Our Daughters’ Daughters Will Adore Us

In 2016 an MP who was a woman was murdered. In 1918 a few women were allowed to vote for the first time in British history.

In 2017 a self-confessed molester became the President of the USA, and another in the closet molester of women began a man-slide down from grace, pulling Oz’s curtain with his fall, so that many other men with their trousers down were revealed.

This year we were made to reveal that women are systematically not paid as much as men.

I watch a programme about contemporary women, loaded with power and wealth, who derive their identities from the men they’re married to, refer to male gay friends as ‘my gays’, but become homophobes to attack one another (‘I heard that her husband’s gay‘).

The [otherwise excellent] National Theatre production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom made me cry with anger at the use of a black woman as a setting, as a scenario, in which to tell stories of men’s relationships with each other.
All of this is to say that I’m confused, but maybe hopeful. But maybe just in despair.

In any case, I am a woman.

When I was at the start of my teenagehood I thought I should believe in something so I took books out from Hull Central Library on various religions. None of them made me feel interested in them. I started getting books out about being a woman. The selection on the open shelves at that time wasn’t really up to date, or maybe there was a dip of feminist publishing/ library acquisitions on feminism in the 90s. I read Andrea Dworkin at 13 or 14. I can see how I probably didn’t understand most of it. It didn’t make me agree with her, but I did sort of get from it and from the other books I read, which I mainly forget the titles and writers of now, a feeling of something like myself.

Hull Central Library

I’d been sitting with my identity as a woman for so long that I was surprised to find it still so important to me when I reviewed Ria Jade Hartley’s Spit Kit a few years ago. I’d assumed being mixed-race (dual heritage sounds so middle class) would be my over-riding identity marker by now.

I’ve had this feeling of the centrality to me of my woman identity again recently when I decided to stop contributing to the destruction of our planet’s ecosystem with the waste I create from menstruating. I tried out a menstrual cup on my last period.

There are so many bloggers talking about the [actually pretty wide] range of cups around, and this one very excellent woman’s youtube channel, that I could’ve made some kind of informed choice. In reality I just went for the one I could buy on the high street, a mooncup.

I suppose you don’t know until you know. (almost all the bloggers will say that the mooncup is not for beginners, so I should’ve known before I knew).

I won’t go into too much detail about why I don’t think the mooncup is for me beyond: bruised urethra, paranoia about leaks, changing it every hour, waking up in an ocean of blood.

I got to know my insides, the parts that identify me, on a medical level, as a woman. I’m embarrassed for not knowing more about those parts of me before I had to spend so much time trying to release the suction hold of the mooncup. It’s so interesting down there (up there?).

The mooncup has measuring lines in it. I could see how much menstrual blood I was expelling. Apparently the average woman loses 30 to 40ml of blood each period. I lost over 200ml. After years of feeling ashamed for being so ‘out of it’ and in pain during my period (what a ditz, what a baby), I understand the first is possibly a symptom of anaemia from so much blood loss, and the second understandable.

Illustration of cervix and uterus

Map to the stars.

How does this relate to my identity as a woman? Am I more or less a woman for bleeding more than most women? Does my body’s biology help my identity formation? If it doesn’t, does that I wear dresses a lot… I don’t really understand make-up or hair?

The teenager wanted to identify with something. The adult wants to understand the identity I have.

If you have any reading recommendations for the female gaze on ourselves, please let me know.

Next period I’ll be trying out a Lilycup instead. I think the design looks like it’ll be a better fit for me. So, hopeful, then. Let’s go with hopeful.

***
I haven’t posted any discarded words from the book in a while. I’m at an impasse in writing it. The character needs to visit her family in Nigeria, which is complicated for me. Here, anyway, are some words I’ve thrown away:

Maggie stands in the doorframe between the front room and the hallway, not in or out of either space.
‘Where are you going?’ she asks.

***

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