Laurie and Debbie say:
Happy May Day! (for those of you who celebrate it seriously, Happy Beltane!)
May Day is a spring celebration, the holiday of the maiden goddess. Some forms of Christianity embrace it as Mary’s holiday, because it has always been about virginity. In fact, some say that dancing around the maypole is supposed to magically restore a woman’s virginity.
In honor of both the cheerful maidens dancing around the maypole and the young women for whom virginity is a matter of life and death, we bring you some thoughts about medical, rather than the magical, intervention in virginity.
First and foremost, we stand for the right of women to have their hymens restored, if that’s what they need to do. It can make an enormous difference in some women’s lives. At the same time, three points need to be made:
1) Only if we believe that the body is somehow separate from the spirit can we even consider the possibility that a restored flap of skin can erase an entire set of life-changing experiences;
2) When the surgery is done under pressure from family members or potential spouses, it is most assuredly another way of taking ownership of women’s bodies away from women. “”If my mother ever found out about this, she would have a mental breakdown,” Amel said. “I don’t want to have this surgery, but I don’t have any choice”; and
3) Doctors are making money hand over fist. Two to four thousand dollars for a thirty-minute outpatient procedure? (even if French social security does sometimes cover some of it) It may cost more in the United States: Americans, apparently, can go to Argentina and have the surgery done for only $2500.
By the way, the separation of church and state is much more real, and much more fraught in France, than it is, say, in the United States. Whatever Americans may think about hymen restoration, few are likely to consider it a church/state issue. Even most of the French women interviewed are making the choice based far more on cultural norms than religious beliefs.
Not too long before this May Day, our colleague Hanne Blank published Virgin: The Untouched History, a comprehensive cultural history of virginity, As Hanne says, “By any material reckoning, virginity does not exist,” and also, “Virginity has been, and continues to be, a matter of life and death around the world, very much including within the first world.”
Thanks to Lynn Kendall for the pointer.