Violence against women

I used to call myself a feminist

I used call myself a feminist,until it got me labelled me a nympho – man hating – sexually deviant creep.

It is like this. You have a favorite coffee shop, it is classy, no nonsense coffee served with some peace and quiet. You are surrounded by people minding their own business and drinking their coffee. News papers give your coffee place rave reviews and suddenly everything goes to hell. First of all the menu changes to exotic flavors that could be offensive words from across the world creep into the menu. Next come fancy bagels and desserts in a variety of choices, slowly someone plays the radio, then there are all these kids twittering and face booking via WiFi and flashes of camera bulbs. It smells like a deli and you cant  get some f*****g coffee.

That’s what happened. To be called a feminist once meant that you supported the cause of equality and the right to make life choices. Now people (who obviously don’t have a dictionary or common sense) are content to believe that feminists are women who hate men. Feminists are considered fool-hardy women who push social limits just to show they are equal. My fellow feminists have been called ‘man-haters’, ‘bra-burners’, ‘morally deviant’ and a lot worse. God forbid if you call yourself a feminist and you happen to have a penis. You were ragged, name called, ‘messed up’ for the heck of it and automatically categorised as someone with a vested interest.

Just because I say NO when a person forces himself on me, because I resist rape and speak against it, because I’m not afraid to look people in the eye , to believe that I have the right to my body, because I choose to fight violence not based on sex but on the act, because I want my daughter and wife to be safe and respected…  Just because I choose to believe in something you don’t have the balls to see…

You declare ‘men and women can never be just friends’ – how sad your life must be. You think women get raped because they are asking for it – do people get mugged because they ask for it? Use your head. ‘Women are victims of violence because they dress provocatively’  – Have you heard of Nirbhaya, Mathura, Aruna and Soumya ?

Like many feminists across the world, I too have grown tired of the baggage that comes with the label. Jen in her post: Feminism Isn’t Working and I Give Up says:

I have arguments with otherwise entirely reasonable people who wonder aloud whether women really take enough responsibility for avoiding rape, that maybe they’re just not careful about what they wear and where they go, because women’s sexuality just isn’t the same as men’s, and we don’t understand how hard it is for them to control their penises.As if every woman in America doesn’t have a list of things in her head that she does to avoid getting raped. As if the staggering 35% of college aged guys who have admitted they would rape someone if they thought they could get away with it are beyond educating. As if we are completely wasting our time hoping for any better.

Cait declares:

Let’s get one thing straight, my hate/dislike/indifference/love/affection has nothing to do with your gender, orientation, political choices, hockey team, preference of finger to pick your nose.

Amit states:

A majority of women [sic] do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road.

We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.

My friends and I are tired of trying to make people understand that the coffee shop has been taken over by morons for whom the syllabel FE is always followed by Male. One lady even had the audacity to tell me “Come on, you haven’t considered sleeping with your friend even once? and rape? How can it be done if the woman doesn’t allow it?”

I wish dear friend you would understand, because Feminism doesn’t mean I’ll walk around naked and ask men not to touch me. Feminism is not Miley Cyrus sending horrified parents running to their children’s rooms to burn the care bear toys. Feminism does not aim to castrate all men or donate chastity locks for women. Feminism is not ‘I have the right to wear, you DON’T have the right to touch‘ screaming from a t-shirt that’s about to rip any minute.

Feminists don’t hang around teaching women that all men are bad and must be sent to jail. Feminists don’t wear all pink outfits and go handing out perfumed notices about hating rapists and jailing senators.

Feminism is a beacon of hope, a father sitting his son down to talk about respecting women; Feminism is when men and women treat each other with respect and humaneness. It is a herald for a world without violence, a plea for the right to live without violence, a life style, an appreciation for God’s gift of life, an eternal prayer that people regardless of gender get to live with dignity, equality and safety.

Well, this blog has given me an opportunity to rest my tired back. But the strength to carry baggage title et all will come.

My mother, husband, father – in – law, my sister, my nephew (a little boy with a feminist man’s heart), fellow bloggers, friends, activists in organisations like MARD and Bell Bajao  –  all continue to show me that being a Feminist does not mean carrying a torch, but the willingness to pass it on.

I’m a feminist – if you have a problem with that, I know a place where you can stick it.

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What would papa say?

I would like some water she thought. Too hoarse to shout for some, she banged her fists against the wooden door. Thud! Thud! She squinted to protect her eyes from the harsh glare of the halogen light that would come streaming through the crack when the door opened. Living in the pitch dark was not really an adventure you see. It had been a long time since she was taken to the backyard to stretch and get some sunlight.

There was a weird metallic squeaking noise and a something cold touched her feet. She jumped and knocked the glass of water over. Gathering a towel she mopped it up as best as she could in the dark and wiped her face. On second thought she ran the cool cloth under her breasts and between her legs before pushing it out of a new hinged flap beneath the door. “I will buy a blue EPI light so you don’t fall sick. Meanwhile eat these vitamin supplements” some pills rolled into the room followed by a bottle of water.

