Monday, June 18, 2012

Submitting to a myth

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 9 June 2012)

I attended a meeting earlier this year that included a good number of women who are devoted activists and advocates for Guyana’s female population. The overall discussion was spot on with the pulse of women’s issues in the nation.
However, there was one statement made by a facilitator of the meeting that I can’t seem to shake. She emphatically stated, “There is not a problem with submission.” She was, of course, referring to the traditional mandate that requires women to submit to men.
I wrote the woman’s statement down and put exclamation points next to it to signify my shock. I completely understand that there are some Sisters who still adhere to these traditions that require them to submit to their husbands because they were raised to believe it is right to defer to a man. However, I simply cannot understand how women do not see that this mandatory submission is one of the reasons women 1) remain in abusive relationships; 2) do not seek the help they need to escape the violence; and 3) do not prosecute an abuser and in most cases will protect him.
In fact, contrary to my dear Sister’s declaration, there is a very big problem with submission. The tradition of one gender submitting to the other (always women to men) has caused women to bow to the whims and fancies of men – always to the detriment of women and the elevation of men.
This skewed way of living has brought upon women savage atrocities like rape, torture, child marriage, constant verbal and emotional abuse, violence and murder for thousands of years – and in many instances neither victim nor her female friends and relatives are allowed to say a word in her defence.
Yes, there is a very big problem with submission. Think of all the women who have been brutally raped, beaten and murdered in Guyana in just the last three weeks. The submissive stance of those women was programmed into them from the time they were little girls so that even at death’s door they still submitted.
As a result, I am asking all of my Sisters to re-examine and challenge these long-accepted traditions (such as submission to males) in the light of the evidence that shows how much it hurts all women and, in fact, all of humanity. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting for the world to change? Stop.

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 2 June 2012)

“When will it end?” This has been the ever-present question every time a woman is murdered by her husband/partner in Guyana lately.
“When will it end?” was repeated this week after a mother of ten was hammered and stabbed by her husband. It used to be just the women who would ask, “When will it end?” Now both female and male voices can be heard in the chorus of the heartbroken. Yet the violence against women endures and the women continue to die.
I asked myself this question again this week and I found an answer. I know when the violence against women will stop. It will stop when women make it stop. You see, violence against women is not a new phenomenon.
It existed in ancient times, when the Bible says the Israelites went around conquering other tribes (especially those who worshipped feminine deities), either killing the women or taking them as slaves or “wives” (against their will). Still today, rape along with other such violence against women is used as a “weapon of war.”
Violence against women existed during the days of the Inquisition, when, according to some reports, as many as nine million women were murdered as witches. Even today, women who practice holistic healing or explore feminine religions are stigmatised as “witches” – as if it were a bad thing to heal others or to choose your own religion.
Moreover, all through the ages, women have been subject to domestic abuse, sold as sex slaves, put on funeral pyres to be burned alive alongside their dead husbands, isolated inside houses away from the world, refused an education and given as brides while still little girls to be forced to have sex and babies before their bodies were ready for either.
This all still happens today. And today girls are killed before they are even born, just because they are girls. There are just so many ways to torture and murder women and it seems men like to be creative in their violence – as is evidenced by the headlines this week.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

There will be blood

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 26 May 2012)

I have been pondering the “purity” factor imposed on women for a couple of months now. I have talked about it with friends, read about it in books and watched a documentary about it. It seems there are just so many ways that a woman can be “icky.”
For example, social norms has long held that if a woman has sex before she is married, she is not pure. When she is on her menstrual cycle, she is not pure. In fact, just by virtue of being a woman, she is so unclean that she cannot enter certain religious areas or functions.
In other words, we are made to believe that by just being alive a woman is unclean. Nonsense! How on earth does it make sense that it is okay for a man to have sex before marriage, but it somehow makes a woman impure?
Sex is a natural biological function for both females and males. Sex does not (or should not) improve one gender’s honourable standing while degrading the other’s.
Yet there is a constant demand throughout recent history to make sure the girl stays a virgin and thereby “pure’ while the man can have sex as much as he wants without any declaration of icky-ness.
And then we have menstrual cycles. Oh my! It really gets me mad when I think that patriarchal societies have turned the very blood that makes life into an unclean and evil thing.
A woman’s period is yet just another biological function. There is nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – that is gross, unclean or impure about a menstrual cycle.
In fact, it is because of the woman’s menstrual cycle that any of us are even alive today. That menstrual blood should be revered, as it once was millennia ago, rather than held in contempt. Sadly, women believe it when they are told they are somehow “unclean” when on their periods.

Inappropriate workplace advances

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 19 May 2012)

So guys, what do women think of your inappropriate workplace advances?
Listen to a friend’s story about an incident that happened to her a couple weeks ago.
“I have this client. He’s been a client of mine for a little over a year when I was just freelancing, and now he’s a client [for my new business]. He often says things that are quite inappropriate, but I just ignore them and stay professional and business-focused. That’s always worked.
Well he’s been trying to get me to go out to dinner with him for a long time to discuss a project he has for [my business]. I kept trying to change it to lunch, but eventually caved and agreed to dinner…this past Thursday.
Dinner went fine, conversation was mostly professional and he did have a real project for [my business] to work on. There was a little personal conversation sprinkled in about kids and his wife of 35 years, the house they just bought, etc. So when we left, he said he’d walk me to my car. When we got there, he gave me a hug (which I’m okay with), but then tried to lean in to kiss me on my lips!!!
I immediately turned my cheek so the kiss landed there instead. I firmly said, ‘Thank you for dinner. Good night.’
I did NOTHING to make him think kissing me was okay. What on earth was he thinking?
I’m sure it happens to a lot of women all the time. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. I’m usually really careful about who I go to business meetings with because many times it’s just the guy wanting to spend time with me and get to know me – not my business offerings. So I only [have face-to-face meetings] when I know the person is a decent guy or serious about commissioning our services, [otherwise] I keep everything virtual.
And not to mention this guy’s daughter is the exact same age as me! Sickening!”
So guys, what do women think of your inappropriate workplace advances? They are disgusted by such nonsense. Women do not go to their workplace to be groped and to hear ridiculous quips about their body parts or what they are wearing.