Talk dirty to me…

I was musing this morning… about 90% of my childhood memories I have involve my Mum feeding babies – or making food (I like food memories). It also occurred to me after my son was born that despite seeing babies fed every day of my life, and it being an everyday, essential, and natural occurrence – no one ever tells you how hard breastfeeding is.

There are very few mentions of how much breastfeeding hurts — nor did I know how hard the baby finds it initially… also was it only me who was completely unaware of the evils of mastitis?

As I write and think more on this, I want to extend my statement to include bottle feeding a baby…. I did not know that was hard either.

Really. I had 9 brothers and sisters for the record, so please do not think I was under any illusion that baby care was going to be super easy – I just did not know breastfeeding was hard, painful, tiring, or stressful. Mums make it look easy. Even when babies bite them, or they are dehydrated and there is not enough milk at that second, or because you are at a friend’s house and their armchair is different to yours (yes, it matters).

When it was not easy for me, I thought I was doing something wrong. In fact, there were times when I was certain my son would suffer and die because I would not ever, ever learn how to do it. (Remember new mums are learning this all while very sleep deprived). My brain was spinning in circles telling me that I was a failure. Everyone else could do it. There was something wrong with me.

Mandela at one day old… 11 pounds, 12 ounces, and not wanting to latch on..

I think the same about menstrual cramps by the way. We all (male and female) know they happen, but many people (men) do not know that they can be so crippling that 33% of women at some point are forced miss work because they are in too much pain/are too unwell as a consequence of menstruating to go in. Some of us experience vomiting. Others have blood clots, anaemia, nausea, dizziness, unco-ordination, cramps, muscle aches and migraines. Every four weeks – and really there are only so many pharmaceuticals a woman wants to take! On paper, many people know about these things, until you experience it, you do not actually know… because we do not talk about it.

Now….Stepping on over from breastfeeding and PMS (which I concede are at least natural non-malicious things with a purpose) for a moment and getting serious, I want to talk about violence against women… Like breastfeeding and menstruation, recovering from gender-based violence is something that you see women coping with, living with, and thriving in spite of every single damn day. We live with, recover from, and deal with the trauma we carry from attacks/assaults/abuse because we must. The alternative would be to not recover and not survive…

Women survive, deal with, and live with trauma in huge numbers. Huge Number. It is not a random thing that happens to someone else. If you are out to dinner with a group of friends – these women are at your table, waiting on your table and probably in the restaurant kitchen. Do not believe me? Well let me spell it out. Women are roughly 51% of the Australian population. One in three of us (33%) has been subject of gender-based violence. One. In. Three. Now… Let me break that down a little more for y’all.

Australia’s population was 25,499,884 people at mid-year 2020, (according to UN data).

Women make up 51% of this. That equals 13,004,941 women.

33% of 13,004,941 people is almost 4.3 million women.

Consider as well that these are only the women, we know about… we are well aware that there are many instances of gender-based violence which goes unreported.

With 4.3 million women in Australia surviving gender-based violence – it is so common, that in too many cases we do not really acknowledge its ongoing affects. Society just expects women to get on with things. In much the same way that we do not acknowledge the physical tole that breastfeeding for example has on women.

We are told ‘women are strong,’ ‘most men are nice’, ‘God will not give you burdens greater than you can handle,’ ‘It all happens for a reason,’ ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, ‘That is #mumlife’ and ‘Don’t hate men,’ ‘don’t be bitter’ and ‘it is in the past’ …. all of the encouraging/minimising statements which are collectively more acceptable to society than statements like ‘Men, you are responsible for 100% of the incidents of male violence against women. Men are more than capable of demonstrating self-control. So, DO SO. If you are offended but this statement – FIX IT.”

As a woman, and a logical, intelligent adult, I fail to see how any of the above platitudes are helpful to women going through physical, mental, or emotional strains which are not experienced by men. Do not try and pacify me. Step up and stop making excuses for our abusers. Prevention is the best cure.

To my mind, recovering from abuse is like PMS and breastfeeding. in that you see women doing it literally every day. all the time no one ever, ever tells you the pain and difficulty involved. No one mentions that it gets easy, then harder, then easier and harder – smells, sounds and situations can be triggering…. or they could not be. This happens over and over again… and then again. Trauma is complicated. I sometimes consider it to be like grief in that regard – it can come in waves. Women must ride these waves. And it is only when we experience ourselves that we realise just how hard it is.

Perhaps in part the lack of action and discussion on the trauma that so many (4.3 million) women carry is due to the complex nature of trauma, and the huge numbers of us impacted. I understand that it seems like an insurmountable problem at times. I really do. My understanding of this fact however does not take away from the fact that while men struggle to get their heads around the size and importance of the issue, women are still living with and dealing with it – and that we are just expected to carry on like normal while this is happening.

Understanding the nature of trauma is hard. Sure.

You know what is easy though gentleman?

Keeping your damn hands to yourself.

You know what else is easy?

Treating people with respect. Not using intimidating, manipulating or coercive behaviours. Not verbally abusing us.

It is Sunday, you are starting a new week. So, a couple messages for y’all.

Fellas. Can we please normalise being offended by the scope of violence against women in Australia and not the fact that women are pointing out that we are unsafe. If you do not like us telling you that men hurt us. Take that up with the men in your lives. When 4.3 million women in Australia experience violence…. Some of your mates certainly have something to answer for.

Ladies….we please normalise highlighting the physical difficulties of PTSD, PMS, and breastfeeding… Can we also while we are doing this remember that we do not have to do it in secret. Apparently when we do that men complain that we cannot expect them to know (we should be able to expect them to know, they are adults… but hey, let us point it out more often). I really think it would help women be kinder to themselves.

Talk more ladies.

Listen more fellas.

Fellas. Remember that ladies are not obligated to share their trauma with you. They do not have to talk about things that upset them to talk about. There are books, resources, websites – so many things on this topic. Women can find discussing these topics re-traumatising. You should be educating yourselves. We should not have to recover and teach y’all.

Ladies, it is OK to want to take time out from hearing about trauma. I know it is triggering. I know you are exhausted. Self-care is key.

Fellas. We are tired. Step up.

Published by Josie Young

Josie Young is a writer, an activist and a lover of food, stories and stormy ocean skies. Previously a community project manager, Josie is also a full time mother and a free lance ghost and feature writer and editor. Josie Young holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Public Policy (2007), a Masters of International and Community Development (2009) and a Masters of Humanitarian Assistance (2017).

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