Witches – a History of Misogyny

Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. People will be watching witchy movies, decorating their houses and gardens with witches to delight trick or treaters, and dressing up in some of the most reliable Halloween costumes: the spooky or sexy witch.  

The recent success of TV shows like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (watch it for its shameless celebration of feminism and focus on gender!), American Horror Story’s Coven, books like Stacey Hall’s The Familiars, and literary characters like Hermione Granger, have brought witches – good and bad – back into the mainstream with a veritable bang! 

But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today. The Guardian recently published an excellent article entitled From Circe to Clinton: why powerful women are labelled as witches. In it, the author, Madeline Miller, writes how witches were feared because they transgress norms of female power and female sexuality. She details the types of women who were typically labelled as witches: older women and widows, foreign women (fears of witches are often grounded in racism), as well as women with political power like Joan of Arc and Anne Boleyn. This “othering” process conveniently served to root out women from society who were different and were seen as threats for various reasons. Fast forward to 2016 and the depictions of Hilary Clinton as a witch during the U.S. election campaign illustrate that the term “witch” is still a powerful label used in an attempt to subjugate women who are seen as usurping the status quo. 

Silvia Federici’s seminal book Caliban and the Witch considers how capitalism as an economic system helped to transform ordinary women into witches. Federici discusses how the transition to capitalism helped divide people along gender lines and how anger over the system was channelled into forms of misogyny that would set the stage for the witch trials in Europe. She writes that the witch hunts were a major political initiative – as well as a religious one – to control women’s bodies as “a means of production and reproduction”. Whether or not you agree with Federici’s theories about capitalism, there is no doubt the witch hunts represented a form of state and church-sanctioned gendercide or feminicide whereby tens of thousands of women were literally hunted down and killed. 

And while it might seem that witch trials and witch hunts are ancient history, this is unfortunately not the case. In the last decade, UN officials have reported a global rise in the number of women killed as witches. In India, older women are targeted as scapegoats or as an excuse to seize their lands and goods. In Saudi Arabia, witch-hunting is fairly institutionalised and women have been convicted of practising witchcraft by the courts. In Ghana, women suspected of witchcraft have been exiled to “witch camps”, as captured in Rungano Nyoni’s excellent film, I Am Not a Witch. In the US, a survey found that 21% of people believed in witches of the “evil” variety. 

So, while donning your pointy hat and stripy stockings this Halloween, it is important to take a moment to consider the misogyny that still permeates women’s lives – both in the form of severe human rights abuses but also in the casual everyday sexism whereby “witch” is still wielded as a pejorative term to suppress women’s agency by men who feel threatened by their power. 

 

Happy Halloween Witches!

 

Photo on Max Pixel

 

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Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum, allowing the government to legislate for abortion access, came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates.

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

On Monday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage. 

 

What happened and why now?

Since January 2017, Northern Ireland lives without an Executive and an Assembly. So, eventually, Westminster had to pass a bill to keep these institutions running. On the 24th of July 2019, the Northern Ireland Act was granted. This bill extends the period for forming a new Northern Ireland Executive and states 13th of January 2020 as the new deadline for negotiation (which is pretty soon in negotiating time).

But this is not the only interesting thing about that bill. Labour MPs Conor Mc Ginn and Stella Creasy submitted two smart amendments to the vote: if by midnight the 21st of October 2019, no executive power was up running in Northern Ireland, then abortion would be decriminalised and same sex marriage would be legalised. The amendment passed easily in Westminster with 383 votes in favour and 73 against. 

As the due date was getting closer, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had a desperate attempt to stop this modernisation of Northern Ireland. It gathered more than 30 signatures of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA – Northern Ireland parliamentarians), the minimum required for a petition of concern. Therefore, the DUP was allowed to express its concerns before the assembly, called back for the occasion. 

The Social Democratic and Labour parties came but walked out during the session to protest. Several parties, such as Sinn Féin, Alliance, Green Party and People Before Profit, didn’t attend the session, acknowledging the “political stunt” of the DUP and the TUV (Traditionalist Unionist Voice). “They knew it was a political stunt that was going to fail and have no effect. But they did it anyway. In my view, they didn’t do themselves any favours and they didn’t do these institutions and the efforts to reestablish them any favours”, says Sinn Féin’s MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald (see full interview below).

Eventually, abortion and same-sex marriage rights were not even discussed in what was a really short session. Less than one hour was all the time needed for the (DUP) Speaker to deny the vote and debate on the concerns expressed through the petition. In fact, it would be controversial if he’d decide whether to hold a vote or not in the Assembly. A new Speaker has to be elected on cross-community basis for a long time now, and only this new Speaker would be entitled to make such a decision to hold a vote or not. 

 

What legal regime during the transition period and afterwards? 

