Existing today in New York City, it is no secret that the female body in whatever shape, form or energy it arrives is excessively open for scrutiny. When we are in the driving seat of our own critical examination, it is twice as hard to be measured up by the media’s unreachable concepts of what we need to eat, wear, desire or look like: AND why should we give a shit!
The current political climate in the U.S stirs the cauldron even more as the new government implicates shifts that will affect healthcare in all sectors. On the worried lips of those most near and dear to me is the defunding of Planned Parenthood (PP): a non-profit organization that provides reproductive and sexual health care to any person who needs it. Abortions, cancer screenings, STD/STI testing, pregnancy counseling and contraception are a few of the services they provide us when making decisions involving our bodies, our choices and our happiness. A conversation with a wonderful woman from PP about my emergency contraception options became a safe space, in which shame or judgement was never passed.
If patriarchal powers limit access to services that allow us to practice our reproductive rights, do sexual and reproductive bodies become even more of a stigma? Forcing us to imagine a society where reproductive choice wouldn’t be an option makes it feel like the sacred female body has never been more endangered. And protect it we must.
Whenever the marginalization of bodies (for simply being bodies) occurs, my mind always goes to the witch trials. Yep. The Salem witch trials of 1692 is a history that has always fascinated me and occurs in much of my scholarly research. But the part that twinned with this story was the accusations themselves, or more so the most ridiculous ones.
When I was in Salem last year I took a guided tour of the Witch Trial Museum. There I learnt that in the 17th Century life of a God-fearing Puritan community, anything slightly out of sorts could warrant reason to believe bewitchment was a factor: meaning one had sold one’s soul to the devil for fortune and magical powers. Asking my guide about the reasons why someone might be tried and hung on the grounds of supposed witchcraft, he gave an example through the tale of one accused women, Rebecca Nurse.
Nurse bore eight healthy bouncing babies, with all of them reaching adulthood. In those days though, the infant-mortality rate was an unconfident 50 percent, with many women in the small towns losing children shortly after birth. A fact like this would genuinely be taken into consideration after initial accusations were made! Nurse MUST have had Satan in her soul to be able to have a body so fruitful, and this idea, among other considerations, cost her her life.
The concept of a healthy, reproductive or menstruating body as transgressive, un-human and dangerous to a community imprints on my mind because 325 years later this type of body is still on trial. But the difference today is that instead of being scorned and outcast by the community like Nurse and so many others were, the accused and vulnerable are taking to the streets with love and honor to fight the good fight! One of the things that I love about living in NYC is the unstoppable outcry of “togetherness” in times of uncertainty. The Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Rallies, No Flight Ban protests: I have seen and heard what is done when someone tries to compromise our freedom to choose and use our bodies in the ways we have already fought hard enough for. Surrounded by the beautiful rainbow spectrum of women, men, trans, non-gender conforming, old, young, shy, loud, happy, angry - We march for flesh and blood, the bodies that are deemed gruesome, unnatural and unworthy of care.
In this witch hunt, the roles have been reversed. We have become the hunters. Armed not with pitchforks and flaming torches, but banners of hope and magic. But we are still the witches: the wise women, the hags, the crones living on the edge of society focused on nature and refusing to conform to the rules being set out. The patriarchy should fear us, not because we are dark or evil but because there are hundreds and thousands of us bound by the knowledge and power that together we can make a shift for the greater good when we fight with love and not fear. From the trials to the gallows Rebecca Nurse maintained her innocence, though a guilty plea may have saved her from the noose. Declaring she knew in the eyes of her faith and her family that she was innocent, she went to her death knowing she spoke her truth.
We owe it to our messy, glorious, accused bodies to cast spells of solidarity and fight for the rights of institutions such as Planned Parenthood to exist for and by the people.
At a recent PP rally in Washington Square Park, a spokeswoman reminded us of the ultimate reason we deserve Planned Parenthood - “It means you get to feel free in your body and wild in your body and alive in your body and safe in your body. It means finally that these wombs these vaginas these amazing male allies are out of the fucking bottle and we ain’t going back in!”
Free. Whoever you are, whatever you are, whatever you believe: stay in your magic