The triumph of Andy Murray. The taunting of Marion Bartoli
By Tanya Gold
John Inverdale's moronic musing on the 'looks' of the women's champion was, oddly, not matched by any word on the Scotsman's nose
'That sexism exists in sport, where women thrive because they are strong, is only more offensive.' (llustration: Matthew Richardson)
One is a tale of mere triumph; the other of triumph cut with scorn. Yesterday Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon and climbed into the players' box to celebrate; Saturday on Centre Court was less edifying. As the French tennis player Marion Bartoli climbed through the crowds to hug her father after winning the women's singles title, Radio 5 Live presenter John Inverdale thought it an adequate moment to comment on her appearance – what else? "Do you think," he mused moronically, "Bartoli's dad told her when she was little, 'You're never going to be a looker, you'll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight'?"
He even had the malice to place the words in her father's mouth; poor Bartoli, not even pretty enough for Daddy.
Even at this moment of exquisite delight, was Daddy ashamed of Marion's inability to incite lust in Inverdale? I did not know professional women's tennis was simply a vehicle for the expression of masculine desire in high temperatures; or that Inverdale had a right to feel aggrieved by Bartoli's appearance – which is, by the way, perfectly acceptable. (She is, if it matters, and it doesn't, pretty; but who is pretty enough in these days of dull homogenous beauty?) I do not wish that Murray had received the same grotesque treatment; but that he did not is remarkable.
Inverdale had said earlier that any mocking of Bartoli's looks was done "in a nice way" and that "she is an incredible role model for people who aren't born with all the attributes of natural athletes". I would have thought that winning Wimbledon displayed all the attributes of a natural athlete, except Inverdale did not personally desire Bartoli; in that, she failed. Whether Murray is sexually desirable to individual presenters is not a matter for the BBC, and, in this case, they know it.
Bartoli understood him perfectly. I do not know if she is aware of the comments made about her on Twitter as she played – calling her, among other things, too ugly to rape. (In fact, the blogger made a factual error here, which compounded his psychopathy. No woman is too ugly to rape, because rape has nothing to do with desire.) But she was told of Inverdale's comment and said: "I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact."
Ah yes, blonde. Blonde is considered an attribute in a female tennis player, if you don't care who wins, and I am not sure Inverdale does; it's only women's tennis, after all, and if the game is so uninteresting, being played by women, why not discuss the more important matters? Who can forget the fantastically blonde Anna Kournikova, who failed to win the Wimbledon singles title, but looked so lovely losing that front pages of newspapers clung to her, as if she was painted with honey?
What to say? Some will call it a throwaway remark – if the calls for Inverdale's replacement with a broadcaster whose eyes do not immediately rise to the sportswoman's hair colour, or fall to the sportswoman's crotch, grow louder, he will be handed the victim mantle. He will be posited as the scapegoat of a radical feminist plot to obliterate lust, joy, blonde hair, pigtails (why not?), miniskirts, lollipops, a beguiling sheen of sweat (nothing terrifying or mannish) and so on. So many young female tennis players look like dolls, the confusion of woman with (sex) doll is almost natural for the broadcaster swimming in the miasma of his own idiocy.
Except it is a remark, throwaway or planned, that exposes the wider culture. Sexism and the explicit discussion of the female body is still acceptable; that it exists in the sporting arena, where women thrive because they are strong, is only more offensive. Women are judged on their appearance everywhere, the better to ignore their skills; in a male, ugliness is always more forgivable.
It is well established that men's sport is more exposed, more prestigious and more lucrative, although Wimbledon has had parity of prize money since 2007; in the 18 months to August 2011, women's sport comprised only 0.5% of sponsorship and 5% of TV coverage. The cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who won Britain's first medal in the 2012 Olympics, called the sexism she faced "overwhelming. It's the obvious things – the salary, media coverage …"
2012 was a bitter triumph for sportswomen – they were patronised, objectified and insulted. Boris Johnson yearned for more sport in schools, mostly because it would produce "semi-naked women … glistening like wet otters". The heptathlete Jessica Ennis was called fat by an un-named UK Athletics executive; Frankie Boyle compared the swimmer Rebecca Adlington to a dolphin. This is a culture where Holger Osieck, the manager of the Australian football team, can say "women should shut up in public"; where the former boxing world champion Amir Khan can warn female boxers, "When you get hit it can be very painful"; and where the American network NBC can air a slow-motion montage of female athletes wobbling, like Olympians who have wandered, obliviously, into porn.
It is a foul pottage of denigration, inadequacy, spite and lust; consider this, and Inverdale's remark is barely strange. He should have been fired; instead he waffled excitably yesterday, commenting on Murray's win. He did not, of course, disclose whether the exact size, or shape, or site of Andy Murray's nose is a grievous personal disappointment to him, to Murray's mother, to the world.
After his comments about Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, John Inverdale should be kept off the BBC airwaves today
Isn't it time the BBC woke up to the sexism at the heart of its sports broadcasting?
By Jane Merrick
Inverdale says he was interested in the reporting of sport from an early age (BBC)
Marion Bartoli had just defeated favourite Sabine Lisicki in a straight-sets victory for the greatest prize in tennis. Thanking her father, watching from the player's box, an emotional Bartoli said she had been waiting for this moment since she was a six years old. The moment was hers. She should have won blanket praise and adulation.
But the Frenchwoman's childhood dream was spoilt by John Inverdale, one of the BBC's leading sports presenters and a face of Wimbledon. It emerged that, in the build-up to the match, he asked on Radio 5 Live: "Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little 'You're never going to be a looker? You'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight'."
No matter that he later tried to backtrack by saying, "We poked fun, in a nice way, about how she looks ... but Marion Bartoli is an incredible role model." (Notice there was no outright apology). His comments betrayed an attitude that is always there, in the background, usually unspoken. A woman can rise to the top of her profession in politics, business, entertainment, or sport. She can defeat the greatest tennis players in the world, overcome injury and setback, to win Wimbledon. But ultimately, she will be judged on her looks.
