Tuesday, February 1, 2011

HR.3: Generations of Who Pays?

HR.3 is misogyny and ultima ratio regum [last argument of kings]. I cannot tell the stories of elected officials who find this "highest legislative priority." I can tell personal stories. Stories of women I loved and admired fiercely, generations of my matriarchal ancestors. I can tell my own stories. Stories that need to stop. Maybe if we tell the stories for the first time, and loud enough, and in great enough numbers, the HR.3 perpetrators of the world will stop, too. My mother needed a certified copy of her birth certificate to get a passport for a trip to Australia. She was excited anticipating her tour. The birth certificate arrived with her name, parents' particulars, and her position as "second live birth." My mother understood herself to be firstborn. My grandmother had passed on, and her sister, my mother's aunt was in a nursing home. My mother asked Auntie why the birth certificate read second birth. It must be a mistake? Aunt Suoma told my mother the secret that two generations of women kept from the third, fourth and fifth. One late night, when my great-grandmother and her two young daughters were home alone, several men broke into their house, drunk, laughing, talking loudly in another language they did not understand and gang-raped the three repeatedly; mother and two daughters, aged 10 and 12. Men held the screaming mother from reaching her little girls while they raped her; men held the young girls down while other men brutally violated them, laughing and talking all the while. Were they beaten? Bruises, some cuts, tearing, bleeding from their ordeal. Would they qualify under the "forcible rape" language of HR.3? No. My great-grandmother was beyond conception, Aunt Suoma at 10 hadn't menstruated yet, but Saima, my grandmother, was impregnated. At 12 years old. She was young, a country girl, a foreigner and, now, a rape victim carrying a child of violence. She was sent away to nanny for another family and she learned there, as I have put together from stories she told me, to never look forward to anything again. She told the tale to me of that horrifying winter in the context that she had gotten a job as a nanny, and wasn't allowed home to visit her mother and sister. We assume the child was given up for adoption. My grandmother had a doll she called Georgie for as long as I knew her. She knitted clothes for her doll, kept he/she clean and safe, and I thought it was charming as a child. I now have Georgie in my bedroom. The doll means something else entirely to me now. My heart, soul and body ache telling this story, but our society is only as sick as the secrets it keeps. Women are trained from birth to go along to get along, and to shut up. We have shut up and suffered for generations. The picture with this post was taken in 1916, Suoma is on the left, Saima in the middle. The two sisters were never far apart from each other in their long lives - notice Saima has her fingers touching Suoma's shoulder. The date on the picture is 1916: two years after the gang rape in 1914. 97 years ago. We haven't come so very far, have we?

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