You probably haven’t noticed, but yesterday in the heart of the capital of the North East, a group of Wild, Geordie women came out into the spring sunshine and sang and danced.
The first flash mob I’ve ever taken part in, the dance was part of a global day of action called One Billion Rising
Here’s what the campaign website said:
ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.*
ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY
ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION
All over the world, from Taiwan to the Phillipines, from Philadelphia to New Delhi, from Byron Bay to Manchester, women were dancing. It felt truly great to be a part of it – and to have spent the week teaching the routine to pregnant women and mamas with their babes in slings around them, and to be dancing together.
Did it work?
If only it was that simple. Whilst I was dancing away, a couple of young guys walked by. I smiled at them, and continued my dancing and singing. One of them chose to respond. How? By chanting, in time to the music, ‘Rape! Rape!’
I was so angry and shocked, I lost my place in the dance routine. Not to mention temporarily loosing my faith in humankind. I nearly turned around to the nearby coppers and reported them, but I knew that the moment I turned around, those lads (I can’t bring myself to call them men) would have scarpered…
Meanwhile, on VDay +1 (aka today) the postman brought me a copy of the book When Survivors Give Birth, Understanding and healing the effects of early sexual abuse on childbearing women, by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus.
Now I don’t know this for a fact, but I don’t think the 1-in-3 chance that the woman she’s caring for has experienced sexual abuse is really in the heads of most midwives as they do a vaginal exam, or wiggle a baby’s head around whilst palpating. It should be. I’ll never forget watching a short play by the fantastic midwifery drama group Progress Theatre. If my memory serves me, their short, silence piece featured simply a woman dressed in black having white cut-outs of hands placed on all the parts of her body that midwives routinely touch…
Midwives have such an enormous potential to exacerbate the trauma that survivors have experienced – or not. As so beautifully illustrated in the last of the six scenarios in the film Orgasmic Birth, midwifery can be sensitive and appropriate, and birth can be a deeply healing experience for women who’ve experienced abuse.
That’s what I love so much about working so closely with women in my midwifery practice – in the context of having just one midwife who they see throughout their pregnancy and who intends to be at the birth, and who has no allegiance to anyone other than the woman, women often disclose things about themselves and their pasts that they haven’t told other caregivers. It’s so vitally important, that to be able to serve women adequately, midwives know exactly what is at stake for each individual… but, understandably, such discolsures often only come in the context of a trusting relationship.
Anyway, would I dance again next year? To tell the truth, much as I loved it, and especially the teaching, my experience on the day made me feel that I want to be working on the inclusion of men in such things in the future.