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For the final project in one of my classes, I created a blog about Carmen Maria Machado’s short story “The Husband Stitch.” Not only was this story enraging, but it also had me thinking about the idea of a husband stitch as a whole and why it is practiced. 

In “The Husband Stitch,” a woman always wears a green ribbon around her neck and refuses to take it off. Her husband reluctantly asks her if he can remove it, but she does not allow it. The two have passionate sex regularly, yet her husband is fixated on her ribbon. The two have a beautiful son who is everything to them, but even he is not allowed to take the woman’s ribbon off of her neck. Like the husband, this upsets the child. Eventually, their son grows old and goes off to college. After a night of love making, the woman wakes up to her husband trying to remove her ribbon. She thinks to herself, “He is not a bad man, and that, I realize suddenly, is the root of my hurt.” Although her husband is overall a good man, he still cannot let the woman have something that belongs to her and her only. After some contemplation, the woman allows him to remove the ribbon. As the ribbon is taken off, her head comes rolling off of her body.

This story is extremely interesting for various reasons. First and foremost, for those who do not know, a “husband stitch” is when a doctor sews extra stitches when stitching a vagina after childbirth. It is meant to make the vagina tighter and more pleasurable for the husband post birth. Although it may be more pleasurable for the man, this procedure usually hurts the woman and leads to exceedingly uncomfortable sex. For more information, please visit this article

This story is just one example of the “husband stitch.” It sounds made up, but it is very real and still able to be done to people with vaginas. This practice is rooted in misogyny, of course, but what if it’s much deeper than that? As I was analyzing the story, I realized that the woman gave everything to her husband, yet it was still not enough for him. He needed to have completely all of her in every aspect, which includes making decisions for her. He wants complete control over her. I discussed the example in my blog where women have decided to open their own gym that is only exclusive for women and men were angry about that. It is known that a regular gym is naturally male dominant which can lead to women feeling intimidated and unsafe while exercising. Instead of realizing the fear that women face, men automatically got defensive, turning the argument back onto the women with comments like “Well maybe if you weren’t dressed like that we wouldn’t stare.” This is a perfect example of how men still try to gain ownership over women in many ways even if it is not as extreme as performing a “husband stitch.” 

Sarah Mengel

Kutztown '23

Senior English major with a minor coffee addiction :)
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