If she can't meet the standards of "a Sharapova" - slim, long-legged, blonde - she's not good enough.
I wouldn't even say it's a dinosaur opinion, because there were plenty of (mainly male) users on Twitter younger than 55-year-old Inverdale saying much worse things - one professional footballer tweeted that he wanted to "smash the wee fat cow", another said she was "ugly", and there were dozens of sexual slurs.
German finalist Lisicki didn't escape the sexism. The same pro footballer tweeted that he wanted her to take her pants off. This might be the run of the mill for teenage boys, only now, through Twitter, is it broadcast to the world.
Inverdale is not a juvenile anonymous tweeter, though. He is a highly-paid leading "talent", to use the BBC phrase. He may have thought this was what listeners to 5 Live - also known as "Radio Bloke" - wanted to hear. But I can tell him that we - female and male listeners - don't want to hear it.
"Radio Bloke" should be wary of turning into "Radio Bigot". It's not long since its item on "how to turn Clare Balding straight". The BBC apologised for that, and it apologised last on Saturday for Inverdale's "insensitive" comments.
Bartoli herself responded brilliantly, saying: "I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes."
I think the BBC still have to make amends, to send a powerful message to us listeners. Inverdale should not broadcast today on the Wimbledon men's final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. For the thousands of little girls out there who dream of winning Wimbledon, they should give the job to Balding instead.
Available Formats and Book Details Hardcover Henry Holt and Co. Metropolitan Books April 2013 Hardcover ISBN: 9780805095180 ISBN10: 0805095187 5 1/8 x 7 13/16 inches, 240 pages $25.00
From the bestselling author of The Vagina Monologues and one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Changed the World, a visionary memoir of separation and connectionto the body, the self, and the world
Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female bodyhow to talk about it, how to protect and value it. Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own bodya disconnection brought on by her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness. “Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth,” she writes, “I could not feel or know their pain.”
But Ensler is shocked out of her distance. While working in the Congo, she is shattered to encounter the horrific rape and violence inflicted on the women there. Soon after, she is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and through months of harrowing treatment, she is forced to become first and foremost a bodypricked, punctured, cut, scanned. It is then that all distance is erased. As she connects her own illness to the devastation of the earth, her life force to the resilience of humanity, she is finally, fullyand gratefullyjoined to the body of the world.
Unflinching, generous, and inspiring, Ensler calls on us all to embody our connection to and responsibility for the world.
A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life.
I have been exiled from my body. I was ejected at a very young age and I got lost. I did not have a baby. I have been afraid of trees. I have felt the Earth as my enemy. I did not live in the forests. I lived in the concrete city where I could not see the sky or sunset or stars. I moved at the pace of engines and it was faster than my own breath. I became a stranger to myself and to the rhythms of the Earth. I aggrandized my alien identity and wore black and felt superior. My body was a burden. I saw it as something that unfortunately had to be maintained. I had little patience for its needs.
The absence of a body against my body made attachment abstract. Made my own body dislocated and unable to rest or settle. A body pressed against your body is the beginning of nest. I grew up not in a home but in a kind of free fall of anger and violence that led to a life of constant movement, of leaving and falling. It is why at one point I couldn’t stop drinking and fucking. Why I needed people to touch me all the time. It had less to do with sex than location. When you press against me, or put yourself inside me. When you hold me down or lift me up, when you lie on top of me and I can feel your weight, I exist. I am here.
For years I have been trying to find my way back to my body, and to the Earth. I guess you could say it has been a preoccupation. Although I have felt pleasure in both the Earth and my body, it has been more as a visitor than as an inhabitant. I have tried various routes to get back. Promiscuity, anorexia, performance art. I have spent time by the Adriatic and in the green Vermont mountains, but always I have felt estranged, just as I was estranged from my own mother. I was in awe of her beauty but could not find my way in. Her breasts were not the breasts that fed me. Everyone admired my mother in her tight tops and leggings, with her hair in a French twist, as she drove through our small rich town in her yellow convertible. One gawked at my mother. One desired my mother. And so I gawked and desired the Earth and my mother, and I despised my own body, which was not her body. My body that I had been forced to evacuate when my father invaded and then violated me. And so I lived as a breathless, rapacious machine programmed for striving and accomplishment. Because I did not, could not, inhabit my body or the Earth, I could not feel or know their pain. I could not intuit their unwillingness or refusals, and I most certainly never knew the boundaries of enough. I was driven. I called it working hard, being busy, on top of it, making things happen. But in fact, I could not stop. Stopping would mean experiencing separation, loss, tumbling into a suicidal dislocation.
As I had no reference point for my body, I began to ask other women about their bodies, in particular their vaginas (as I sensed vaginas were important). This led me to writing The Vagina Monologues, which then led me to talking incessantly and obsessively about vaginas. I did this in front of many strangers. As a result of me talking so much about vaginas, women started telling me stories about their bodies. I crisscrossed the Earth in planes, trains, and jeeps. I was hungry for the stories of other women who had experienced violence and suffering. These women and girls had also become exiled from their bodies and they, too, were desperate for a way home. I went to over sixty countries. I heard about women being molested in their beds, flogged in their burqas, acid-burned in their kitchens, left for dead in parking lots. I went to Jalalabad, Sarajevo, Alabama, Port-au-Prince, Peshawar, Pristina. I spent time in refugee camps, in burned-out buildings and backyards, in dark rooms where women whispered their stories by flashlight. Women showed me their ankle lashes and melted faces, the scars on their bodies from knives and burning cigarettes. Some could no longer walk or have sex. Some became quiet and disappeared. Others became driven machines like me.