So here we are, after 21st of October 2019. Northern Ireland didn’t get an Executive on Monday. No bill was able to be passed in the Assembly. Section 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, criminalizing abortion, have been repealed and new abortion regulation should be implemented in the North by the 31st of March 2020. 

From now on, no criminal charges can be brought against any women getting an abortion, nor against anyone delivering an abortion. All the current investigations and cases made against women seeking an abortion in the past and not closed yet, will be dropped.

Between now and the end of March, women can’t hope to get an abortion on Northern Irish soil unless they meet the criteria of “fatal or serious fetal anomality” and are not pregnant for more than 28 weeks. So, for a little longer, women will have to travel to Britain. However, they can call the Central Booking in England and their travel and accommodation expenses will be funded, regardless of the individual’s income. One carer’s expenses can also be covered, so that women don’t have to go through the abortion process on their own oversea. 

From April, two sites in Northern Ireland will be open to abortion. The North should be one of the first jurisdiction to organize buffer zones around the abortion sites, prosecuting anyone trying to protest in the area. Also, medical staff should get proper training on abortion cares. 

The British Government has until the 13th of January 2020 to legalise gay marriage. As a 28-day notice is needed before a wedding can take place, the first gay marriage in Northern Ireland should be celebrated around Valentine’s Day, in February 2020. 

 

What was the legal regime so far?

So far, in Northern Ireland, women could only get an abortion if there was a “risk of real and serious adverse effect on their physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent”. This regime of exception went against the Abortion Act 1967 that makes abortion legal on several grounds up to 28 weeks in Britain. More than 1,000 Northern Irish women travel to Britain every year to get an abortion. 

Same sex marriage was neither performed nor even recognized in Northern Ireland. Civil Partnership was granted to gay couple in 2005, and presented as an adequate alternative. 

 

 

Photo and video by Shannon Takahashi 

 

Watch down below the full interview of Sinn Féin’s MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald and a vox-pop made on Queen’s University’s campus (Belfast) on Monday Morning.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum – which repealed the oppressive Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and allowed room for the government to legislate for abortion access – came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates. 

Abortion in Ireland is now regulated by the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 which provides the legislative framework for the provision of abortion services in defined circumstances. The framework draws on the recommendations of the 2017 Citizen’s Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee. Both groups recommended that termination of pregnancy should be permitted ‘with no restriction to reason’ up to 12 weeks’ gestation age. This is in line with the laws of other countries such as France, Finland and Germany. After the 12-week gestation the Bill permits termination in cases of risk to life, of serious risk to health, or fatal foetal abnormality. 

The criterion of “serious” risk to health has been denounced by groups such as Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties as it puts the onus on doctors to determine whether the risk is severe enough. This puts doctors in a difficult position, making them more likely to err on the side of caution. Other issues include the fact that abortion services are provided free of charge to Republic of Ireland residents but not to women from Northern Ireland (as many groups had campaigned for). A 3-day waiting period between initial consultation and the termination procedure was also inserted into the Bill despite protests from activists. 

The continued criminalisation of terminations outside of the current framework is one of the biggest agenda items for abortion rights activists as – although the 2018 Bill does not criminalise women procuring abortions for themselves – it states that it is an offence for a person to carry out or assist in carrying out a termination outside of the provisions of the Bill. Amnesty International Ireland (whose original abortion rights campaign in 2015 was titled ‘She is Not a Criminal’, focussing on the inhumane nature of the 14-year jail sentences placed on women accessing illegal abortions in Ireland) has condemned this continued criminalisation. This 14-year jail sentence continues to loom over doctors who are deciding whether there is a “serious” risk to the health of the mother, or if a foetal anomaly is fatal. Linda Kavanagh from the Abortion Rights Campaign stressed that women who qualified for terminations in Ireland were still being forced to travel ‘due to overly cautious interpretations of the law from doctors fearing criminal sanctions’. In November 2018, Dáil Eireann voted on the possibility of decriminalisation but this proposal was defeated. Minister Simon Harris claimed that continued criminalisation was necessary from a policy perspective and that removing it may put the life or health of women at risk. 

The mandatory three-day waiting period between the initial GP consultation and the termination is an aspect of the Irish legislation which falls short of international human rights law. It puts some of the most vulnerable women in a difficult position when they are trying to procure abortion services. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties characterised this mandatory waiting period as an ‘unnecessary restriction on safe access to abortion [that] reinforces patriarchal notions of women as incapable of making decisions regarding their own health’. It also highlights how this will have the most impact on people in abusive relationships, those who live in remote areas or in Direct Provision centres, disabled people and those who struggle to pay for two separate doctors’ appointments. In June 2019, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) raised concerns about these barriers to access for those in vulnerable or complicated situations, as well as concerns around delays in “buffer-zone” legislation. Dr Cliona Loughnane of the NWCI highlighted the ‘institutional conscientious objection’ which can be seen in places such as Kilkenny and which the government promised would not be the case. She also calls for urgency in passing buffer-zone legislation to protect women and their doctors. In many cases, particularly in rural areas, the inability to access abortion services privately and without exposure to protestors is enough to force some women to travel to the UK.

