Today is the 100th anniversary of the UK’s ‘Representation of the People Act’, which gave (some) women (over 30 and living in their own home) the right to vote. It also extended the franchise to a wider group of men.
Now in the UK, any woman over the age of 18 has the right to vote. We have a female head of state and Prime Minister. However, we also live in a country where women are under-represented in most other positions of power. This ranges from parliament to the boardroom. There is also growing recognition that gender equality is a wider issue and that the efforts of privileged white women is only part of the story, even if it is acknowledged as important. Let’s remember and celebrate that things got better 100 years ago, but not forget that we still have a way to go.
In the UK, the Abortion Act 1967 made termination of pregnancy up to 28 weeks’ gestation legal. There has been tinkering around the edges with this, and of course Northern Ireland is currently exempt, which sees many women still obtain abortions, but privately in the mainland.
To the Teenager who thinks
She’s just not ready to be a parent.
To the thirty-something year old who knows
They never will be.
To the Mum of three who feels
That she is already so stretched,
That she just doesn’t have it in her
To keep another whole.
To the nulliparous (childless) woman,
With a freshly painted nursery on standby,
As she lies back and begins to comprehend
The ultrasound image and the heartbreak it conveys.
To those who can’t.
Don’t want to.
Not right now or maybe ever.
To each and every one of you.
They are yours alone to make.
In just over a week, I’m sitting a professional exam. I’ve been spending most of my doodling time on that, so here’s a scribble from the margins:
Uterine fibroids are growths in the tissue of the uterus (womb). They can be quite common, particularly with increasing age, and can cause pain and per vagina bleeding. Fibroids: probably not your friend.
Resister of of society’s preconceptions of femininity?
Or just a human without a razor?’
Recently a group of the Midwives were scandalised by a woman who arrived on to labour ward with proudly hair legs. I laughed and smiled when they told me how ‘unkempt’ she was – unknown to them, I too had a pretty good going leg thatch, hidden beneath my theatre scrubs. This tends to change as the weather heats up and I start to don Summer dresses and skirts. It’s not necessarily that I like smoother legs, I just have a feeling it would be unseemly to show off the lovely down that keeps me warm over winter.
I’ve stumbled across a few examples of misunderstandings about (cis/typical) female genital anatomy that have really surprised me recently. A common one seems to be that the vagina (entrance to the uterus) is the same ‘hole’ as the urethra (where wee comes from). In humans at least, it isn’t. This comes up on the labour ward a fair bit- perplexed partners asking how baby can ‘get out’ if a catheter is put in. An episode of The Guilty Feminist included a confession by one of the presenters that she didn’t know where her urethra was, “even though I’ve pushed a baby out of it.” I am very sure she hasn’t.
Above is a diagram. Imagine you are standing next to someone laid on their back, legs akimbo. There are three ‘holes’, all shown in red. The top one is the urethra- connected to the bladder. Wee comes out here. The middle one is the vagina. The lowest is the anus. It is my dream that one day everyone will be able to sketch it as easily as the hairy penis with balls. You know the one I mean. You’ve probably seen it scrawled on a bus seat, toilet door or similar.
Condoms – simple barriers used as contraception. Originally made out of the insides of animals (mmmm, sexy). They’ve come a long way though, and a recent article in the Guardian describes some of the changes that are currently going on – from rebranding to innovations in the actual way that they are constructed. As a barrier form of contraception, they are also one of the few methods that protect against STIs.
There are a lot of lively siblings running around the postnatal wards at the moment. This got me thinking about how children learn about reproduction. I can’t really remember how I learnt about the origin of babies. My father assures me it was through a series of conversations and educational material. I’m not sure if this is true.
I asked friends and family how they learnt ‘where do babies come from’, or if they had had this conversation with young people. Solicited on facebook it’s a pretty biased sample, but I think interesting nonetheless. I’ll be doodling up some of their answers, starting with this one…
Do you remember learning about reproduction as a child?
I’ve got two pieces on show as part of the ‘Fabrications’ exhibition at The Mill in Walthamstow, East London. We were challenged to use fabric in novel or tradition ways.
I’ve gone for two needlework pieces- a past time often seen as very ‘feminine’. I’ve used it to depict quotes from two very revolutionary women, both of whom were activists who embraced radical, anti-establishment notions.
“Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread then take bread.” – Emma Goldman
Russian-Jewish Anarchist, campaigner for labour and women’s rights and trained midwife.
“Dreams and reality are opposites, action synthesises them.” -Assata Shakur
Member of the Black Panthers and FBI fugitive.