Women’s Day – It comes and it goes

We celebrate all kinds of special Days in today’s time – Children’s Day, Labour Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day. The reason behind commemorating these entities is that our children, the disabled, the workers, our parents don’t receive sufficient respect throughout the rest of the year and that we must mark an occasion to emphasize the importance of these roles in human society. The International Women’s Day is one such occasion. A woman, much like children, disabled individuals, a person belonging to the working class is a vulnerable object. And that, probably, is why civil society has granted a day in the year for compassion towards womenfolk.

I remember, nearly thirty years ago, when I’d demanded the ‘freedom of the uterus’, this particular expression had shaken up the bulwarks of patriarchy to not a slim degree. Thousands of religious fanatics had thronged the streets waiting to tear Taslima apart. Well, at least they weren’t the educated elite. And what were the respectable educated men doing then? Were they singing my praises – no, not! They were sitting in their comfortable apartments with their friends and discussing how best to get rid of me. While the fanatics were deliberating on my beheading out in the open, the genteel men plotted the same in the privacy of their drawing rooms. On the other hand, at every turn, I was expected to justify exactly what I’d meant by the ‘freedom of the uterus’. I would politely explain, whether a woman wishes to have children or not is her decision, at what age to have them and how many, that, too is her choice; whose semen to let enter her and who’s not to, this decision also rests entirely with her. My explanation had incensed many at the time. The elite, the unschooled, the literate, the illiterate, all kinds of men had turned anti-Taslima, for every single one of them believed that a woman’s body,every part of her body, indeed her entire physical existence were owned by men and men only. A woman has no say over the matter of her own body, she doesn’t deserve a say, and if she does hold an opinion, then she must be a ‘whore’. And a ‘whore’ I was called in Bangladesh, although at the time I’d been working as a medical doctor at a Medical College Hospital and was already a reputed writer.

The word ‘whore’ is one that’s hurled at women by all sorts of men in order to frighten her, to make her cower and crawl back into a grotto-like a fragile earthworm. Women who have been deceived by fate, cast off for some reason or another, stricken by poverty, sickness or ill-fortune are gathered by patriarchy and turned into sex slaves for the sexual satisfaction of men. It is such a woman that men call a ‘whore’. As also the woman who has defied all constraints placed upon her by dint of her gender, has refused the trammels of sex-slavery, has gone out and educated herself, made herself independent, not needing or seeking out male validation, ` is possible that many women have consented to the hijab simply to avoid being branded a ‘whore’ or safeguard themselves from getting raped. But can the hijab really protect anyone? Men force women to become whores for their own interests, and men also use the word whore to humiliate women whom they do not like. For many years now, I’ve been telling the women I meet not to kowtow before this abuse, not to be frightened when she’s called a whore, not to relent but continue undaunted on their own paths in life.

Does the story of my life not demonstrate with perfect clarity how terribly misogynistic Bengali society is the way it stands today? Must I spell it out for myself every year that – despite never having killed or violated anyone, looted, cheated or deceived anyone – the crime that got me banished from my own land was writing a novel about the liberation of women in society. I’ve been banished for having the gall to claim that an empowered woman doesn’t pay heed to the barbaric rituals and customs that constrain her, that she has no respect for them. If we belonged in a truly just and equal society, I wouldn’t be living in exile like this. It is only autocratic societies that banish their writers and stifle voices of dissent among its people.

