In 1995, several young boys in western Ireland came across something buried beneath a cracked piece of concrete. It turned out to be the septic tank for an old building, demolished decades earlier, that had been known as The Home. Run by the Bon Secours nuns, a Catholic sect, The Home had been, from 1925 to 1961, a place where unwed pregnant Irish women could hide themselves from an astonishingly judgmental society to carry their babies to term, and then flee into whatever new life they could manage to find.
Being unmarried and pregnant in Ireland during this time, you see, was utterly unforgiveable, and dangerous. A fair portion of the reason for this was the fact that Ireland – riven and torn asunder by disputed British rule, IRA warfare and all attendant chaos therein – saw fit to leave a vast swath of social concerns like schooling, orphanages and hospitals in the hands of the Catholic Church…and while the newly-minted Pope Francis has put a broadly-grinning happy face on Catholic doctrine, the fact of the matter is that women took the brunt of the consequences when they were raped and got pregnant, or had sex and got pregnant, because of the Church’s ironclad teachings.
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The children, also. The nuns charged to care for the children of The Home deliberately ostracized them from the other children in the community, starved them, neglected them, disdained them, because they were the offspring of “fallen” women who had dared to get pregnant outside of the bonds of holy Catholic matrimony. The so-called “sins” of the mother were visited brutally and harshly upon their children.
You see, that septic tank those boys found in 1995 was filled with the bones of some 800 children who had been delivered in The Home. Malnutrition and neglect, measles and tuberculosis and pneumonia, compounded by disgust for the mothers who bore them, laid waste to these children. Their remains were not buried, or burned, or even thrown in a trash heap. They were dropped into a vat of feces and urine, and at the time of this printing, their bones remain there still.
It is difficult to imagine a more egregious example of simple, savage hatred of women than what took place at The Home over those four decades. An unmarried pregnancy was the woman’s fault, period, regardless of the circumstances. Pregnant women were sequestered in that cold pile of stone, surrounded by militant Catholics who, I am quite sure, were absolutely against a woman’s right to choose abortion, but who hurled the remains of live-birthed babies into a septic tank because the mother’s disgrace at getting pregnant out of wedlock was so utterly complete according to the rules of the day that the issue of her pregnancy was deemed to be exactly as worthless as a nun’s turd.
But then again, there are today’s trans-vaginal ultrasounds that certain GOP lawmakers would require for women seeking abortions. There are the restrictions on birth control remedies being put in place in states all across the country. There are the thousands of women killed by a husband or partner wielding a gun every year. There is the universal GOP resistance to a minimum wage hike, even as two out of every three minimum wage workers is a woman, many of whom are trying to support at least one child.
And then, of course, there is Elliot Rodger, who shot up Santa Barbara the other day because he hated women and sought to exact a measure of vengeance. “I realized that I would be a virgin forever,” wrote Rodger in his pre-massacre manifesto, “condemned to suffer rejection and humiliation at the hands of women because they don’t fancy me, because their sexual attractions are flawed. They are attracted to the wrong type of male…I will destroy all women because I can never have them. I will make them all suffer for rejecting me…Women should not have the right to choose who to mate with. That choice should be made for them by civilized men of intelligence…Women are like a plague that must be quarantined.”
If you somehow think all these disparate issues are not connected – the Catholic Church’s generational ingrained hatred of women, the American religious right’s crusade against hard-fought-for women’s rights, and one frustrated loser’s rampage against the women he deemed his inferiors – think again. Much has been made of the “War on Women” in the press over the last few years, thanks to the conservative Republican push against women’s rights since the 2010 midterms, but this war has been going on for millennia, and the bonemeal of the casualties is everywhere, including beneath an innocuous sidewalk in western Ireland.
It is hard to imagine that a woman-hating mass-murderer like Elliot Rodger would have cheerleaders, but he does, in the guise of MRA’s, or Men’s Rights Activists…and yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds: a pack of sexually-frustrated white men on the bag end of bad divorces somehow think they are losing their standing, and have come together on the internet to gripe about it, and to cheer when the Elliot Rodgers of the world show those “bitches” what-for.
Yes, this is actually a thing. James Fell, writing for Time Magazine, lays it out succinctly:
Men, especially white men, aren’t marginalized, we aren’t under attack, and we not in danger of losing the overwhelming privileges society bestows upon us for having pale skin and a penis. However, MRAs have been described as whining children by the women they call “feminist bitches.” So to any man who feels like he’s getting caught up in such a movement because they feel emasculated or are just having trouble relating to women and perhaps sympathizing with Elliot Rodger, I will tell you this: Life isn’t fair. Life is NOT fair.
Women will judge you. Some will judge you based on your appearance, your height, your width, you genitalia, your wealth, your car, your clothes, your acne. In other words, they will judge you the exact same way you judge them.
Astonishing as it is to fathom, this is a fight that has to be engaged once again. A lot of comfortable people (read: mostly men) believe the rights of women have been settled and established, so we’re done, thanks for coming, turn out the lights when you leave. In truth, the rights of women are under assault from multiple directions in multiple states across this nation, and the bad guys are winning.
There are 800 dead babies in Ireland who could tell you all about where this kind of trend invariably winds up: in the septic tank of history.