I am listening to Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace right now on tape (so retro!) and it is the story of a mid-nineteenth century girl who worked as a house servant and who was imprisoned for life for murder. It is based, I think, on historical fact but of course, it goes from there as all good historical novels do with thoughts and words given to people who may or may not have lived and it's a good book.
But as I am reading it, I am thinking of the way that some people were, and are, under the power of others, whether as slaves or servants or employees and especially how women have so long been at the mercy of men.
In the book there is a character who is gotten pregnant by the son of her employee and how he abandoned her in her pregnancy and suggested that she drown herself as a solution to her problem and how she sought out an abortionist and died from his butchery because she felt she had no other option unless she took her former lover's advice and yet- she knew in going to the abortionist that she might well be, albeit not drowning but bleeding to death.
In the book I mentioned last week, We Had It So Good, a woman relates how she found herself pregnant at a young age and who went to her father, a doctor, for help and he performed an abortion on her himself, how when she bared herself to him on the kitchen table, he said, "So pretty," or "Very nice," or something like that before he began his work on his daughter.
He had her at his mercy as did the doctor who performed the abortion for the character in Margaret Atwood's book and so did the man who led that character to believe that he loved her, would marry her, a poor servant girl of sixteen who believed his lies.
I think about this. I think about how power can be so perverse and so frequently misused and cruelly so.
I wonder how many women have died while trying to get rid of a pregnancy in which there was no way a baby could be brought into this world. We don't really talk about this any more. Abortion is still legal although the religious right makes it more and more difficult and those who would moralize and judge are making it more and more difficult to get one to the point where clinics and doctors who perform them are risking their very lives. And you know what it all boils down to?
Someone who believes that they have, for some reason, power over others to tell them what to do with their own bodies, their own lives.
So that's what I'm thinking about right now. About how it has always been the fate of some to be under the power of others and how there is something so fundamentally wrong with this that I don't even understand why this is a human trait. And that women have always been under the power of men and society and that's all there is to it and we still are in many ways and it is so easy to take for granted the strides that women whom Rush Limbaugh calls the "Feminazis" have made for us. How easy it is to become complacent.
I wish I were thinking lighter thoughts. But I am not. Not tonight and I'm not sure why but there it is and for those of us who are old enough to remember what it was like to live in a time when abortion was not legal and who are now too old to have a personal stake in the matter, we need to not let the matter slip into the hands of those who would take away the rights of our daughters, our granddaughters.
We must all realize that for the most part, humans do the best we can with what life hands us. We all make mistakes, we all reach for the stars and fall desperately short, we all mostly just want the ability to live our lives to the best of our abilities without anyone else who has no idea what our lives are like to make our decisions for us.
That's it for tonight.
Sometimes it is good to think these kind of heavy thoughts so that we remember and continue to care and not take our rights for granted. I remember the year abortion became legal in NY and California because I had to go to NY from Oklahoma. I was very fortunate there was a safe place to go. At the time, my mother told me about her own abortion when it was very illegal. How can people even imagine taking away these rights!?!ReplyDelete
Dearest, dearest MM,ReplyDelete
Your musings tonight about this universally difficult and painful topic have somehow nudged something in me. Moved aside a bit of pain still lingering from an unsought voyage that so many of us must make, choice or not.
Sometimes when you speak, it feels like the warm and comforting arm of a good mother suddenly gone round my shoulders. I know you're just an ordinary woman sharing her thoughts and feelings - but they often have an effect on me of a gentle healing.
Haven't even finished the first sentence before popping down here to say that Alias Grace is one of my favorite books. Viva Atwood!ReplyDelete
And I'll add that I find The Cider House Rules by John Irving (although I won't watch the movie, because how could they cut the character of Melony?) to be - how to finish the sentence? Very good work written on a difficult subject.ReplyDelete
Alias Grace is a heavy, heavy book. Such poetry. Such darkness. I particularly love it that the chapter titles are quilt names, and in the printed version examples of the quilt pattern head each chapter.
Sorry to gabble. I always have so much more to say than can easily fit in one of these boxes (and yet I write *so* many words, it seems)
I don't like the power that makes others want to control an individual or whole segments of a population. I do believe that women (and men) have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. I despise what is done in the name of religion. One only has to look back at the Crusades to see the utter cruelty. Subjugating another is a terrible thing. And I will fight against that until my last breath.ReplyDelete
Regardless of how far women have come, it still is a man's world. And that's the saddest thing of all.ReplyDelete
Oh, yes, Ms. Moon! Exactly this! And frankly I'm afraid to move back to the US because of the radicalization of the right.ReplyDelete
About Alias Grace - read a few months back. Not my favorite book, but it sticks with you, like all of Atwood I think.
I had forgotten it was quilt pattern titles - no wonder I had to start up quilting again right after that! That Margaret Atwood sure can tell a story that pierces the soul.
Yes, it is historical fiction - I looked it up. I'm still curious about what really happened.
Let me start by saying that one of the reasons I read your blog daily is for the comments. Your readers, if I do say so myself, are some of the most articulate, intelligent, and loving folks on the internet. You should be proud of that, beautiful Mary Moon.ReplyDelete
Also, yes yes yes Margaret Atwood. I've been reading her since I was around 15 and her words have shaped my life in so many ways. She's also a really open writer, who shares her wisdom and friendship freely with her readers; a rare thing!
And finally, you hit the nail on the head. It is the lust for power that makes for so much evil in this world. Whether it's a mean grown-up being hateful to an innocent child or a corrupt government ruling its people with an iron fist, power is power.
Great Wednesday night sermon. One of my favorite quotes is: "Let's replace the love of power with the power of love". Sorry I don't know who said that.ReplyDelete
I sure wish you had as many books out as Atwood does. I would read them all!
My grandma taught me that THE BIGGEST EVIL in the world is to think you have power over anyone else's body. Look at the Nazis. Prime example. Of course, this country is loaded with Nazis, too. And I'm not talking Feminazis either.ReplyDelete
Rush Limbaugh is a goddamn idiot, and I don't give one iota of credence or thought to anything that moron says. I have negative regard for him and his followers. Less than zero.
We are so vulnerable when we have our babies, that I think it's easy to give over our power to others so that we can nuzzle and nurture those little beings.ReplyDelete
I think of power a lot these days. How I want to give what I've got to help my family. How I want what I want for myself. How the man who loves me fits into all this.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this big and wide subject and what it means to you.
Towanda- Unfortunately, plenty of people think they have the right to take away the rights of others in the name of whatever god they worship. It's so very, very wrong and we don't remember what it was like before.ReplyDelete
liv- Let me yes, put my arm around you. We are all so filled with things we need to lay down, let go.
x-ray Iris- I am very into this book. And yes, I think that Cider House Rules is the very best book ever written about abortion. The movie was not bad.
Syd- Thank you, brother.
Angie- And so few of us have the courage to admit this.
NOLA- We'll probably never know what really happened. And don't you think that every part of the world has problems? I don't know. Maybe not so many as we do.
silverfinofhope- I, too, was thinking about the power adults have over children, too, and how easily that power is misused. And yes, I DO have the best commentors ever. Smart and insightful and not afraid to voice their opinions. Thank-you for being one of them.
lulumarie- What a great quote. Thank you, baby.
Ms. Bastard-Beloved- As always, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I do love you.
Denise- I thank you for those thoughts. I know the post seemed pretty random but dammit! sometimes I just have to say what I"m thinking. I'm so glad that we have this community where people understand.
I revere my Feminazis. Each week i help out at a battered women's shelter and there is a waiting list of women and children desperate for shelter and safety that runs into hundreds.ReplyDelete