Archives de Tag: Contraception

But when people…

But when people who do not wish to stop prostituting themselves go to the Prostitutionsenheten, they find they are not necessarily welcome. One interviewee was very critical even about the way prostitutes are “welcomed”: the strongly negative judgement passed on prostitutes is evident in the way they are treated even in this service expressly dedicated to them. The same negative judgement on the Prostitutionsenheten attitude is voiced by Tanya Holm, who interviewed several prostitutes. Officially, prostitutes are not criminals, but unofficially they are: if they do not accept to stop prostituting themselves, the official view on prostitution in Sweden does not allow them to be considered anything less than betrayers of the female gender. […]
A woman I interviewed who had sought advice from the Prostitutionsenheten at a moment when she was pondering possible life alternatives, was offered psychotherapy; as she discovered during the therapy sessions, it was aimed at uncovering the sexual violence she had suffered as a child. The problem was she had suffered none: «I felt very confused, I started to doubt what I knew… at the end I left therapy», she said. She said this also happened to other friends of hers. The rigidity in the official conception of prostitution does not therefore seem to help much in establishing a therapeutic dialogue. Even the gynaecological services of the Prostitutionsenheten are marked by an authoritarian approach: I heard of a permanent means of contraception (slow-release hormone) implanted without bothering about the woman’s doubts and objections. There do not seem to be internal projects of evaluation of the Prostitutionsenheten, or at least they are not available to the public, and after an initial contact and two interviews, further requests of clarification on my part (on the issue of mental diseases, for instance) were left unanswered.

Daniela Danna, « Report on the city of Stockholm », in Prostitution and Public life in Four European Capital, p. 37-38

Mais quand des personnes qui ne souhaitent pas arrêter de se prostituer vont au Prostitutionsenheten, elles trouvent qu’elles ne sont pas forcément les bienvenues. Une interviewée était même très critique de la manière dont les prostituées sont « accueillies » : le jugement très négatif porté sur les prostituées est évident dans la manière dont elles sont traitées même dans ce service qui leur est spécialement dédié. Le même jugement négatif sur l’attitude Prostitutionsenheten est émis par Tanya Holm, qui a interviewé plusieurs prostituées. Officiellement, les prostituées ne sont pas des criminelles, mais officieusement, elles en sont : si elles n’acceptent pas d’arrêter de se prostituée, le regard officiel sur la prostitution en Suède ne permet pas de les considérer comme autre chose que des traitre au genre féminin. […]

Une femme que j’ai interviewée et qui avait à un moment cherché conseil au Prostitutionsenheten lorsqu’elle réfléchissait à des possibles alternatives de vie, s’est vue offrir une psychothérapie; comme elle l’a découvert durant les sessions de thérapie, le but était de découvrir les violences sexuelles font elle avait souffert étant enfant. Le problème était qu’elle n’en avait souffert d’aucune : « Je me sentais très troublée, j’ai commencé à avoir des doutes sur ce que je savais… à la fin j’ai abandonné la thérapie », dit-elle. Elle dit que cela est aussi arrivé à d’autres de ses amies. La rigidité de la conception officielle de la prostitution ne semble dès lors pas être d’une grande aide dans l’établissement d’un dialogue thérapeutique. Même les services gynécologiques du Prostitutionsenheten sont marqués par une approche autoritaire : J’ai entendu parler de moyens permanents de contraception (hormones à libération lente) implantés sans s’inquiéter des soutes et objections des femmes. Il ne semble pas qu’il y ait des projets internes d’évaluation du Prostitutionsenheten, ou en tout cas pas accessibles au public,  et après un contact initial et deux interviews, mes autres demandes de clarifications (sur l’enjeu des maladies mentales, par exemple) sont restées sans réponse


Dalla Costa : knowledge of the witches and masculinization of the obstetric field.

This combined strategy of “denying access” and “outlawing” well-educated urban healers in Europe was so effective that by the end of the fourteenth century the campaign by professional doctors against them was practically over. Male doctors obtained a monopoly in medicine for the wealthy classes.

