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“How much of your femininity is who you truly are, and how much of it is a product of patriarchal brainwashing to exist for male consumption?” - Florence Given.
Have you ever looked back at a picture of yourself and thought, “why did I hate my body back then?”. This just proves your body is not and was not the issue, it's your internalised patriarchy. Woman are controlled through two main channels in order to be capitalised on their insecurities and kept submissive; sex and food (although closely linked).
For centuries the physical appearance of a woman has been exploited for capital gain, with the diet industry having control over women’s eating habits for decades. The modelling industry, although slowly improving in some respects, prolongs a narrative that a body above Size 8 is a body best left concealed. If women were satisfied with themselves, the cosmetic industry would collapse - we are quite literally holding up the economy with our insecurities. Think about how many businesses and employees are invested in products made to “better a woman’s appearance.” In 1915, Gillette made its first women's razor, inventing a problem a lot of women didn't know they had. In the Victorian era, women were buttoned up to the chin, but on account of changes within the fashion industry, the dress became less conservative. A whole new market had been created, allowing room for substantial exploitation. With the arrival of this new canvas, those leaping at the opportunity to make a few pennies, chose to paint a damning picture of the new female form. Women don't look at themselves in the mirror, they look at themselves being looked at, often by a male. This concept is called the male gaze and is the perfect idea for business minds to exploit.
Sex is the other outlet women are hugely controlled by, the language around sex for men and women is the first showcase that expectations vary between genders. In 2006, the American General Social Survey found that nearly twice as many married men as women admitted to having had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse. There are stark, discriminatory and ultimately sexist societal ideas when it comes to the taboo topic of casual sex. Men who engage in casual sex are often deemed ‘players’ and ‘studs’, which is a seemingly positive portrayal of casual sex. When it comes to women and their involvement in this casual sex dynamic, they are referred to as ‘sluts’ or ‘whores’. Women are not taught to enjoy sex or have sexual desires and female masturbation is considered dirty unless used to fulfil a man’s fantasy. MILF is one of the most common searches on porn websites in the last 10 years, and the category Lesbian has been the most popular since 2015. Women are disgraced when proposing the idea of casual sex and yet called prudish if they reject a man’s sexual desires. But don't even think about choosing to embrace the sexualisation of your body as a way to earn a living because that would be… wrong? Playing the corrupt economy at its own game? Threatening the patriarchy?
Despite it taking two to tango, women are the ones brandished a slut when accidental pregnancy occurs. Only within the bounds of a relationship are women taught that they can enjoy sex. Despite this stripping of agency, in all circumstances, women are tasked with a myriad of responsibilities; responsibilities which can come with an even wider range of consequences. Contraceptive methods, other than condoms, become a women's responsibility, many of them altering a woman's natural hormones – potentially causing disastrous side-effects on their body and mental health.
An example of this destructive bid to control women's bodies can be demonstrated by the recent upheaval in Poland. From the 30th October 2020, Poland will have the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Abortion will only be legal for a woman+ if the pregnancy resulted from an incident of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is at a serious risk.
It is important to clarify that abortion on demand has never been legal in Poland. However, on the 22nd October 2020, Poland’s constitutional court ruled that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional. It is important to recognise that the Polish constitutional tribunal is made up of 13 men and 2 women, once again an incidence of men making decisions concerning women's bodies. This ruling means that even in extreme cases of foetal malformation an abortion is not permitted. This is the case even where the foetus is unlikely to survive the birth and there could be birth complications that threaten the life of the mother. Similarly, being pro-choice is much less controversial and radical than the pro-life corner wishes to convey - it is not an argument that actively encourages abortions to happen or promotes a lassez-faire attitude towards pregnancy termination - all it is asking for is a simple choice. In this way, it allows women to decide whether they are in the best situation to raise a child - mentally, physically and financially. The gravity of undergoing an abortion is downplayed heavily by those who call themselves pro-life, when in reality it can quite obviously be a traumatic experience. This in itself makes it a decision woman do not take lightly.
If a woman had sex every day for 274 days with different partners, she could only get pregnant once, if a man did the same thing theoretically, he could have 274 children - where is the logic in shaming women? It is understandable why women in Poland would prefer to abstain from penetrative sex, due to the severity of the repercussions that could occur. It is understandable that women in Poland are abstaining from penetrative sex due to the severity of the repercussions that could occur.
Women lose the control over choices regarding their own body and now their intimate life as well. Banning abortions is a violation of the human right to healthcare. Not only will the government be denying a woman healthcare, but it will also be enforcing an inevitably traumatic experience on a woman and potential ongoing mental health trauma. An individual's right to choose is being used as a right-wing political tool.
So, what’s the answer to all this you might be asking. How can we undo centuries of misogynistic manipulation and be free? This is not going to happen overnight, sexist advertisements are not going to be banned tomorrow, but Poland has shown in the last week that a female collective is immensely powerful and more than capable of inciting important political change. Women standing up for women, everyone standing up for women, hand in hand, that's where we see changes.
So, start small - cull those airbrushed celebrities you follow on Instagram, bin off your diet pills and appetite cutting lolly pops - it’s cheaper to buy laxatives in a box anyway! Then the next step is to accept yourself, love your body for the things going on inside, not just what you can see in pictures.
And remember… Viagra is still available over the counter in Poland. If pregnancy is God's will, so is limp dick!
 Mum I Would Like to f**ck
 This article aims to be trans-inclusive. Having a uterus or a vagina doesn’t make you a woman, everyone able to conceive a child, no matter their gender identity, deserves choice and access to safe, free and legal healthcare.
My name is Leah and I'm currently living in France, working for a small NGO. You can find me on my blog sugarbumfairy.com or on Instagram @sugarbumfairy. Sharing my journey of personal growth and acceptane - all things real and raw!