Then I went somewhere else. I went outside what I thought I knew. I went to the Congo and I heard stories that shattered all the other stories. In 2007 I landed in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I heard stories that got inside my body. I heard about a little girl who couldn’t stop peeing on herself because huge men had shoved themselves inside her. I heard about an eighty-year-old woman whose legs were broken and torn out of their sockets when the soldiers pulled them over her head and raped her. There were thousands of these stories. The stories saturated my cells and nerves. I stopped sleeping. All the stories began to bleed together. The raping of the Earth. The pillaging of minerals. The destruction of vaginas. They were not separate from each other or from me.
In the Congo there has been a war raging for almost thirteen years. Nearly eight million people have died and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped and tortured. It is an economic war fought over minerals that belong to the Congolese but are pillaged by the world. There are local and foreign militias from Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. They enter villages and they murder. They rape wives in front of their husbands. They force the husbands and sons to rape their daughters and sisters. They shame and destroy families and take over the villages and the mines. The minerals are abundant in the Congotin, copper, gold, and coltain, which are used in our iPhones and PlayStations and computers.
Of course by the time I got to the Congo, I had witnessed the epidemic of violence toward women that scoured the planet, but the Congo was where I witnessed the end of the body, the end of humanity, the end of the world. Femicide, the systematic rape, torture, and destruction of women and girls, was being employed as a military/corporate tactic to secure minerals. Thousands and thousands of women were not only exiled from their bodies, but their bodies and the functions and futures of their bodies were rendered obsolete: wombs and vaginas permanently destroyed.
The Congo and the individual horror stories of her women consumed me. Here I began to see the futurea monstrous vision of global disassociation and greed that not only allowed but encouraged the eradication of the female species in pursuit of minerals and wealth. But I found something else here as well. Inside these stories of unspeakable violence, inside the women of the Congo, was a determination and a life force I had never witnessed. There was grace and gratitude, fierceness and readiness. Inside this world of atrocities and horror was a red-hot energy on the verge of being born. The women had hunger and dreams, demands and a vision. They conceived of a place, a concept, called City of Joy. It would be their sanctuary. It would be a place of safety, of healing, of gathering strength, of coming together, of releasing their pain and trauma. A place where they would declare their joy and power. A place where they would rise as leaders. I, along with my team and the board at V-Day, were committed to finding the resources and energy to help them build it. We would work with UNICEF to do the construction and then, after V-Day, would find the way to support it. The process of building was arduous and seemingly impossibledelayed by rain and lack of roads and electricity, corrupt building managers, poor oversight by UNICEF, and rising prices. We were scheduled to open in May, but on March 17, 2010, they discovered a huge tumor in my uterus.
Cancer threw me through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis. The Congo threw me deep into the crisis of the world, and these two experiences merged as I faced the disease and what I felt was the beginning of the end.
Suddenly the cancer in me was the cancer that is everywhere. The cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed, the cancer that gets inside people who live downstream from chemical plants, the cancer inside the lungs of coal miners. The cancer from the stress of not achieving enough, the cancer of buried trauma. The cancer that lives in caged chickens and oil-drenched fish. The cancer of carelessness. The cancer in fast-paced must-make-it-have-it-smoke-it-own-it formaldehydeasbestospesticideshairdyecigarettescellphonesnow. My body was no longer an abstraction. There were men cutting into it and tubes coming out of it and bags and catheters draining it and needles bruising it and making it bleed. I was blood and poop and pee and puss. I was burning and nauseous and feverish and weak. I was of the body, in the body. I was body. Body. Body. Body. Cancer, a disease of pathologically dividing cells, burned away the walls of my separateness and landed me in my body, just as the Congo landed me in the body of the world.
Cancer was an alchemist, an agent of change. Don’t get me wrong. I am no apologist for cancer. I am fully aware of the agony of this disease. I appreciate every medical advance that has enabled me to be alive right now. I wake up every day and run my hand over my torso-length scar and am in awe that I had doctors and surgeons who were able to remove the disease from my body. I am humbled that I got to live where there are CAT scan machines and chemotherapy and that I had the money to pay for them through insurance. Absolutely none of these things are givens for most people in the world. I am particularly grateful for the women of the Congo whose strength, beauty, and joy in the midst of horror insisted I rise above my self-pity. I know their ongoing prayers also saved my life. I am in awe that it happens to be 2012, not twenty years ago even. I am gratefully aware that at just about any other point in history I would have been dead at fifty-seven.
In his book, The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee says, “Science is often described as an interactive and cumulative process, a puzzle solved piece by piece with each piece contributing a few hazy pixels to a much larger picture.” Science, then, is not unlike a CAT scan, a three-dimensional magnetic electronic beam that captures images as it rotates around the body. Each image is separate but somehow the machine makes them seem like one.
This book is like a CAT scana roving examinationcapturing images, experiences, ideas, and memories, all of which began in my body. Scanning is somehow the only way I could tell this story. Being cut open, catheterized, chemofied, drugged, pricked, punctured, probed, and ported made a traditional narrative impossible. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, time changes. It both speeds up insanely and stops altogether. It all happened fast. Seven months. Impressions. Scenes. Light beams. Scans.
"A masterpiece. Ensler has accomplished the impossible: weaving together huge, bold, world-changing ideas with beautiful writing, amazing metaphors, and original structure. Truly one of the most courageous and original works of our time." - Naomi Klein
"This book is a ride, a river ride through rapids and depths and shallows, dried-up eddies, whirlpools and torrents, crystal-clear pools and the vast ocean at the end. What a thrill and what a spear through the heart. I am astounded by the honesty and clarity of each word." - Elizabeth Lesser
"Ensler has written a profound and vulnerable book, full of tenderness and strength. I was amazed by the clarity of her vision and the power of her message about the body and self. This book isn’t meant only for patients; it is meant for anyone whose life has intersected with illnessin short, for all of us." - Siddhartha Mukherjee
"I dare anyone to read In the Body of the World without crying, without crying out, without getting up and rising to this beautiful broken world with awe and gratitude. There is no pity here, only the raw force of courage in the face of fear and violence, and the healing grace of honesty." - Terry Tempest Williams
"Eve Ensler incarnates the pain of the women in the Congo, victims of rape and torture; and of the Earth, victim of so much desecration. Her heart and body are broken, her anger is like fire, and the passion of her writing rattles your soul. This is true literature and true " - Isabel Allende
Eve Ensler’s brave memoir is a wake-up call and a testimony to her fighting spirit.