Bangladesh celebrates International Women’s Day with pomp and fanfare. It’s their attempt to convince the world that they are indeed a civilized nation. Possibly also to tell the world that if a woman can be Prime Minister of the country, women here are allowed to inhabit other positions of power as well. So that the rest of the world may believe that women are accorded equal rights as men in the country and allowed to exist freely in the spaces they inhabit, that women are allowed education and healthcare to lead a life as qualitatively rich as a man’s. That a woman may be allowed to hold her own moral, ethical and political beliefs, stand for elections, assume leading roles in a system not rigged against her. Who is to contest these egalitarian claims? After decades of struggle against discrimination, who is to say whether a woman may really have all this without borrowing from the power and privilege of her eminent father, or a well-known husband, or her famed male sibling? Tell us, how many ordinary women have been allowed the privilege to continue her education, have not been married off forcefully by her family to serve as an unpaid maid at husband’s household, have been allowed to make decisions that freely affect her own life? Tell us, how many women in the country can honestly claim to have full sovereignty over the terrains of their own bodies, claim they may choose to or reject the idea of having children of their own? What clothes a woman will wear, which places she travels to, where she spends her money, how far she may be educated, what she will eat, whether she will bear children or not – every single decision forming the trajectory of her life rests with the male members of her family, not with herself! It’s not simply her body that belongs to others, it’s her whole life. A woman is a marionette – she does what she’s ordered to do, she may not defy commands from those above her, and she may never dare display a glitch in her programmed servility! And the woman who wants to go against the grain, be a free person of flesh-and-blood, make her choices, utilize her education to be an autonomous individual in her own right, she is a dangerous element who must immediately be eradicated. Take her life, violate her, shame her, send her away into exile!

The violation and abuse continue. Physical, psychological, in all spheres of a woman’s existence. The act of raping her has little to do with sexuality. It is to establish his dominance over her, to exert his will through brute force, compelling her forced submission to the misogyny that enslaves her through fear. Every year, the International Women’s Day comes and subsequently, passes. Beginning right from the old woman to the young girl, nobody’s lot improves. What use is such a Day then? If misogyny still gets free reign for perpetuating infinite brutality, if patriarchy still thrives with equal strength and force as it did before, what’s the point of having this blasted Day marked as special on our calendars?
So, here is my poem for Women’s Day:

They said—take it easy…
Said—calm down…
Said—stop talkin’…
Said—shut up….
They said—sit down….
Said—bow your head…
Said—keep on cryin’, let the tears roll…

What should you do in response?

You should stand up now
Should stand right up
Hold your back straight
Hold your head high…
You should speak
Speak your mind
Speak it loudly
Scream!

You should scream so loud that they must run for cover.
They will say—’You are shameless!’
When you hear that, just laugh…

They will say— ‘You have a loose character!’
When you hear that, just laugh louder…

They will say—’You are rotten!’
So just laugh, laugh even louder…

Hearing you laugh, they will shout,
‘You are a whore!’

When they say that,
just put your hands on your hips,
stand firm and say,
‘Yes, yes, I am a whore!’

They will be shocked.
They will stare in disbelief.
They will wait for you to say more, much more…

The men amongst them will turn red and sweat.
The women amongst them will dream to be a whore like you.
***

A gangraped girl telling her story

She was gangraped when she was 17. Three years later, outraged at the silence and misconceptions around rape, she wrote a fiery essay under her own name describing her experience. Then she was busy living her life. After more than 30 years she revisited her own experience. Her words touched my heart. She said, ‘we have spent generations constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality that allow abuse to flourish.’ It is so true! Here is her story, very painful and very moving.

soha

I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t

It’s not exactly pleasant to be a symbol of rape. I’m not an expert, nor do I represent all victims of rape. All I can offer is that — unlike the young woman who died in December two weeks after being brutally gang raped, and so many others — my story didn’t end, and I can continue to tell it.

When I fought to live that night, I hardly knew what I was fighting for. A male friend and I had gone for a walk up a mountain near my home. Four armed men caught us and made us climb to a secluded spot, where they raped me for several hours, and beat both of us. They argued among themselves about whether or not to kill us, and finally let us go.

At 17, I was just a child. Life rewarded me richly for surviving. I stumbled home, wounded and traumatized, to a fabulous family. With them on my side, so much came my way. I found true love. I wrote books. I saw a kangaroo in the wild. I caught buses and missed trains. I had a shining child. The century changed. My first gray hair appeared.

Too many others will never experience that. They will not see that it gets better, that the day comes when one incident is no longer the central focus of your life. One day you find you are no longer looking behind you, expecting every group of men to attack. One day you wind a scarf around your throat without having a flashback to being choked. One day you are not frightened anymore.

Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.

