(or being a woman in a thousand questions)

Richa Udayana
Jun 21, 2017 · 5 min read

how many women need to die before they see
how many femmes hacked, stabbed, shot
how many clits do they need to cut
how many skulls broken, necks slashed, limp bodies piling up in wells,
in pits, in walls and abandoned in the woods
how much suffering do they want as proof
how many times shall we recount our abuse
to the police
in court
over the phone
on the internet
how many times must I repeat the story of my
mother’s rape
best friend’s rape
and my own
before they see they have a problem on their hands

ariel castro held three women captive for ten years.
their diaries, prosecutors later said, ‘speak of
forced sexual conduct,
of being locked in a dark room,
of anticipating the next session of abuse,
of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family,
of being chained to a wall,
of being held like a prisoner of war,
of missing the lives they once enjoyed,
of emotional abuse,
of his threats to kill,
of being treated like an animal,
of continuous abuse,
of desiring freedom’.
castro impregnated two of the women
one of whom he allowed to go to term
on the other, he forced miscarriages,
hitting her with dumbbells and slamming her into walls.

how many tv shows should we make, stepping on eggshells
wanting to get these stories out but also being careful so they’re not rejected by tv networks
haha, it’s so funny, (it’snotfunny)
when a woman emerges from behind a locked door after years
and doesn’t know her way around the world (here’s looking at you, Kimmy Schmidt).

how many pairs of legs did they hire to be eye-candy
how many bare torsos sell their cars and watches
how many pairs of breasts jiggled next to your superheroes
before women could see their bodies reclaimed just once
but when we organised a viewing for ourselves
to see, for once, a superwoman (womanwomanWOMAN!)
they were outraged.

it turned out, earlier this month
after james hodgkins shot at male politicians during baseball practice,
that he had a history of violence towards women.
and suddenly
our cries begin to make sense,
and suddenly,
when five male republicans were attacked
the wheels began to spin,
but when we had said protect us!
we’re being shot and beaten
and raped and killed
you could hear crickets in the distance.
when jessica solnit said, ‘violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion or a nationality, but it does have a gender
and that ‘of the 62 mass shootings in the united states in 30 years,
only one was by a woman,
when you say lone gunman
everyone talks about loners and guns
but not about men
- and by the way, nearly two-thirds of all women killed by guns
are killed by their partner or ex-partner
we got nothing.
or when research showed
that gun-ownership rates causes just a 1.5% rise in murders of men
but 41% rise in murders of women,
lone gunmen continued to troop out of their homes,
going out in loud, bright blazes.

they kill and attack and maim and punish us for speaking, for loving, for living, for asking, for dreaming, for saying no, for saying yes, for saying anything at all.
it’s a miracle we get up in the morning .
it’s a miracle we can still love at all.
it’s a miracle we bear their children.
it’s a miracle, in jessica valenti’s words, that some of them rape and kill women
and still come home to a dinner cooked by one.
it’s a miracle we go on to lead 8% of high-profit companies around the world
after day after day of being reduced to
“too bitchy”
“slept her way to the top”
and then we step down
for more of them.

what is the exchange rate now
how many deaths for one shred of credibility
how many testimonials to indict an old molester who confessed to drugging women
(there were 50 and yet, he is free)
again and again and again and again and again and again, they have battered us but remain adored
they make money, movies, music
they win awards, they go on.

how many no’s before they stop
how many books, how many poems
must we write
before this oppression is honored as real
how many stories should we tell of our brokenness before they believe us
how many fucks make us whores
and them players
how many women can one train compartment keep safe
how many inches of cloth will buy me a night of reaching home in one piece
how many months am i permitted
to process the trauma of their hands groping me
before i’m asked to ‘get over it’

their freedom of expression is all-important
that there’s an all-consuming need to make rape jokes
and locker room talk
to call us bitches and cunts and
whores and prudes
because boys will be boys.
how is it that that our right
to say no
to defend our bodies
to stay alive
is nowhere as pressing

how many years will they police our bodies
herding us like cows
in and out of houses, tuition centres,
colleges, workplaces
form romeo squads
vow to keep us safe
then fuck us raw at home
— there’s no such thing as marital rape, they said
because marriage is sacred, they said.

they said they were fighters
that they had gone to war and bled more than we did
that physical strength is an argument in favour of our oppression
that this is why we suffer today.

how many women must be martyred
in their beds
and/or birthing their children
and/or fulfilling their dowry demands
and/or in their kitchens
how many centuries do we go
without realising that we too
are soldiers
serving a common master
with our hands which roll round rotis for the fathers and husbands and sons
with our lips as we suck them when we’re supposed to
with our mouths which stay shut when they’re supposed to
with our bodies, our minds
our breasts, our wombs.

the difference, you see, is that we go to war
without armour
we go to war in blindfolds
we go to war without respite
nobody raises a white flag
so we can tend to our fallen
and our fallen fall around us every minute
the similarity, you see, is that we too have been going to war
as long as they have
we march soundlessly to our graves
fighting a battle we didn’t sign up for
support, sign or even want.

during childbirth, a woman will literally be torn
and heal in weeks.
once a five-year-old girl had glass vials and candles inserted inside her
after her rape:
she survives.
Nirbhaya had her intestines ripped out:
and she lived for 13 days.
last year, a woman’s face was ripped from her skull as she was raped
a ‘floating face’, doctors called it:
she survives.
five years ago, they raped a woman and set her body on fire
she burned for 10 hours:
she survives.
(but her attackers are free men)
this is our war and still
they think they are stronger.

so tell me, please
how many times should we die before we can begin to live
and why do they get to choose, to allow, to deny?

Richa Udayana

Written by

Queer, feminist, neurodivergent. Journalist. Cat person. Thoughts on inequity, inequality and navigating the world.

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