Eve Ensler’s visit to India happened to coincide with the brutal rape in Delhi, a time when the nation stood poised at a solemn moment resolved in unprecedented solidarity to bring about speedy, effective and strong legislation along with a change in the perverse mindset. The One Billion Rising events initiated by Ensler around the world against gender violence and sexual orientation coincided with this national outcry. It was a moment of reflection, introspection and accountability on the pervasive culture of male-dominated power structures, on the pathology of apathy and the callous disregard of human rights.
Ensler’s presence in India during the days after the rape lent a new impetus and an awareness of our social malaise. The success of her play The Vagina Monologues inspired this galvanising feminist activist to create a global movement called V-Day, which stands for economic security and self defence as well as education for deprived women in countries such as Congo, Kenya, Iran and Afghanistan. After the V-Day events grossed more than a $100 million, Ensler utilised the funds to set up revolutionary women’s organisations around the world, particularly building the City of Joy in Congo to fight gender violence, discrimination, and genital mutilation. She has been of immense inspiration to Congolese women through her literacy movements, which have enabled them to express themselves through their literature and other art forms.
As is clear from her unflinching activism and her writings, Ensler has been passionately involved with the suffering of women and especially the brutality of violence in Congo, which becomes a heartrending narration in her engaging memoir In the Body of the World (Random House, India) where she remembers the nightmare of being raped by her father from the age of five to her early teens. Other than her harrowing childhood experience, she battled a long, painful treatment of uterine, colon and liver cancers which finally led her to connect with her body through all its agonising suffering and mutilation, ‘pricked, punctured, cut, scanned’. Her bodily pain and illness become the objective correlative of the devastation and ravaging of the world. This connection underlines her sense of responsibility towards the overall health and well-being of the world. The private and the public coalesce in her scheme of being, and from a state of ‘exile’ she finally returns to her body and, in turn, the body of the world: “It was like that moment when the Gulf oil spill happened, when I had that horrible infection in my gut and I had days where I just couldn’t separate the drilling in the Gulf and the explosion, from the horrible infection and tubes in my gut. I became porous, no separation.”
Having missed out on the love and care of her mother, Ensler writes: ‘A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother... The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life.’ Her body became a burden for her until she began her struggle to discover it through drinking and rampant sex that gave her the experience of being held by another ‘body’: ‘Why I needed people to touch me all the time. It had less to do with sex than location.’ Living in a state of exile and estrangement, her life would become a ‘machine’ trying to revisit her body. She began to question other women across the world about their sexuality, visiting more than 60 countries: “I went to Jalalabad, Sarajevo, Alabama, Port-au-Prince, Peshawar, Pristina. I spent time in refugee camps, in burned-out buildings and backyards, in dark rooms where women whispered their stories by flashlight.” This experience of women talking about their vaginas and their miserable sexual lives forms the text of The Vagina Monologues.
But then came her visit to Congo where she finally awoke to the horror of violence and pain witnessing two events: a young girl incessantly incontinent because she had been repeatedly raped and an old woman whose legs were broken at the hip when soldiers ravaged her. Horrified, Ensler writes: “All the stories began to bleed together. The raping of the Earth. The pillaging of minerals. The destruction of vaginas. They were not separate from each other or from me… I witnessed the end of the body, the end of humanity, the end of the world. Femicide, the systematic rape, torture, and destruction of women and girls, was being employed as a military/corporate tactic to secure minerals. Thousands and thousands of women were not only exiled from their bodies, but their bodies and the functions and futures of their bodies were rendered obsolete: wombs and vaginas permanently destroyed.”
Through the ages, men have used violence on the body of the earth and of the woman to inflict maximum damage to the environment and woman’s selfhood, feeling empowered when they hurt her at her most personal space. It’s a man’s prerogative to violate her so completely that she’s destroyed from the inside out.
Ensler had finally arrived where the experience of the world mimicked the pain of her diseased body ridden with cancer: “The cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed, the cancer that gets inside people who live downstream from chemical plants, the cancer inside the lungs of coal miners. The cancer from the stress of not achieving enough, the cancer of buried trauma. The cancer that lives in caged chickens and oil-drenched fish... Cancer, a disease of pathologically dividing cells, burned away the walls of my separateness and landed me in my body, just as Congo landed me in the body of the world.” This was her reconnection with her body and the body of the world. Chemo became for her a ‘shamanic experience which could burn away things inside of me that needed to go’ leading to her transformation.
This deeply personal and evocative account lends passionate impetus to the vibrant movement for women’s rights, and hopefully, will result in a worldwide revolution of making patriarchy history and ecological consciousness the single most vital need of the hour. Her story, both raw and ugly, takes civic activism to new levels in a very alert and consciously written memoir that draws attention to the biggest irony and paradox in our society where we worship god in the form of a woman, we climb mountains and stand in queues waiting for her sacred darshan, and then we come home and spurn the woman in our personal lives, demean her, dishonour her as a lesser human being and think of ways of despoiling our Himalayas with new strategies of neo-liberalism and free market economy, a parallel reflected in the pursuit of minerals and wealth in Ensler’s candid view of Congo.