If we take honor out of the equation, rape will still be horrible, but it will be a personal, and not a societal, horror. We will be able to give women who have been assaulted what they truly need: not a load of rubbish about how they should feel guilty or ashamed, but empathy for going through a terrible trauma.

The week after I was attacked, I heard the story of a woman who was raped in a nearby suburb. She came home, went into the kitchen, set herself on fire and died. The person who told me the story was full of admiration for her selflessness in preserving her husband’s honor. Thanks to my parents, I never did understand this.

The law has to provide real penalties for rapists and protection for victims, but only families and communities can provide this empathy and support. How will a teenager participate in the prosecution of her rapist if her family isn’t behind her? How will a wife charge her assailant if her husband thinks the attack was more of an affront to him than a violation of her?

At 17, I thought the scariest thing that could happen in my life was being hurt and humiliated in such a painful way. At 49, I know I was wrong: the scariest thing is imagining my 11-year-old child being hurt and humiliated. Not because of my family’s honor, but because she trusts the world and it is infinitely painful to think of her losing that trust. When I look back, it is not the 17-year-old me I want to comfort, but my parents. They had the job of picking up the pieces.

This is where our work lies, with those of us who are raising the next generation. It lies in teaching our sons and daughters to become liberated, respectful adults who know that men who hurt women are making a choice, and will be punished.

When I was 17, I could not have imagined thousands of people marching against rape in India, as we have seen these past few weeks. And yet there is still work to be done. We have spent generations constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality that allow abuse to flourish. But rape is not inevitable, like the weather. We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.

After I wrote about my rape, again

The World Health Organization recently came out with the first global survey of sexual violence. It’s a grim picture: many millions of women have been raped, by strangers as well as the men closest to them. At the same time, suddenly, after a few millennia of studied silence, rape in India is a hot topic. The protests after last December’s rape and murder have led to an amazing moment of awakening for my country, which awaits the impending verdict for one of the accused men. For me, it’s been a surreal six months.

On New Year’s Eve, I got an innocuous-looking email from a friend in Delhi, with “This making the rounds on Facebook” in the subject line. I scrolled down, and saw my own teenage face on the screen next to a screaming headline.

After I was gang-raped in India, I wrote about it in a women’s magazine. That was more than 30 years ago. Time went on, life went on. Then came the internet, the December rape, and suddenly the old article was everywhere. I was all over Facebook, and I don’t even have a Facebook page.

I was suddenly not a writer, not a mother, not an ordinary, muddled, rather happy soul, but apparently, The World’s Most Famous Living Rape Victim. I didn’t want my 17-year-old’s cry of rage in the women’s magazine to be my final word on the subject, so I wrote an op-ed on the recovery process, and the stupidity of equating rape with dishonour, for the New York Times. Then, all hell really broke loose.

In the first month alone, my website got more than 2m hits. I got several thousand emails from women and men all over the world. I have been so very touched by the global outpouring of support.

Hats off to you, madam, they said. You are so brave. You are one helluva tough cookie. You are a saint. You are a hero. Please help me. Please be my friend. My husband beats me, my cousin rapes me, I never told anyone. Hats off. Heads off to you, said one particularly eager soul. University students debated my piece. The Indian government quoted me. Media called, institutions called. Everyone wanted to hear more. But I was done telling my story, so, Bartleby-like, I wrote back, “I prefer not to.”

I chose to speak out the first time. The second time, it really didn’t feel like a choice. It was surreal how big it got, and how quickly. Almost all my relationships have been given a good, bone-rattling shaking. Everyone seemed to have read the piece, and everyone had a reaction. My immediate family shone like stars. My extended family buried their heads in the sand.

Some people cheered, and some looked away in embarrassment. Some people said truly nasty things. (Rape is like any other life-shattering event – no matter how hard you try, you remember how every person reacted to it, and you either love them forever or you spend the rest of your life not quite succeeding in forgiving them.) My 11-year-old daughter, whom we hastily told before she heard about it at school, nodded casually. She saw her normal goofy mother and wisely decided everything was all right. And it was, and it is.

