about preferences, about experimentation, about homosexuality, about transitioning. Because of sex I, a woman, will always be an object and never a subject. Because it's true, women's bodies are hyper-sexualized, but sex still remains a sin. And showing too much curiosity about the topic is something for whores.

I am not even completely allowed to talk about reproduction. I can confront the topic, of course, but only if I'm involved in a heterosexual relationship, and better if it's framed within the institution of marriage. If on the contrary I intend to discuss single parenthood or LGBTQ parenthood, then it's better that I shut up. Because society does not want to recognize those possibilities that religion hasn't provided them. Moreover I, a woman, can speak about reproduction only if I intend to carry out my pregnancies, because that's what's expected of me. Otherwise I am an assassin, a hit woman who solves problems by killing, living forever submerged within a sense of guilt. And I would better not confess this shame to anybody.

Talking about motherhood, on the other hand, I'm allowed to. But only if I recognize it as the desired horizon of my life, the only characteristic that makes me who I am and that gives meaning to my existence. If not, if I do not want to have children, it means that I have betrayed the ancestral instinct that's inside me, with which I was born. Yes, I can talk about motherhood, but only in a positive way. I can't say that I'm dissatisfied, that I have doubts, and I cannot say that I suffer or that I struggle. I am not allowed to say that it wasn't what I expected, that if I went back I wouldn't do it again. I cannot externalize these feelings because I would not get support, because other women than me haven't found the words and the courage to express it, and if I would speak I would be alone. I would be a bad mother who does not love her own children. Unnatural, against nature.

The importance of words

It's important to understand what we are allowed or forbidden to say, what we are allowed to think about, the arguments that we can confront publicly. It gives us the possibility to understand where we have arrived. How many paths do we have ahead? Patriarchy is the longest-lived domination of history, and for millennia it has been nourished and fed by women's silence. That is how it has continued to grow. It has consolidated, sedimented, and has reached us.
Over the course of history, many have passively accepted, without speaking, their situation of subordination, perpetrating it for centuries. Fortunately there were also periods of rupture, in which women spoke and confronted each other. They shared their stories and gave a name to what happened to them, to what they wanted or did not want anymore. Then they acted.

Even today the dynamics of silence exist and are active. Many women do not speak, do not tell, are silent, because there are things about which it's better not to talk. Because there are men who do not want them to speak.
But for there to be actions, there must first be words. If we do not have the words to describe certain facts, concepts, thoughts, ideas, needs, it's not only impossible to express them, but it's not even possible to truly understand them.
For this reason it's essential that women start talking, that they put words where there are silences. That they begin to voice their thoughts out loud, even when it's not allowed or socially accepted.
If the patriarchy feeds on silence, then we speak. Starting from our relationships, in everyday life. Let us speak more and about everything. Let us speak louder.