Book Review: ‘In the Body of the World’ by Eve Ensler By Judy Bolton-Fasman/| Globe Correspondent
Eve Ensler chronicles her fight with cancer and the battles the women of the Congo fight against rape.(Brigitte Lacombe)
Eve Ensler’s extraordinary new memoir begins with the body her body a place from which she was exiled and, “forced to evacuate when my father invaded then violated me.” As a consequence, she has focused her life’s work on reclaiming her body and helping others do the same. Her quest began by asking women about their vaginas. The urgency to “talk incessantly and obsessively” about vaginas stemmed from Ensler’s estrangement from her own body, and the stories Ensler heard lay the groundwork for her much acclaimed play “The Vagina Monologues.”
Over the years, Ensler has bridged the distance between herself and her body by traveling to over 60 countries to seek out stories of women who have experienced trauma. “These women and girls had also become exiled from their bodies and they, too, were desperate for a way home.”
The way home for Ensler took a devastating turn when she was diagnosed with stage IV uterine cancer in 2010 at the age of 57. But it was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007 where Ensler witnessed “the end of the body, the end of humanity, the end of the world,” and to which she returned to understand that her internal cancer and the world’s external violence were symbiotic.
“In the Body of the World” is not an easy book to read. There are horrific descriptions of the rape, torture, and mutilation of women and girls. But it is a necessary book to read for its fierce, passionate commitment to making the world a safe place for women. In the Congo and then later in the hospital, Ensler considers the ways in which a life is ruptured by war crimes as well as disease. “Cancer,” she writes, “threw me through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis.” And during her crisis she became one with the ravaged women of the Congo. The cancer that had blindsided Ensler leads her to explore the uncomfortable politics of advantage when she returns to the Congo. “My naked head suddenly feels like insane privilege all the attention and care I have received. I am embarrassed by how much money (insurance), equipment, healers, surgeons, nurses, and medications have gone into saving me.”
Living in cities, amid concrete for most of her adult life, Ensler found that the tree outside her hospital window integrated her into the natural world. Too weak to do anything but stare out the window she writes, “on Tuesday I meditated on the bark; on Friday, the green leaves shimmering in late afternoon light. For hours I lost myself, my body, my being dissolving into a tree.” A tree also took root inside of Ensler in the form of taxol, a chemotherapy drug derived from tree bark.
Cancer initially divided Ensler from her body and the world until it united her with suffering across the globe. The scar that runs down her torso is the earthquake in Haiti. The abscess in her stomach with 16 ounces of pus is the contaminated Gulf of Mexico. In one of the many poignant scenes in the memoir, a friend of Ensler performs a healing ceremony in which she baptizes Ensler with flowers, honey, and water from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the gulf where Ensler swam as a young woman. It’s the gulf where her dying parents gazed at the horizon. It’s the gulf of illness and recklessness and greed. It’s the gulf that drips down Ensler’s bald head.
Ensler’s closest women friends surround her throughout her cancer ordeal. This group is a microcosm of the City of Joy in the Congo, a concept that “grew out of the women of the Congo and was shaped by their desire and hunger. It was literally built with their hands. It is a sanctuary for healing: it is a revolutionary center.”
Ensler begins her intense, riveting memoir with the body, so it’s fitting to end with the body. Today she has “a second life,’’ and no longer needs a colostomy bag. Although cancer brought her to “dangling’’ on the edge of death, it was there, she writes, that “I found my second wind. The second wind arrives when we think we are finished, when we can’t take another step, breathe another breath. And then we do.” In celebration and camaraderie she dances with the women of the Congo in the City of Joy, finally reunited with her body.
Bill Gates and GMO Cronies Plan $30 Million Seed Vault While Poisoning the Planet
By Christina Sarich, Staff Writer
Bill Gates has been listed by Forbes as one of the world’s richest men, so when he makes plans to do something, people take note. Bill’s Microsoft money allowed him to build the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a huge $34.6 billion endowment and the ability to spend more than $1.5 billion annually on ‘charitable’ expenditures. This is partially what allows them to maintain a tax-free, charitable organization status. Warren Buffet has gifted him shares of Berkshire Hathaway to the tune of $30 billion. The Gates have more money than entire nations. Their budget is bigger than the entire yearly budget for the World Health Organization overseen by the United Nations.
Some of that ‘hard earned’ money is going into a new project, and it isn’t to build schools in Africa, to reduce poverty in urban cities in the US, or to build new infrastructure like solar powered city lights. Bill Gates is spending $30 million in a remote place called Svalbard, a barren rock near the Barents Sea about 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole to build a seed bank.
Along with him, pals from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Monsanto corporation, the Government of Norway, the Syngenta Foundation, and others are building a ‘doomsday seed bank’ officially named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard island group.
This explanation of their modus operandi comes from their website directly:
Ensuring that the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is preserved for future generations is an important contribution toward the reduction of hunger and poverty in developing countries. This is where the greatest plant diversity originates and where the need for food security and the further development of agriculture is most urgent.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is established in the permafrost in the mountains of Svalbard, is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the globe. Many of these collections are in developing countries. If seeds are lost, e.g. as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.
The loss of biological diversity is currently one of the greatest challenges facing the environment and sustainable development. The diversity of food crops is under constant pressure. The consequence could be an irreversible loss of the opportunity to grow crops adapted to climate change, new plant diseases and the needs of an expanding population.
Apparently, the seed bank is almost ready to conduct ‘business.’ The vault will have dual-blast proof doors, motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls reinforced with meter-thick concrete. Inside will be stored more than 3 million varieties of seed, and you can bet there won’t be a single GMO seed among them. The Norwegian government states the seeds are being stored, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future.’
The question is, what global catastrophic occurrence do the investors in this seed vault anticipate? If you follow the money trail it isn’t hard to figure out. Guess who is participating in this ‘noble’ project aside from the Norwegians:
· The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation · US Agirbusiness giant, Dupont/Pioneer (owner of GMO seed patents) · The Syngenta Foundation – Swiss maker of GMO seed and pesticides. · The Rockefeller Foundation – created the ‘gene revolution with over $100 million invested in GM science since the 1970’s · CGIAR, a global network of Rockefeller Foundation supporters
If you think the recent scandals of the Wall Street Banks, Libel, and the Federal Reserve were outlandish, imagine global bio-warfare on the world population. That is what this is leading to. It will make the Russian bread lines flanked by the KGB of times past look like a play date.
