An item from last May is being passed around on Twitter and Facebook today – Eve Ensler writing about fistula and…well, Eve Ensler.
She had a fistula because she had uterine cancer, you see.
My friend Paul says to me, “It’s like you’ve got Congo Stigmata.” Well, actually, almost everyone said it in one way or another. “It doesn’t surprise me, Eve, of course. All those stories of rape over all these years. The women have entered you.” And at first I pushed this away because it’s not really a great advertising for activism. Come care about others, listen to their stories and their pain, and you can contact it too.
Hmmmno. That’s not the problem. The problem is that rape in the Congo isn’t about you. It isn’t something you should invoke as a way of talking about you. Ever.
Dr Handsome, my colon doctor, e-mailed Dr Deb the day after the surgery and said he had been unable to sleep because he was so in awe of the mystery of what they had found. He said, “These findings are not medical, they are not science. They are spiritual.”
Another way not to talk about rape in the Congo.
I have always been drawn to holes. Black holes. Infinite holes. Impossible holes. Absences. Gaps, tears in membranes. Fistulas. Obstetric fistulas occur because of extended difficult labor. Neccesary blood is unable to flow to the tissues of the vagina and the bladder. As a result, the tissues die and a hole forms through which urine or feces flow uncontrollably. In the Congo fistulas have been caused by rape, in particular gang rape, and rape with foreign objects like bottles or sticks. So many thousands of women in eastern Congo have suffered fistulas from rape that the injury is considered a crime of combat.
Ohhh myyyyyyy godddddddd that is so not a way to talk about rape in the Congo. It’s not a fucking literary conceit, it’s not a metaphor, and it’s sure as hell nothing to do with any distant safe prosperous woman’s literary interest in “holes.” It’s not an occasion to drop sophisticated chat about holes as absences. Just don’t. Do not.
After three trips to the Congo, I needed to see a fistula. I asked to sit in on a reparative operation. I need to know the shape of this hole, the size of this hole. I needed to know what a woman’s insides looked like when her most essential cellular tissue had been punctured by a stick or penis or penises. Wearing a mask and gown, I peered
No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.
There in the lining was an undeniable hole, a rip, a tear in the essential story. It was almost a perfect circle, the size of a quarter may be, too big to prevent things from getting in or from falling out. I couldn’t help but think of the sky, of the membrane of the sky and the rip in the ozone. Humans had become hole makers. Bullet holes and drilled holes, hurt holes, greed holes, rape holes. Holes in membrane that function to protect the surface or bodily organ.
Yes; holes. In this case, physical injuries, which are not playthings for Eve Enslers to bat around like so many ping pong balls. (Hey didja ever stop to think that balls are holes turned inside out? Wo, deep, huh?)
Seriously; don’t ever do that. Don’t treat horrors as sources of aesthetic “play” and don’t treat them as pretexts to talk about your Self. Don’t be an Eve Ensler.