Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Blade

Like everyone else, I was stunned by the events of 9/11/2001. But pretty quickly I felt very alone in my reactions (that was pre-blog days) as I continued to feel stunned and sad. It seemed like it was only days before the rest of the country moved on to anger and the need for revenge. I couldn't go there. Perhaps alot of that was because I didn't understand what had just happened. And I felt the need to understand.

So I did what I usually do to try and understand things that are outside of my previous experience...I read. Specifically, I read what I knew would give me the "behind the scenes story" about times and places that are different from my own...women's stories.

Here's a few of the books I read:

Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom by John Follain and Rita Cristofari
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
The Sewing Circles of Herat by Christina Lamb
Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan by Norma Khouri
In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story by Ghada Karmi
Behind the Burqa: Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom by Sulima and Hala

Yes, it was horrifying. But I felt that the least I could do was "bear witness" and hear the stories of these courageous women, some of whom had put their lives on the line simply by telling them. I began to think that the men who had been taught that half the population could be treated as sub-human would be more than capable of extending that kind of thinking to other human beings on the planet. So yes, it did help me understand people like Osama Bin Laden.

I wanted to share that insight with friends of mine, so I began talking to the women in my book group about what I was reading and asking them to join me. They humored me by reading one of the books. But in our discussion, as I was trying to impress on them the horror of what it means to be a woman in many of these countries, they dismissed me. They said "Things are bad here in the US too." At the time, I was outraged...I saw NOTHING like what I was reading about in our country.

And then this happened...

At the time, I was hanging out at Booman Tribune, where alot of women had gone from dkos after the pie fights. That statement by South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli unleashed a firestorm of diaries (just one example) like nothing I'd ever seen before. Woman after woman I'd grown to know on the blog wrote her story of rape or sexual assault. I think it overwhelmed everyone who was participating there - both in the impact of these events on women's lives and the sheer volume of it all.

All of the sudden, I began to take a closer look at the world I lived in...the one where:

1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime (1 in 4 if you're a college student),
5.3 million women are abused each year,
three women are killed every day by an intimate partner,
domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, and
50,000 reports of child abuse are made each week.

Here's Riane Eisler, author of the book Chalice and the Blade from an article titled Spare the Rod.

When children experience violence, or observe violence against their mothers, they learn it's acceptable- even moral-to use force to impose one's will on others. Indeed, the only way they can make sense of violence coming from those who are supposed to love them is that it must be moral.

Terrorism and chronic warfare are responses to life in societies in which the only perceived choices are dominating or being dominated. These violent responses are characteristic of cultures where this view of relations is learned early on through traditions of coercion, abuse, and violence in parentchild and gender relations.

So for now, I will not engage in any kind of crazy comparison about which culture is worse for women. But I am certain that as long as this kind of thing continues, the power of the blade will rule.


  1. NL - haven't commented for a while, but I have continued to stop by. Reading this piece, beginning with your reaction and response to 9-11, as I so often experience with what you write, it is as if you are in my mind.

    There is a quote I have - somewhere - that we don't call it "history" until soldiers are involved. Otherwise we use the words "myth" and "legend" and "story." And the more I read, the more I realize how even the "history" has been so distorted.

    I keep fantasizing about creating sustainable communities made up of women and children - places for women to heal and relearn the stories that exist about "the good" within. I think about sharing the work and care of the children and the ill and the elderly - with gardens and clean water and food, relearning skills, making music with song and dance. A cultural detox center - a safe place.

    I believe that healing and strengthening the women and children would lead to healing the men, who in many ways are destroyed by this culture. It would empower the many men who struggle to define themselves in a culture that sends such confusing messages on what it means to be a "man."

    It isn't that I believe women are better than men. I reject the notion that women are some how kinder and more caring. It is just that women often carry the stories - and for sure, they carry the babies. So one place to break the cycle is with mothers and babies.

    Then there would be dealing with the 7 deadly sins that seem to crop up wherever humanity is in time and place. Oh, to learn and USE mediation and conflict resolution skills!

    And I know that eventually there would be splinter groups and things would fall apart. But for a time and for some there would be healing - and that would be enough to keep "the good" alive.

    Thanks for the opportunity to daydream aloud ;)

  2. Soooo good to hear from you again Tampopo!!!!

    I'm reading a book now titled "The Bond Between Women: A Journey to Fierce Compassion" by China Galland. Its out of print, but you can find used copies at most of the major sellers online.

    At one point, China talks about the "wound between women" that must be the first place of healing. After that, the healing between men and and men, can be healed. I think about that when I read what you've said.

    Lots to contemplate!!!!!

  3. Thank you both, Nancy and Tampopo for providing words and thoughts for this man to contemplate. I think that the primary responsibility of breaking the pattern of male dominance and abuse from the home to global wars lies with men. It is for men to challenge and confront those among us who are wounding as a way of living. It's even more important for all of us (men) including me to deeply examine our own lives, histories, motivations, failures and successes in this regard and find the courage to change where change is needed. To shut up and listen to women when spoken to and reached out to. To not see everything as a threat to our position or worth as people.
    It's true that society, western society at least, places burdens and expectations on boys and men that make it difficult to relate to the world around us from a position that is so often and still percieved as weakness, but I can say from my own experience that being or allowing yourself to be vulnerable has had the exact opposite effect that I was taught it would have when I've shut up and listened. The sky never fell on me nor have I been ostracized as a far :o)

    Thank you :o)

  4. Well, this is really making my day!!! Hearing from both Tampopo and Super.

    As I gathered the links for this, I went on a bit of a trip down memory lane and have been thinking so much about people like you...and others that were so much a part of that amazing experience that led me here. And I miss hearing from everyone so much.

    Hope you're well Super!!!

  5. Hi again,
    I'm well, thank you :o)
    I have most of those diaries in my hotlist at BT. It was a whole different time and place there, wasn't it? I still post there occasionally but get labeled as troll about once a week! LOL Yah! I'm a troll :o) So many people are unserious as the world burns and can't stand to have reality thrown in their faces. Who knows, maybe it's a protective bubble to sheild them from the ugly reality of what is happening all around us and maybe I shouldn't blame anyone so much for trying to insulate themselves from it. I don't know. But it should be obvious by now that their vaunted democrats aren't in the business of righting the wrongs. Nor will their lives improve much if any under a democratic administration. Why they don't see it is a mystery to me.

    But I'm not bitter! LOL!


Can Republicans "moderate" their position on abortion?

One of the most important stories coming out of recent elections is that, whenever voters have a chance to weigh in about abortion, they hav...