The only way to stop these imbeciles with extra deep pockets is to start saving our own seed. If enough of us do this, it won’t matter how many millions of seeds they store in their vault. Plant organic gardens and share your seed with neighbors. Plant heirloom varieties, and as many of them as you have space for. Or, better yet, become completely non-dependant on the food supply. Turn your lawn into a garden. Start your own aquaponics system, and throw out the senators and congressmen who vote to support GMO in any way.
City governments may try to fine you $500 a day for planting your own food, like they did in Orlando, but if enough of us do it, and home owner’s associations begin to understand the larger concern, the power-hungry loonies are less likely to be able to interfere with a sweeping grass-roots efforts to take the power back – namely through growing our own non GMO food.
About the Author Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.
- Myriam Mayet, The New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs?, May, 2007, African Centre for Biosafety,www.biosafetyafrica.net. - ETC Group, Green Revolution 2.0 for Africa?, Communique Issue #94, March/April 2007. - Global Crop Diversity Trust website, in http://www.croptrust.org/main/donors.php. - Engdahl, op. cit., pp.227-236. - Anders Legarth Smith, Denmark Bans Glyphosates, the Active Ingredient in Roundup, Politiken, September 15, 2003, in organic.com.au/news/2003.09.15. - Tanya L. Green, The Negro Project: Margaret Sanger’s Genocide Project for Black American’s, in www.blackgenocide.org/negro.html. - Engdahl, op. cit., pp. 273-275; J.A. Miller, Are New Vaccines Laced With Birth-Control Drugs?, HLI Reports, Human Life International, Gaithersburg, Maryland; June/July 1995, Volume 13, Number 8. - Sherwood Ross, Bush Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons for Offensive Use,’ December 20, 2006, in www.truthout.org.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.
On June 14, the Japanese Health Ministry issued a nationwide notice that the so-called ‘cervical cancer’ vaccinations should not be recommended for girls aged 12 to 16. This precautionary move followed reports of 1,968 cases of possible adverse effects including body pain, numbness and paralysis.
The Japanese government’s subsidy program of either Gardasil or Cervarix, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines, which are aimed at reducing cervical cancer, began in 2010 with an estimated 3.28 million girls having now received the vaccinations. A special task force examined 43 cases of widespread pain after HPV vaccinations and concluded that given the timing of symptoms they could not rule out a connection between the adverse events and HPV vaccines. Japanese girls can still receive the vaccination for free, but medical institutions must inform them that the Ministry does not recommend it.
In April 2007, Australia introduced the Gardasil vaccine to Australian girls aged 12-16 years. This was immediately followed by young women becoming ill with serious side effects. To date, Australia’s database of adverse event notifications (DAEN) has recorded over 1991 suspected side effects following the cervical cancer vaccination. In the U.S. the total number of adverse effects stands now at 30,000, with 138 deaths and 5977 girls and young women whose health never recovered. Due to the lack of mandatory reporting, only between 1 per cent and 10 per cent of adverse reactions are ever recorded, so unfortunately we are really looking at much higher figures.
The list of adverse effects following Gardasil is extensive with many of the side effects serious and long-lasting. They include seizures, anaphylaxis, paralysis, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), facial palsy, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, chronic fatigue syndrome, pancreatitis, short-term memory loss, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
In 2008 Krystal collapsed at her home in Wollongong and was taken to the emergency department where she was told that this passing out was nothing unusual for teenage girls. However, the 17 year-old teenager continued to collapse on a daily basis and when subsequent cardiac and neurological investigations failed to diagnose the problem, doctors decided that it might be a post viral disorder. When Krystal mentioned in passing that she had the three-shot Gardasil vaccination and the fact that this all started during the vaccinations, the doctor agreed that it was very likely Krystal had some sort of reaction to the vaccine. Her fainting, migraines, nausea, and poor circulation, irregular heart beat and general physical weakness continued over several months. Krystal had to leave school and her mother was forced to quit her job to care for her daughter who continued to regularly collapse. On one such occasion her mother had not seen or heard her collapse and by the time she found her, Krystal was unresponsive (for around 10 minutes) and had a very weak pulse.
Phillippa was a fit, healthy 26 year-old woman but shortly after her second Gardasil injection she experienced her first bout of pancreatitis. Around the same time, her mother heard an ABC radio report that the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) was investigating three cases of young girls experiencing pancreatitis after having their Gardasil injections. Phillippa checked the dates of her injections against the onset of her stomach pains and found that her second jab was nine days before the first attack and the third dose of Gardasil, 3 days before her third attack. She had never suffered from pancreatitis before and believes the link with the Gardasil injections is not a coincidence.
Gardasil is a vaccine that is said to protect against four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two of which are believed to be associated with the development of cervical cancer. There is no evidence of a causal link between HPV and cervical cancer. There may be an association, but the causal link has not been established. HPV is a very common virus, so much so that most of us have it at some time during our lives, but it usually clears the body in 8-14 months and does not go on to develop cancerous lesions. Before girls receive Gardasil, they are not tested to see if in fact they are infected with HPV – and with which strains (there are over 100 of them).
In Australia, around 700 women are diagnosed every year with cervical cancer and more than 200 women die of the disease annually. However, it is important to understand that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and curable of all cancers. Furthermore the incidence, prevalence and mortality rate from cervical cancer has fallen markedly in Australia since 1991 due to the great success of the National Cervical Screening Program. Most of the 200 women who still die are over 50 years of age and at the time of diagnosis have never had a Pap smear. Women who have received Gardasil still require two-yearly Pap screening starting at age 18 because the vaccine only provides protection against 4 strains of the HPV virus (16 and 18 which are thought to be associated with cervical cancer, and 6 and 11 which are associated with genital warts).