One of the Together For Yes slogans seen on billboards across Ireland during the lead up to the referendum stated ‘sometimes a private matter needs public support’. Although in theory Ireland now has legislation allowing for abortion services, in practice there is still much to be done to ensure access to these services is a reality for every single person capable of becoming pregnant in this country.

 

 

Photo by Together for Yes on Facebook

 

 

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Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum, allowing the government to legislate for abortion access, came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates.

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

With the constant expression of feminism in this day and age, it is worth considering the case of McGee v Attorney General to investigate the true intention behind the seemingly revolutionary case which supposedly forwarded women’s rights in Ireland via the Constitution.

Girls Challenge the Script on International Girls Day!

“It’s urgent that we no longer create stories that teach children to view women and girls as second-class citizens – not when we’ve seen the level of sexism in our culture so egregiously put on display.” Learn more about #RewriteHerStory, on the International Day of the Girl.

The true cost of period shame

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must remain private and exclusive to the individual – and which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.

In a recent commercial campaign for period products, the Australian company Libra was criticised after their depiction of menstruation was deemed ‘distasteful and unnecessary’ by some viewers. The offending advertisement depicted menstrual blood running down the legs of a woman showering, a used sanitary pad, and a visual demonstration of the pads’ absorbency. More than 600 formal complaints were made to the ad standards authority stating that the advertisement was ‘vulgar’ and ‘extremely offensive’. However, these complaints were swiftly dismissed, with the campaign gaining praise for its attempts to fight period taboos. The advertisement has raised questions regarding the dialogue that presently surrounds periods.

Period shame attaches itself to women and girls for many reasons. Symptoms associated with menstruation include nausea, back pain, vomiting and headaches. Such symptoms have forced girls to miss school with recent Irish studies carried out by Plan International showing 61% of girls are too embarrassed to discuss their periods. A further 88% of girls feel less capable of paying attention in class during their period. Similar research by Plan International is being carried out on a global scale. Results in India show that 20% of girls living in rural areas will leave school once they get their first period. In Malawi, 70% of girls miss 1 to 3 days of school a month due to their periods. These results highlight the injustices, embarrassment, shame and unnecessary challenges girls must contend with when faced with a natural bodily occurrence – and they illustrate how period shame is a serious barrier to the educational experience of girls all over the world. 

Other barriers to attending school during one’s period can be associated with the cost of sanitary products. In Ireland the average annual cost of sanitary products is estimated at €132. This price does not include the cost for pain relief such as painkillers. The cost also fails to include any new underwear that may need to be purchased when leakages occur and underwear is soiled from blood. Campaigns such as Free Periods in the UK aim to tackle the cost associated with menstruation. The goal of this campaign is to ensure that no girl has to miss another day of school due to the cost of sanitary products. Similarly, the charity Homeless Period fundraises money and takes donations of sanitary products for homeless women across Ireland and the UK. 

In recent days, the Free Period organizer Amika George has started a new campaign called Free Period Stories. The campaign aims to end the embarrassment and shame that surrounds periods and to open a dialogue surrounding menstruation. 

Free Period, Homeless Period and the ad campaign run by Libra all serve a vital role in combating the damaging implications of period taboos.  

 

To find out more about these issues – and to join in the menstruation conversation – you can visit: https://www.freeperiods.org/ & http://thehomelessperiod.com/

 

 

Photo by Marco Verch on Flickr.

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum, allowing the government to legislate for abortion access, came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates.

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

How the Breakthrough Case in Women’s Rights Set us Back Instead

There is constant talk today in Ireland of vindicating the rights of women by striking out that controversial provision in Article 41.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution). S 2.1° of the article states that “In particular, the state recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved” while s 2.2° states that “The state shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.
Many people hold that this method of recognising women’s rights by tackling the provisions of the Constitution began (and succeeded) in the case of McGee v Attorney General – however, I argue that the true result of this case actually decelerated the cause for Irish women.

The landmark case of McGee v Attorney General [1973] IR 284 illustrates an unprecedented breakthrough in the area of family planning in Ireland and tells the story of May McGee, a young wife in financial difficulty whose health was in danger after four pregnancies.

