A week ago, I said to myself: "I do not label myself as anything, I'm just Nagham and the genetic lottery determined that I was born a woman, so I inherited social and biological mores that I will try not to submit to and I will live as I like and be comfortable.”
I had forgotten my own war that had lasted for years with the patriarchal society and I thought I would never encounter worse situations. I confess: I was stupid, and I blinded myself to the fact that I was a woman, but I remembered, and I am now sorry for all those past thoughts.
In my mind I heard the voices of all the girls I had heard speak briefly without delving into their pain, about their experiences with abortion, how they had failed to absorb what had happened and how they distanced themselves from their own stories, telling them as if they weren’t their own. The voices would come and go but today I can not silence them.
One of the reasons for this was a foolish image that I came by. A rope extends from the woman's neck to her womb, where a red fetus is hanged. A man states: “together for a law criminalizing abortion.” The man wants to dive legally into the "women's womb" and into a pain he is ignorant of.
I am fed up with the trivial discussions that do not include the voices of women, and here I am not only talking about the "lucky" women who can undergo an abortion on the same day as discovering a pregnancy, but also about those who hide their pregnancy and place their children at the gates of the orphanage or in the garbage, or those who lose their lives.
So I will allow myself, despite the little I know, to use my voice on behalf of the voices that endure a pain that has no clear language to describe it, to tell the stories of girls who were allowed to be mothers for weeks in these societies.
Voices that lost their lives
A sweet voice says: “All the men I loved have made me bleed. Blood with a specific smell and a specific shape. A spot, on the floor, or a sweater or a sanitary napkin that I threw myself in the trash. The next day I wake up, walk out of the house, buy coffee with a smile and sit at my desk in my office talking about everything except what is inside me. I forget with time the path of the pain, I lose the ability to pick up on it and it almost seemed like the bleeding stopped being tangible, the inner spots repeating: ‘Your loss is inevitable, you are so naive believing that giving heals. You have not yet understood that your language as a woman has no letters or justification in the community. Try to hide a little, put limits to the visits by strangers, who walk in as they please without realizing that they trample on the pain, that they leave behind a bloodied path, and you alone will bend to clean it.’”
The next day I wake up, walk out of the house, buy coffee with a smile and sit at my desk in my office talking about everything except what is inside me.
Another voice says: "The man asked me: 'Why did you refuse to sleep with me?' I gave him an answer that would soften the sense of rejection he felt. The truth he could not comprehend was that more than a year ago, I bled for a week because of a possible child. I wrapped it in a white cloth and threw it away. The next day I went to try and find it in the trash and did not find it. I had a realization for a moment what I had made for five weeks was worth burying in the ground, near the fish that died last month, but because of the pain I forgot or pushed myself to forget so I could get rid quickly of what I saw.”
“More than a year ago I understood what the village women used to say, that when a woman goes into labor, the doors of Heaven open for her. When I took the pills that induced artificial labor, I felt that my body was on the ground but my head was in the sky, and because nobody could tolerate all that pain I did not mind dying and ending it, especially since all I was going to get in the end were dead cells.
“Usually, this pain is followed by the birth of a child that makes us forget all that we have endured. In my case, all I got was the imperative to hide my pregnancy from society so that I may be allowed to live. My rejection of you is linked to my personal pain and not you. Do you understand when you can only associate sex with pregnancy and be afraid of being touched so as not to suffer again? Can you understand a body unable to give, and that the doors of heaven open to the women who abort also?”
“We bleed out possible children. Perhaps we want them, or perhaps we don’t. We bleed and go to work, we bleed and sit with our parents and mothers smiling".
The voice speaks: “We bleed out possible children. Perhaps we want them, or perhaps we don’t. We bleed and go to work, we bleed and sit with our parents and mothers smiling. What I really want to say is that I can’t express what I’m feeling, I’m not allowed to say anything, I want my right to cry without feeling humiliated because I literally understood the meaning that the state and society controls my body in all respects."
The voice continues: “When we deal with our pains, we usually have an image, a form, a smell. With abortion the pain is internal, it can’t be externalized. I do not know the color of the eyes or the skin. My pain has no form and all forms. The possibilities are endless. I could have been a mother, or not, I will never know the answer, and here I am. If I had a choice, what decision would I take with complete freedom?"
Laws based on the hymen
In an abortion, the woman experiences death inside her, and the organ, with which she makes a hand, a head and a heart, turns into a graveyard that bleeds out the laws of a despicable society.
Article 542 and 543 lessen the punishment against any relative who commits a crime to preserve the honor of his family up to the second degree, and article 545 of the penal code lessens the potential prison sentence of a woman who underwent an abortion to “protect her honour.”
There is an article in Lebanese law that, at its core, focuses on a membrane that exists within the genitalia. Women are socially responsible for the principle of "honor" and if they have sex, suffer an abortion, die or are “assisted” by a relative to the second degree with the aim of protecting the honor of the family, they are not punished. Thank you, o laws, for protecting our honor!
Bodies that can endure everything
A week ago I discovered the fact that our bodies as women are able to endure everything.
A week ago I discovered the fact that our bodies as women are able to endure everything, the looks on the street, the hand on public transport, the words that pierce us in a moment of anger, the remarks about what we wear, idioms that compare our honor to matchsticks that can be lit only once, the dark alleys that we have to pass through in a hurry after midnight while clutching our bags. A body that desires us in the evening, and in the morning our lips can only utter the words: Yes, you’re right. I have no say in your decisions, I didn’t ask you for anything in the first place.
Our bodies endure men who do not mind having sex with us every day but are afraid to sit next to us when we abort their children, because "the situation is more than they can bear,” because they are more cowardly than they know. Individuals that don’t understand what it is for a woman’s body to naively trust and enter a home that she thought was safe.
Women's bodies understand the limits of the bed, and when our feet hit the ground it is better not to discuss our feelings so as not to lose our privileges as liberated women. Life goes on without realizing even the importance of what we do not say because of shame, fear, the possibility of abandonment, fear of power or accountability. We live with the consequences that leave a huge void in us, because when we had to really deal with it we chose being saved over the daily breakdowns that are forbidden in our societies.
On Mother's Day, I tried to write a little using the lost language for those women who do not know what their choices would have been if it were not for the customs and laws, and so they gave up, and live now in a circular world of possibilities.
For every girl who loved and lost, she thought she might die from a broken heart and then went back and learned to trust. For the housewives and the workers, thin and fat, for the conservative and the liberal, the submissive and the defiant, to those who cook the best of the dishes and to those who do not believe food is the secret to the heart, to every woman who was afraid then discovered that she is stronger than her executioner.
To my mother, who lost her left breast and hair and stood every morning in front of the mirror and looked mournfully at her body. She who before gave birth to me aborted a child. To my sister, who cried for the same reason, to my friends who do not care and those who have to change the way they dress when they visit their families.
To faces slapped by foul hands and who smile anyway. To my 90 year old grandmother who brought up real men. To my aunt Hana that was deprived of motherhood, to my aunt Zahra who blocked the doorway with her body so they wouldn’t take her children away. To souls that have been lost and those who struggled and fought.
And to me, because I have not lost my ability to breathe, or to confront myself and everyone else every morning. To every woman who has given birth, or was forced to abort. Here’s to our bodies and may they continue to endure reality!