Whether the HPV vaccine will prevent even one case of cancer remains to be seen. Cervical cancer develops slowly so it will be 10 to 15 years or more before any real drop in cervical cancer infections will be visible. And even then we won’t know for sure that it is due to the HPV vaccine.
In other words the Gardasil vaccine is still unproven, but it does have the potential to injure, maim, or even kill the children and young adults who receive it. Unlike Japan, Australian health authorities have not taken any action to ensure the safety of its young girls. Starting in 2013, 12 and 13 year-old boys are also part of the subsidized vaccination program.
It’s not that the government doesn’t know about these problems: we have been writing about girls falling very ill after the three Gardasil injections ever since the vaccinations started in April 2007. Both the former and current Health Ministers, Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek, have received detailed information from injured girls and their parents. Malcolm Turnbull knows about it too.There is a National HPV Vaccination Registry that was set up for Gardasil (even if belated only in 2008, more than 11 months after the first vaccinations). Every girl and woman who received the vaccine should now be contacted, asked about their health and offered specialists’ services if necessary.
And in the meantime, any girl or boy receiving HPV vaccination at their school should be warned of potential serious adverse effects. It is time for the health minister to act as responsibly as her Japanese counterpart! ~~~~~~~~~~ About the Authors Dr Renate Klein, a biologist and social scientist, is a long-term health researcher and has written extensively on reproductive technologies and feminist theory. She is a former associate professor in Women's Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, a founder of FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering) and an Advisory Board Member of Hands Off Our Ovaries.
Helen Lobato is an independent health researcher and radio broadcaster with community radio 3cr and at present is a co-producer of Food fight, a weekly program around food security issues. Helen has a background in critical care nursing.
In December 2012 a young medical student was brutally gang-raped on board a bus in Delhi. Horrified by the attack, 28-year-old British Asian Radha Bedi travels to India to uncover the reality of life for young women there. (Scroll down to read interview with documentary presenter Radha Bedi) Broadcast on BBC Three, 2:00AM Fri, 28 Jun 2013 Available until3:44AM Mon, 8 Jul 2013 First broadcast BBC Three, 9:00PM Thu, 27 Jun 2013 Duration: 60 minutes Credits: When a young woman was brutally gang-raped on a bus in Delhi last December, it prompted a global outcry and weeks of protests in India. Here, one of BBC3’s cub reporters heads to Delhi to investigate. “Who will marry me?” sobs a young woman who was attacked outside a nightclub; another must breathe through a straw after an acid attack left her face horrifically scarred. Most disturbing of all is the lawyer who believes they had it coming.
About this programme
Radha Bedi travels to India to discover what life is really like for women in the country in light of the recent violence. After facing sexual harassment herself on previous visits, she hears from girls who have also suffered abuse, including a 15-year-old who was the victim of an acid attack. She travels to a village in the state of Punjab where she learns about gender discrimination and visits a middle-class doctor whose in-laws tried to force her to have an abortion, before making the decision to report her past mistreatment to the police.
SabrinaSidhu Interview with Radha Bedi: 'India: A Dangerous Place to be a Woman'
Radha with Neena, the eldest at an orphanage for abandoned girls.
Radha meets Moushimi who was savagely moleststed and stripped in public in the eastern state of Assam. She spoke to Radha of that frightful night after attending a friend's birthday party.
Radha with acid attack survivor, Tuba. "She is the bravest girl i have ever met," says Radha of Tuba.
Radha on her way from New Delhi to Punjab
NEW DELHI, June 28 2013 Radha Bedi is a 28-year-old British Indian who travelled to India in the aftermath of the gruesome gang rape of a 23-year-old medial student in New Delhi in December 2012.
Radha spent time with women and men affected by violence across the country,resulting in an hour-long BBC documentary through which she tries to understand the situation faced by Indian women.
The documentary,”India: A Dangerous Place To be A Woman,” aired last night on BBC Three at 9 p.m. International airing times are to be announced. Radha Bedi introduces us to the women, featured above, that she met.
Q. What is your documentary about?
Bedi: “India: A Dangerous Place To be A Woman,” is a BBC documentary about my journey as a young British Indian woman, returning to my motherland, exploring the reality of life for the women and girls in India.
Q. What made you think of this documentary idea?
Bedi: As a journalist working in television news and documentary, I maintain a key interest in untold stories from South Asia and in particular my ancestral homeland, India. The initial idea came about after a previous visit to India last year. And of course, in December the world came to know of the unprecedented Delhi Gangrape case. I was shocked.
I tracked the story like a hawk, the more I read and watched, the more I became aware that for women in India, it’s the unwelcome reality every time they step out of their front door. I knew this was a strong story and coupled with the high profiled Delhi rape case - I knew I had to tell it.
Q. Tell me a little about your experiences while shooting for this documentary?
Bedi: During the making of this documentary, I met many young girls and women who had been a victim of all kinds of horrible sexual harassment. I met a 15-year-old girl from the eastern India state of Bihar, who had acid thrown over her entire body for simply not wanting to talk to a boy in her class; to a young female from Guwahiti in the north eastern state of Assam, who had been severely molested and stripped of her clothes after leaving a birthday party at around eight nine o’clock in the evening, all the while having her ordeal filmed by a local journalist.
Even my own cousin from a small village in Punjab in northern India who I hadn’t seen for a decade, told me of her own personal story concerning her first born child. When her daughter Liza was born, her father in-law rejected her granddaughter and was upset, simply for the fact that Liza was born a girl and not a boy and it took a while for him to come to terms and accept her.
I then visited a girls orphanage, also in Punjab - a home for abandoned girls. Veena, the lady who runs the orphanage, takes in any girl of any age - baby or child and raises them as her own daughters, educates them and helps the girls become independent and when coming of age finds them a suitable boy and family to marry - without demands for dowry.