Mrs McGee’s doctor prescribed her contraception from London which she attempted to import but it was seized by customs officials, as it was illegal in Ireland at the time to sell, offer, advertise or import contraceptives. She sought a declaration that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935, (under which she had been threatened by the Revenue Commission) was unconstitutional. Mrs McGee claimed the law that prevented her from bringing contraceptives into the State infringed the implied right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens under Article 40. She also argued that under Article 41, the importation ban violated the “inalienable” rights of the family in attempting to frustrate a decision made by Mrs McGee and her husband for the benefit of the family as a whole. It was also disputed that the law violated her freedom of conscience, with all claims denied by the Attorney General. Judge O’Keefe dismissed her case, but when Mrs McGee took her appeal to the Supreme Court in November 1973, she won decisively by a 4-1 margin. Judges Walsh, Budd, Henchy and Griffin all found that the act breached her constitutional right to marital privacy.

This judgment divided the nation. On one side, the anti-contraception campaigner Desmond Broadberry deemed it a “sad day for Ireland” and Catholic bishops reiterated that contraception was “morally wrong”. On the other side, the Family Planning Clinic in Dublin saw it as a “big breakthrough”. The Supreme Court was decisively ahead of public opinion and politicians on contraception. However, only a decade later was the anti-abortion amendment added to the Constitution. How did this happen?

It is crucial to note that the majority of judges did not condemn the law banning the use of contraceptives – they simply based their decision on the right to marital privacy implied in the Constitution. Judge Walsh specifically referenced Article 41, detailed above, which is currently receiving some media coverage for its comments on the family and, in particular, the role of women within the family. This clause has come under criticism with many campaigning for a referendum to either change this wording or strike out the Article altogether for its disregard to women’s rights. In a similar vein, although referring most likely to S 3.1° (ie. the state’s pledge to guard the institution of marriage with special care and to protect it against attack) the Supreme Court again seems to only superficially support women’s rights (just as in S 2, which while appearing to consolidate women’s rights is instead incredibly limiting). May McGee won her court case, but not because she was in danger of dying, not because the Supreme Court found the ban on her importation of contraceptives unconstitutional, not because as a woman in Ireland she deserved her right to this healthcare. May McGee won her court case not because she was May McGee, but because she was Mrs McGee. In this way the court case was, according to Ivana Bacik, “a catalyst for the pro-life amendment campaign”.

May McGee’s case is the pinnacle of paradoxical finding and possibly the most important Supreme Court case in Ireland. Although it accelerated women’s rights in Ireland to a huge extent, it had a detrimental effect in setting them back too.

 

 

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

 

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Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Girls Challenge the Script on International Girls Day!

Girls Challenge the Script on International Girls Day!

“It’s urgent that we no longer create stories that teach children to view women and girls as second-class citizens – not when we’ve seen the level of sexism in our culture so egregiously put on display.”  

These are the words of Geena Davis: founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM) and star of films like Thelma and Louise and A League of their Own (two films which pass the Bechdel test with flying colours). 

As part of today’s #Girlstakeover, on 11th October, the International Day of the Girl, women and girls are demanding radical change in their portrayal in films, entertainment, textbooks, advertising, video games and other communications media. Indeed, this year’s international day theme is Girlpower: Unscripted and Unstoppable! 

Media’s influence on our thoughts, beliefs, and actions is subtle yet powerful. Because stereotypes are like air – invisible but omnipresent – they are often overlooked, making them especially insidious. Unfortunately, much of what girls see in the media reinforces gender discrimination and harmful stereotypes. This affects how others view girls and how girls view themselves. 

The #RewriteHerStory takeover is inspired by recent research published by the GDIGM, Plan International, and the Girls Get Equal campaign. It analyses the 56 top-grossing films in 20 countries to assess their impact on girls – and discovered the films send a message that leadership is mostly for men, particularly older white men. Women leaders (regardless of whether they are presidents, CEOs or business owners) are far more likely to be sexualised or objectified, shown in revealing outfits or completely nude.  

The report calls for an end to harmful stereotypes and encourages making stories about female leadership normal and visible. A central message is “if girls can’t see it, they can’t be it”. This is particularly the case for women of colour who are even less likely to see characters who look like them in the media. 

Media can be a force for good, but not if it perpetuates stereotypes or –even worse – ignores women entirely. Indeed, previous research by the GDIGM showed that female characters make up only 17% of crowd scenes in films! Davis says this sends a subtle signal that 17% women’s representation is a “natural state of affairs”

I remember my mother phoning Kelloggs when I was a young girl to complain that all the cartoon characters – Cornelius Rooster, Coco Monkey, Tony the Tiger and so on – on my breakfast cereal boxes were male. The person she spoke with vainly tried to convince her that one of the Snap, Crackle and Pop trio was a girl but my mother wasn’t buying it! At the time, I didn’t realise she was setting a great example by teaching me to query women’s presence and absence in the media and other spaces.  

So, the next time you are watching Netflix or consuming other media, start paying attention to how women are portrayed and consider the ratio between female and male characters. You might be surprised what you notice once you start looking.

Please follow today’s #RewriteHerStory takeover!

 

Image courtesy of Plan International.

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum, allowing the government to legislate for abortion access, came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates.

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.