Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Very little in my great great grandmother's life was about choice. She married young because she was pregnant. One simply did not become a single mother in my great great grandmother's world. Pressured by her parents, she married a much older dominating man. If one is to believe that sex is about choice, one could argue that she had a choice when she fucked this man. There is no point in sugar coating what they did as making love. It was sex. And it was sex that came unwilling for her. Sex that was pushed on her, sex that nagged away at her virginity until she finally gave in. He was older, quite forceful but charming and handsome as well. She was 13 and he was 25.
He was handsome and charming. The pictures show a dark man in one of those suits from the 40s with a Panama hat, tucked down over one eye. He was holding a cigarette, and had a sly smile on his face. He looked like the kind of man who screwed men out of their money and just screwed women. And that's pretty much who he was. He was gone a lot, following the horses and various schemes. My great grandmother no longer interested him once she had the second child. Childbirth and extreme poverty wrote early lines onto her face and made her luxurious black hair thin and gray. She looks like a poor Maine woman in the photos. Her hair pulled back severely from her face knotted into a tight bun. She wears a flower print dress that gathers at the waist and then falls into to her calves. It is hard to tell if the dress is faded because the photo is old but I always think the dress is faded. She has one hand on her hip, and the other arm is holding a baby, my nana. There is another girl holding onto her legs, my aunt Isabella. They all look haunted and scared.
Then my great great grandfather disappeared. No one knew where he went but they suspected he was hiding from another scheme gone wrong. There is a rumor that he went overseas. My great great grandmother found another man while he was gone. We don't know a lot about him. I'd like to think he was kind and loving but I suspect that he was an ass just like my great great grandfather. There are no pictures of him. No name. Just some faceless man that my great great grandmother had an affair with. I'm not sure how much choice was in this sex either. He likely helped take care of her at a time when it was hard for a woman to get a job especially in rural Maine and New Hampshire. Sex for money is nothing new in this world. Sex for protection is also nothing new but sex does little to protect in the end.
My great great grandmother got pregnant. And then she found out that my great great grandfather was coming back. She was terrified so she took a clothes hanger and shoved up her vagina in an attempt to abort the fetus she carried. I wonder at how great her fear was of this man that she would do something so drastic and no doubt incredibly painful. What had he done to her to make her so frightened? There were likely doctors who would do this but the money was no doubt beyond my great great grandmother's meager income. Her neighbors found her on the stairs, bleeding to death. They brought her to the hospital but it was too late. Her death certificate lists cause of death as: miscarriage.
In a world where sex is to often used as a weapon against women, it is even more of a necessity that we fight for safe, free abortions. This demands that we not let ourselves feel safe. It is too easy to imagine that the right to choice has been established and can not be taken away. I will always be pro choice. Women have few choices in this world as it is. The very least we should have is the right to control the fertility of our own bodies.