Get ready for some rage.
For decades in Ireland, beginning in 1922, women were detained, sometimes for most of their lives, for having babies out of wedlock or sometimes just for being “morally wayward”. These women were not free to go, worked for no wages in unfit conditions as laundry workers and often were denied any contact with the outside world, including their families. The government was deeply involved in this, at all levels, all along. Now finally that same government is accepting responsibility and trying to help the survivors.
There. Got through that.
This is some pretty extreme hatred of women’s sexuality.
From the article:
“Established in 1922, some of the Magdalene laundries were still in operation as late as 1996. Half of the women incarcerated in these institutions, which washed clothes and linen from major hotel groups and even the Irish armed forces, were under the age of 23.”
The key findings are:
• More than a quarter of the women held in the laundries for whom records survived were sent in directly by the state. This numbers at least 2,500 women.
• The state gave lucrative laundry contracts to these institutions, without complying with fair wage clauses and in the absence of any compliance with social insurance obligations.
• The state inspected the laundries under the Factories Acts and, in doing so, oversaw and furthered a system of forced and unpaid labour, in violation of countless legal obligations.
The report also investigated the role of the Gardaí in pursuing and returning girls and women who escaped from the Magdalene institutions.”
Words do not fail. In fact they are responding so energetically that they have to be kept in check.
This is some pretty extreme hatred of women’s sexuality and you have to ask where this really comes from. It’s not like male sexuality is exactly celebrated either in that culture. This culture and its attitudes are plenty familiar to a lot of Americans. Plenty of shaming and punishment to go around. The standard explanation, because patriarchy, is a just-so story with no real explanatory power.
This is what I think: This is the face of deep-seated self-hatred, the kind that infects an entire community after centuries of defeat and degradation. Vae victis*. Thank God the sun is rising finally.
*Vae victis: “It sucks to lose”
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