This film with, amongst others, Dorothy Duffy, Nora-Jane Noone and Anne-Marie Duff, tells the dreadful story about the Irish, catholic way of handling young girls/young women who have been going through puberty and all its consequences.
You’d think it’s dramatised. Or at least you hope it is.
Unfortunately this is not the case.
When the film came out, previous inhibitants of these laundrettes ran by nuns protested: said it didn’t show honest enough what went on inside those walls.
That it was way more awful.
You see three girls being brought there and the reason why.
One girl has given birth to a baby whilst unmarried. Her baby is taken away from her, seconds after she has been forced to draw papers to give him up for adoption. Another girl has been raped by her own cousin during a weddingparty and another one, an orphan, likes the wandering eyes of boys too much (apparently).
This is silly enough in itself, but the daily amount of abuse the girls receive is incredible. And all in the name of God. I was raised an atheist, which doesn’t help, but you can’t help thinking: a victim of a rape shouldn’t be treated this way. Also, no girl deserves to be called a ‘whore’ when any of this occurs.
It’s a powerful portrait. It also shows how vile religious life is towards any young girl or woman, because, let’s face it, there’s religions nowadays who forbid women to so much as show themselves, in case a man feels his urges coming up. You see, when you’re part of a religion, it’s always the woman’s fault. NOT EVER the man. Not ever. And if you can find an example where this is different, then please let me know. I’m honestly curious.
Back to the film:
Seeing how the nuns (the main one played by Geraldine McEwan, which she does so well indeed, as you honestly hate her at some point) consider themselves so much better than any of these girls. More priviliged. Factually, they were guards in a prison. While at the same time, they kept innocents.
How they ate in the same room as the girls, but behind a fancy bar and eating far more nutricious and tasteful food. Bread, butter, milk, jam,tea, etc. Where the girls had some sort of porridge while the Bible was read out loud. Of course.
The girls have to wash clothes and beddings and so on, are not allowed to speak to one another. When there’s already someone in there with a same name, the nuns would take your name too.
The girl who has given birth has not healed yet, but doesn’t receive any help when it comes to her milk being stuck in her breasts.
After the girls have taken a shower, they are obliged to parade in front of the nuns, who make fun of them. In the nude. For a young person in the bloom of life, that’s just cruel.
Any girl who objects, will be punished by slaps on the legs, arms or whatever with wood or leather. Speaking of anything else than a Bible is pretty much forbidden.
I do wonder what the exact goal of these Mary Magdalene Laundrettes was. Was it to simply punish the girls? The nuns that were ruling, if they had to apply for a job there, what was the exact job description? Was it to be ‘as cruel as humanly possible’? There was no happy ending for these girls except for running away and flea the country, that’s for sure.
In the film you see a girl who ran away being returned by her father, who slaps her with a belt, tells her she no longer has a family, that they do not wish to have anything to do with her, tells her she’s a whore, that they are ALL whores and so on. The head nun is present when this happens. You can clearly see the nun doesn’t want to interfere because she wants all the girls in that dormitory to know just how unwanted they all are. If the father would have struck his daughter with an axe, I’m sure the nun wouldn’t have done anything either, for it was supposed to be an example to the other girls.
Anyone who considers rape to be not so much of an issue, should see this film. Because these are girls who told about their rape. They expected help. And I know you’ll say ‘but this is a different time, it’s different now!’ and I’m telling you that your consideration of ‘you should have cooperated then’, or ‘it was your own fault’, is the exact same message that is carried out by these bloody nuns. Nothing will change for any girl, if rape isn’t considered a serious crime and the perpetrator is ‘just a naughty boy’ of sorts. It’s not. It’s not a small issue. Having sex is a major change in a girls’ life, which should never be taken lightly.
I was surprised when, in the end, it turned out that one of the girls kept a very steep faith. If anything, this film prevented me from having any faith in faith at all.
These nuns should have been prosecuted. I hope some of them did. I’m afraid of the answer. In my opinion, they were nothing short of a guard in Auschwitz. If I would know where their graves are, I would tapdance on top of them. They were the worst nightmare for any young woman growing up. The worst thing is: with all of the talks about the church sexually abusing the youngest of persons in their care, I don’t recall EVER hearing or reading about these Mary Magdalene Laundrettes. That’s the biggest shame of all.
This film is powerful to watch and I’d recommend to see it. Just keep the tissues ready as the feeling of injustice will crawl into your mind and body.