November’s theme at The Coven is THIS IS MY BODY.
When I sent out the pitch email to our contributors a few weeks ago, I was aware that this theme would probably result in a lot of personal essays. Our bodies are the only things that we truly inhabit – homes change and disappear, partners aren’t forever. It is the home of abuse and trauma. Hopefully, a woman can leave the place where she was raped or assaulted, but she can’t leave her own body. It is her and she is it.
And, on top of that, a woman’s body isn’t just a bag of guts capable of miraculous and disgusting things. It’s a political instrument. Women in Ireland don’t own their bodies for a myriad of reasons, all of them nonsense. I won’t get into it here… but I will ask you to tweet Irish PM Enda Kenny about your menstrual cycle. You can’t spell ‘menstrual’ without men, so we might as well get them involved.
I decided not to ask for personal essays this month. I asked contributors to look at their bodies as part of a collective entity, to look at the function and not necessarily the form. When we look at our form – just one person, by herself, in front of a mirror, no Instagram filters – we tend to evaluate ourselves, and the way in which we evaluate ourselves as women can be punishing and frighteningly arbitrary. Autonomy is still a faraway concept. In Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein’s new memoir, she says, “A male loner is a hero of sorts, a rebel, an iconoclast, but the same is not true of a female loner. There is no virility in a woman’s autonomy, only pity.” Women aren’t allowed to be alone with their own bodies for extended periods of time without permission. It’s unseemly.
Sooner or later, someone else has to take ownership. What I wanted to ask was this: What if that didn’t have to happen? What if that was never true?
So, this month you can expect essays about performance art and artists, wearable technology, ability, periods, ageing, abortion and some more. Maybe one personal essay. And nothing about beauty – not because we don’t want to publish it, but because no-one wanted to write about it. (What I wouldn’t do for a good smoky eye tutorial that you can do with your fingers – for real.)