Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Raging for a Woman

As I read the email I had to keep tears back- not tears of happiness, not tears of sadness- tears of RAGE. The sender is was just passing the information along and had no idea that her little tid-bit fit into a much larger, much more complex story.

Where is the line between yelling for Justice and Lashon Hara (Evil Tongue)? In this whole event, I've been careful to guard the name and identity of the person I think is playing foul- To not drop hints to others but rather to address him directly; to not expose his identity, to not spread rumors. I am just so upset! I'm not raging because any injustice has been done to me personally- but rather the injustice that is habitually committed against women in many places in this world. The part of the story I loath at the moment is this- the underlining expectation a specific man has that a certain women who is routinely beaten up by her husband- even as she works to provide food for him, his parents and their children- should just remain silent and take the abuse. How dare she bother anyone else with her personal problems? The woman in this story lives in a world where her voice has no value, her gender, no rights and consequently, today, her children have no food.

Misogyny is not just an irrelevant textbook word- it's a foundation, a base assumption, a unquestionable cultural norm- all over the world- it's simply the depth of misogynistic beliefs that vary from place to place. A quotation on a t-shirt without attribution reads, "When men are oppressed, it's a tragedy. When women are oppressed, it's tradition." Ironically enough, the t-shirt was being sold in Bangladesh. Why are some societies so reluctant to value women? I'm even more saddened that some of the worst reports about women's rights come from countries where Islam has a strong influence on the culture. "Cultural clash" cannot even come close to summing it up. More like cultural non sequitur that leaves me shaking my head in confused frustration.

I am so proud of women who are fighting for their rights. In many places, their insistence and persistence is a life-threatening and arduous battle. Even simple rights, like wearing pants or more dramatic ones- like repercussions for attacking and deforming women with acid. Unfortunately, the world as a whole is silent to the culturally accepted bias against women that leads to bride burnings in India, marital abuse all over the world and ridiculous restrictions on women's movements. The control exercised by men over women in Saudi is appalling- women cannot even travel short distances without the consent of their 'gaurdian' male!

I have no illusions about the control exercised over grown women or the advantages given to young boys (education, access to health care, food) over their sisters. At one point in my world wonderings, I was discussing female genital mutilation (FGM) or "female circumcision" with my host father in Mali, West Africa. He was very blunt about why he was going to circumcise his newborn daughter: "Women must be controlled to prevent the perversion of society." Still, seven years later, his words burn and I rage.

Where are the protesters? The meetings at the United Nations? The voice of world leaders? Does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights not apply to women? Why is the world so silent?

Here's one of the monologues I wrote about my experience living with a host family in Mali.

N Bah

This is for my mother
The second wife
I don’t know
How to thank you
I don’t know how to comfort you
Because our worlds don’t touch
And I can’t bring them together
Because we don’t speak the same language
Nor the same culture

This is for my mother
The house servant
I tired to say thank you in bambara
I ne ce
But I don’t think you understood
Because you just smiled a smirk
Your husband explains that I don’t need to thank you
For cooking my food
For washing my clothes
For drawing my bathe water from the well
For fanning me when I was sick and hot
Because that is your life
To serve
Without thanks

This is for my mother
Whose beauty is hidden away
Under rags
Next to my sister’s new clothes

This is for my mother
The first to rise
The last to bed
Who sells the food she makes by the open sewer
So that she can provide for her family
And listen to her jobless husband
Complain of fatigue

This is for my mother, n bah,
Who is half the age of her husband
And who carries his child
Yet never relaxes from work
I don’t know if you want me here
Yet another child who is not yours
But you have no choice
Because your husband has decided

This is for my mother
The second wife
The household servant

i appreciate you
i recognize you
i see you
i thank you
i love you

1 comment:

Angela Navejas said...

This is very nice blog in which you discuss the story of white driver who hits the colored kid.It is advised by many people that drive safely for the sake of people walking on the road.

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