Niamh Browne – Editor in Queef
Aristotle once defined woman as a ‘deficient man’. That she was somehow hollow, empty or lacking something fundamental of the qualities that man possessed. This quality of lacking meant she was inferior. The origin and structure of patriarchy is long, complicated and disputed but there is no doubt that Western civilisation has lived and still does live under the spectre of patriarchy. This deficiency that woman innately possessed was in no small part due to our ‘hollowness’ – the female sexual organ. Meaning we are empty, void and inferior.
It is the view of this magazine and mainstream biological research that the female sexual organ does not a woman make. There are women that don’t have vaginas and there are people with vaginas who are not women. The more we research gender the more we realise how fluid it is, how constructed it is and how sexual organs have little to do with it.
However, there are challenges that people with vaginas face that others do not. Nowhere is this more apparent than access to healthcare. For hundreds of years, all resources and medical research were put into the male form, whereas a lot of want we know about the female sexual organ was obtained through the abject torture of enslaved black women in the United States. Indeed, J. Marion Sims, who conducted these experiments is known as the ‘father of modern gynaecology’.
The present day is not much better when it comes to healthcare for people with uteruses. In Afghanistan, women can no longer study to become doctors nor practice as them. Furthermore, women cannot be treated by a male doctor. Meaning that women in Afghanistan are left without healthcare. In Ireland, Vicky Phelan passed away on the 14th of November 2022, she was one of the 206 women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer after being given an incorrect smear test result. Of these women, 162 of them had not been told the initial results had been incorrect. It was reported that in 2017 Dr Gráinne Flannery, CervicalCheck’s clinical director advised a gynaecologist not to tell these patients about the re-evaluated test results, but to file the results instead. It seems to have a uterus is to accept substandard healthcare. Motley Magazine revisits this healthcare scandal and medical misogyny in this issue.
Speaking of Aristotle, we also have an interview with Supreme Court Justice Marie Baker who completed a master’s in philosophy here at UCC on Aristotle’s notion of law. Marie Baker was the judge on the High Court case of PP v HSE where the question of whether or not a pregnant woman who was brain dead should be kept on life support until the foetus was delivered. This case came before the court before the repealing of the eighth amendment. The woman’s next of kin wished to turn off the life support but the hospital staff were unsure if this would violate the foetus’ right to life in the constitution at the time.
As we explore the medical research into vaginas there arise new ethical questions. Surrogacy, birth control, gender-affirming healthcare and post-natal care are all fields developing rapidly. Motley offers a glimpse into this brave new world of vaginas.
Finally a note on the title. Originally the issue theme of ‘women’s health’ was bounced around. However, not everyone with a uterus is a woman and not everyone without one is excluded from the term woman. The media in both Ireland and elsewhere has taken a scary transphobic turn and contrary to mainstream media’s popular belief, it is not the vocation of every journalist to make the lives of trans people harder. As a result, we have opted for the title vagina monologues to represent the complicated myriad of experiences that people with uteruses have to deal with. To quote the legendary rapper Craic Boi Mental: ‘Trans people are my friends, transphobes can catch these hands’. You know, I could’ve quoted Judith Butler here, but I think Craic perfectly articulates my feelings. Happy reading.