In another part of India, Pune, I met a doctor who runs a small hospital who makes a point of celebrating every girl child born and educates parents and families to come to terms with accepting their girl child.
In Delhi, I met an upper class Indian female who is currently engaged in a long legal battle of taking her in-laws to court on grounds of female infanticide and for allegedly forcing her to have a sex selective abortion after her husband and in-laws discovered she was pregnant with twin girls. As you can tell there are so many tales. I met former Miss India 2009 and now rising Bollywood star, whose own mother battled to save her from being killed - again because she was born a girl. I met a poor family who has three young teenage daughters. The mother has been living each day in extreme worry as to how she and her husband will manage to marry off her daughters. The experiences were vast.
Q. What was your hardest moment during this shoot?
Bedi: Two moments come to mind. Meeting Tuba, a 15-year-old girl who suffered from a horrific acid attack last year in September 2012 touched my heart in a profound way. I have never met someone who had acid thrown on them.
It’s very difficult to put into words, when I first saw Tuba. The first thing that struck me was her face and in particular her loud breathing. The acid had so severely burnt her face that Tuba cannot not move her lips or open her mouth.
Tuba told me she was on her way to daily tuition class, a routine walk she made every day when she was attacked by four boys, one of them from her class. Insisting Tuba should talk to him, she walked on and rejected his advances. Her rejection damaged his ego. So one of the boys splashed acid from a two-litre Cocoa Cola bottle in her face. At first she thought it was boiling water because of the burning sensation. She never thought it could possibly be acid. When she bent over to cover her face, screaming, the boy then poured the remaining acid from the bottle over Tuba’s back, shoulders, arms and legs. It was only when her clothes had melted away, on-lookers knew it was acid and rushed to help her.
When I saw Tuba’s pictures before the attack, I broke down in tears. I remember turning away so Tuba couldn’t see me and I cried. I have never felt so helpless in all my life. Tuba was a beautiful young girl. What do you say, what can you say? I felt helpless.
Tuba told me her dream is to become a doctor and cannot wait to return to school to complete her studies. Her favourite subject is mathematics and she is a very talented Henna artist. I was lucky to have Henna painted on my hand by Tuba. She joked with me and said she’d paint Henna on my hands when I get married! Her attackers are in jail and the case is ongoing. They may have taken her face, but Tuba still has her beautiful personality, her warm heart and intelligent mind. Tuba is the bravest girl I have ever met.
Meeting the parents of the 23-year-old Delhi rape victim was another difficult and painful experience. I remember arriving at her family’s home, barely two small concrete rooms with white-washed walls. I’ve never seen pain like I did on the family’s face. Her mother was mute, could not utter a word. She just pointed to her daughter’s picture on top of a wooden bench. Her father showed me her university Physiotherapy results. He told me her dream was to become a doctor.
Her brothers used to look up to their elder sister for everything.
I sat on the side of the bed with her father and we talked about his beloved daughter. In Hindi there’s a well-known phrase that a daughter is a goddess of the home - ‘Ghar ki Lakshmi.’ He said, Jyoti wanted to improve her family’s standard of living, lift them out of poverty and give them a brighter future.
I asked her father what was the worst thing he had faced? He told me that a few days before she had slipped into unconsciousness, the biggest grief for him as a father was that he didn’t get a chance to share his deepest heartfelt feelings with her. He told me he would not get peace until the five remaining men are found guilty. He said no family should ever have go through what they faced. It was their worst nightmare.
Q. What difference do you think this documentary will make?
Bedi: What I hope it will do is to raise awareness about how difficult it is to be a woman in India. The programme provides an outlook of the situation in India today. There is a lot of emphasis around the world on women empowerment and gender equality. I’ve met incredible women with incredible back-stories. I can’t make milestone differences, but what I can do is help India to take note of what is going on.
On a personal note, I’m trying to do all I can to help raise awareness to stop acid attacks in India having met Tuba. Also, in the programme, I visit an orphanage for abandoned girls in Patiala and today I still maintain a close connection with.
Q. Why is this issue important for India?
Bedhi: Since the Delhi rape case, we’ve read more about it and seen more in the media. But rape and other sexual harassment against women have happened long before the Delhi case. I think this case in particular has caused such uproar and people are calling it a tipping point. Men and women across India had spoken up and protested against what has been quietly tolerated and accepted for too long. They had openly criticized a patriarchal system that has traditionally blamed women for the shame and abuse of sexual attacks.
Traditionally, if a victim was raped, she was usually told to forget about the matter, to think about her family honour. In the more rural parts of India, she’d be advised to marry her rapist, then it will not be rape and he would become her husband. Or some would say next time cover up more and don’t leave your home. But now we’ve seen huge protests and movements, calling for change in India.
Q. Do you believe that change will happen in the future?
Bedi: India is going through a seismic change. Indian women want individuality, autonomy, and to be valued. All core values, which I take for granted living in the West. They imply need equality. And India is responding, albeit slowly. I’ve seen small improvements. I visited a new emergency helpline for women in Delhi and gender training for police. I’ve seen separate women helpdesks at police stations and fast track courts specially set up for crimes against women. Small changes will lead to big significant ones, but that doesn’t mean rapes will stop, crimes against women will stop.
It all boils down to mindset, attitudes, education, social and political change. I believe, the root of the problem lies within the home - within families. Indian mothers need to raise their sons and daughters as equals. They need to break the deep-rooted patriarchal cycle of placing more importance on their sons and less value on daughters. This is where the change in attitudes need to take place first and foremost for any change to be significant.
India: A Dangerous Place to be a Woman airs on 27th June 2013, BBC3, 9 p.m. - UK only. Dates for worldwide transmission are to be confirmed. Future broadcasts include Mon, July 1 and Friday July 5 on BBC Three. The author was interviewed for this documentary