Papa has not seen me in ages she thought. Without the freedom of running around all day, I was getting fatter and fatter. What would papa say when he looks at me? Maybe he would open the door today…

Dates and time were alien concepts in this dark room. When it was cold, it was probably night time and the sweltering heat was probably day time.  I had reveled in the world outside during her childhood. It was a wondrous place, a cooking room to a sleeping room to a room where I could shower with all the running water I wanted. In the evenings my mamma would join us in our evening walk. Their garden had very high walls and mamma would walk in the sunlight as it crept across the yard. Taking care not to step into the shadows, she would tell me about the world outside the walls. There were more people and of different colours and heights and shapes. There were rivers and mountains. There were offices where you could work on a computer and talk to a person thousands of miles away. Theme parks, cake shops, salons, movie halls… all of which we could not go to anymore. As darkness fell, mamma would go back to her room and I would sit outside her door talking about flowers and bees and worms. It never felt unnatural when papa locked mamma in when he left the next morning for work. Naana who lived two doors down would come to look after me during the day. I begged naana to let me see outside. One day naana opened the big iron gate at the end of our drive way and let me have a peek. There was nothing there except a road and some cats.

One day papa said that Naana couldn’t come see me anymore. But, he would stay home from then on and Mamma would not be locked in all the time. Papa used to spend all his time cleaning guns and set up a small kiosk outside our compound. I was locked in with mamma when I started bleeding. Papa was shocked “She is only 10” he complained. He started to spend all his time at the kiosk until the day that mamma coughed.

Mamma was very sick that day and papa had gone to buy medicine. She kept coughing and coughing. Mamma, whose voice I had hardly heard began to cough rather loudly indeed. I was scared and ran to the door… ‘papa papa!’ I shouted

Suddenly there were loud thuds on the door. Papa had forgotten his key. ‘Papa!’ Thud Thud Thud

The door burst open and many people burst through. They looked nothing like papa or naana. Mamma screamed when they kicked her… My papa once bought a ball that we would kick to each other in the yard. My mamma – they kicked her and they ripped her clothes, she clawed and spat and screamed. They hit her and punched her. She bit and twisted and turned. They caught her arms and legs and stretched them until I thought mamma’s scream would surely make the roof fall off.  My mamma had only three pairs of clothes. Now papa would be mad at her for not keeping them safe.

‘Who is this here?’ the voice was gentle and kind like my naana’s but sounded like my papa. Papa would not be mad at me because I had many clothes. Naana made them from papa’s old shirts and dothis. You are a tiny little girl she used to say. I looked around for my naana. Papa said she went to heaven and that was up… But there seemed to be no one up there.

Just that poor little girl who lay beneath me. I wouldn’t have known she was there if not for her two pale hands that stretched out from under the hairy back moving above her.  A thin line of blood ran toward the girl from between her mother’s legs. Some hairy hands and wiped at themselves body parts were alien to me. After a pause they bent over mamma who did not scream anymore. I wanted the little girl to stop her alternate whimpering and screaming between muffled sobs from the mother and jeering laughter from the others, it was like… well I had nothing to compare it to.

They lost interest after a minute an hour… two… I cannot tell; and left. My mamma, I do not recognize her anymore, her arms and legs bent at awkward angles, her head turned toward the door as she lay belly down in a pool of blood, broken bottles, splinters and a knife the blade broken… papa might not like that…

The girl was sprawled on her back, her chests like a guava fruit nibbled by squirrels… the mottled flesh had stopped bleeding and between her legs was the color of a shiny hair clip her naana gave me once.

I broke that clip by accident and buried it in the garden. Maybe that is where all broken things should go… The air smelled like old biscuit tins, papa’s sweat and the squirrel that a cat had left in the backyard.

That day papa cried. He took maama outside and brought a doctor to help the girl. He looked an awful lot like the others. The doctor kept repeating that it was the mama’s fault. She must have invited the others, he said. One way or another, she must have flaunted her good looks, shown some skin, made eyes at or just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She must have been vigilant he said and that papa shouldn’t feel so bad because if mamma had considered the others as her brothers and pleaded with them, they would have let her go.

When papa didn’t reply, the man pressed on saying the others should be punished, but mamma should protect herself and that is the only solution.

“This little girl may live” he said “take her to hospital. They will do a surgery so she can empty her bowels. They will give her lots of injections and tablets. You don’t mind mortuaries do you? They are treating girls there because they can lock the iron door”

“What to do now” the doctor snapped his first aid box shut. “Can I take some pictures of the girl? For academic purpose only; I will give you a discount in the treatment”; That’s when papa shot him in the face.

A low sound rose from the pit of my papa’s stomach “I did everything to keep them safe’ he sobbed. I never took them out of this house; they were covered head to foot. I did everything they told me to” he sobbed.

I wonder what papa would say… when he looks at me, bony hands and a big belly. What would papa say? and whatever happened to that little girl.

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This is me saying NO to Violence against women