Obstetrics, however, still lay outside their expertise and, despite a wealthy clientele, remained an exclusively female field for another three centuries. Obstetrics later came to face an alliance of the intent of the state, the church and the (male) medical profession, which advocated that this field also be given to the “regular” medical profession, controlled bu the state and the church, at the price of the exterminating of the “witches” – mostly midwives and healers who came from and worked among the poor. But this persecution formed part of a complex of social macro-operations that took place in various periods, some already early in the fourteenth century, and the most famous of which was the expropriation/enclosure of common lands. If the latter was used to create the misery necessary for the beginnings of the capitalist mode of production, by making available massive numbers for the workforce, the witch-hunt was used instead to expropriate from women their own bodies. This was accomplished first of all by depriving women of the knowledge and the power to decide with regards to their reproductive powers, because the reproduction of individuals – from now on, the reproduction of the workforce, as far as it concerned the expropriated and impoverished people – had to be under state control by means of the medical profession. […] Federici (1984) in particular observes how the witch hunt spread in Europe between the fourteenth and the seventeenth century, reaching an apex between 1550 and 1650, when it is estimated 100,000 women were burned alive, often after vicious torture. The victims were, as I have said, mostly country midwives guilty of knowing not only about childbirth, but also about abortion and contraceptives, as well as healers and women of ill repute. But it was much easier for women to be accused when they were alone, unmarried, old, and above all leaders of urban and peasant rebellions caused by rising prices, by the repeated levying of new taxes, and particularly by the expropriation of land. However, virgins and pregnant women were normally not sent to the stake. This (the greatest sexocide that history has ever recorded – and which represents a fundamental turning point in the history of the struggle between the classes and between the sexes, erased, even if never completely, along with the women who were executed, popular medicine, and especially the gynecological and obstetric knowledge that had been in their hands alone. This knowledge was replaced with an official medicine, controlled by the state and the church, that would need centuries before it was able to replace the void left by the extermination of healers and midwives with something authentically therapeutic. It is worth knowing that while there were witches who had acquired profound knowledge of bones and muscles, of herbs and drugs, the physicians of the time still made their prognoses using astrology.

Mariarosa Dalla Costa “Hysterectomy : A Woman’s view of its Medical Facets, Historical Development and Ethical and Legal Questions” in Hysterectomy, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Medical Abuse of Women, p. 35-36

the formation of a multinational working class has its origins in the history of women as a section of the class. Women began, particularly since the war, to take their own direction in an increasingly homogeneous and diffuse way. Hence, the emergence of a new quality of political power, as expressed by this class, has to be attributed to, and defined in terms of the new processes of autonomy opened up within the class by its various sections and particularly by woman.
Above all by women’s refusal to procreate.
During the second half of the Sixties, all European coun- tries registered a dramatic fall in the birth rate8 that cannot be wholly attributed to the increased availability of contraceptives.9 The birth rate fell particularly steeply among those sectors that formerly had proved to be less successful in controlling their fertility10
Women were better able to reject State controls over procreation the more they resisted pressure from within the family, from the elderly, from husbands, from other children.
This rejection and resistance can be found to a greater or lesser degree in all countries irrespective of whether the number of women in waged work is high or low, whether the country is one of immigration or emigration and whether the women are “native” or immigrants themselves.
Thus the family, the centre of unpaid work and personal dependence, has emerged as the primary terrain on which women have managed to resist and to organize themselves at a mass level.
The more women succeed in freeing themselves from the constraints of the family the more they will be able to succeed in emancipating themselves from conditions that limit their ability to improve their lives.

Mariarosa DALLA COSTA, “reproduction and emigration”

The criminalization of women’s control over procreation is a phenomenon whose importance cannot be overemphasized, both from the viewpoint or its effects on women and its consequences for the capitalist organization of work. As is well documented through the Middle Ages women had possessed many means of contraception, mostly consisting of herbs which turned into potions and “pessaries” (suppositories) were used to quicken a woman’s period, provoke an abortion, or create a condition of sterility. In Eve’s herbs : A History of contraception in the West (1997), the American historian John Riddle has given us an extensive catalogue of the substances that were most used and the effects expected of them or most likely to occur. The criminalization of contraception expropriated women from this knowledge that had been transmitted from generation to generation, giving them some autonomy with respect to child-birth. It appears that, in some cases, this knowledge was not lost but was only driven underground; yet when birth control again made its appearance on the social scene, contraceptive methods were no longer of the type that women could use, but were specifically created for use by men. What demographic consequences followed from this shift is a question that for the moment I will not pursue, though f refer to Riddle’s work for a discussion oft this matter. Here I only want to stress that by denying women control over their bodies, the
state deprived them of the most fundamental condition for physical and psychological integrity and degraded maternity to the status of forced labor, in addiction to confining women to reproductive work in a way unknown in previous societies. Nevertheless, forc­ing women to procreate against their will or (as a feminist song from the 1970. had it) forcing them to ” produce children for the state,”62 only in part defined women’s function in the new sexual division of labor. A complementary aspect was the definition of women as non-workers, a process much studied by feminist historians, which by the enf of the 17th century was nearly completed.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 92