So why do I feel like bolting for the street when I walk into a sandwich place and the guy behind the counter, a total stranger, says, “I saw you on Facebook!”?

It’s not shame or guilt, it’s not embarrassment – truly, it’s slightly befuddling. The rape was catastrophic, and it took many years to feel safe (a necessary delusion). But I’m at the other end of that now, and I don’t quite know what to do when a friend who didn’t know this about me starts weeping. It’s good to be loved, but I’m done weeping. At this moment, my daughter’s maths progress feels more important than revisiting three-decades-old emotions.

So, here is my main point: I feel incredibly lucky that my rape story feels old. Millions – yes, millions – of women don’t have that luxury. A new study found that victims of conflict-related rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo benefited significantly from group therapy, and talking about their experiences. Imagine that. No matter how awful it was, it helps to talk about it. Feminists, therapists, journalists, this-ists and that-ists, all agree that we need to talk about it.

But we don’t. I recently spoke to a group of 250 Indian women. Afterwards, one woman said, “If my daughter got raped, I would never broadcast it to the world!”

I wish I could treat it like any other piece of writing. I wish I had felt comfortable boasting about my op-ed to the woman on the plane who asked what I do. But it’s about rape, and no matter how that should be like any other trauma, it’s not – for no earthly reason other than that we have made it so. I didn’t want to deal with her reaction, so I didn’t tell her. When the sandwich guy says he saw me on Facebook, or someone I barely know hugs me on the street, I feel a bit like I’m in one of those dreams where you show up to an important interview, your teeth fall out, and everyone stares.

I’m glad I spoke up. I understand and respect those who cannot. I’ve moved on. I want to be known for my work, for my charm or lack thereof, for my perfect cup of tea, for more than simply living to tell the tale.

Blame men for menopause!

Are men to blame for menopause? They might be, according to a new study. In our evolutionary past, men’s preference for younger mates made fertility pointless for older women. This, in turn, may have eventually led to menopause.

oldmenand


Evolutionary geneticists say:

In our evolutionary past, men’s preference for younger mates made fertility pointless for older women. This, in turn, may have eventually led to menopause.

How do you evolve infertility? It is contrary to the whole notion of natural selection. Natural selection selects for fertility, for reproduction–not for stopping it.

Over time, competition among men of all ages for younger mates has left older females with much less chance of reproducing. The forces of natural selection are concerned only with the survival of the species through individual fitness, so they protect fertility in women while they are most likely to reproduce.

After this period where women are most likely to reproduce, natural selection ceases to quell the genetic mutations that ultimately bring on menopause. This leaves women not only infertile, but also vulnerable to health problems.

This theory says that natural selection doesn’t have to do anything. If women were reproducing all along, and there were no preference against older women, women would be reproducing like men are for their whole lives.

Essentially, the very fact that men selected younger women means that older women lost the ability to reproduce. If women had selected younger men for reproduction, the outcome would have been reversed. Men would have lost their fertility while women would have stayed productive

They make sense. But an evolutionary biologist challenged the ‘blaming men for menopause’ theory. He said :

The authors argue that the menopause exists in humans because males have a strong preference for younger females. However, this is probably the wrong way round – the human male preference for younger females is likely to be because older females are less fertile. It makes more sense to see the human male preference for younger females largely as an evolved response to the menopause, and to assume that ancestral males would have been wise to mate with any females that could produce offspring. Evolutionarily-speaking, older females faced an interesting ‘choice’: have a child that may not reach adulthood before your own death, or stop reproducing and instead focus on helping your younger relatives reproduce.”

I was never convinced by the grandmother theory anyway. The ‘older women are for taking care of younger women’s children’ theory always sounds strange to me. I would have convinced if there were a grandfather theory as well. Grandfathers also take care of their grandchildren. Don’t they? After having menopause an average woman goes on to live for another 30 years. It is more than enough time to raise children. This extended longevity – plus later childbirth – could potentially alter the timing of the menopause, over a significant ‘period of time, researchers believe. They say, ‘the social system is changing. There are women who are starting families later, because of education or a career.This trend would mean those women would have a later menopause, and those genes would be passed on to their daughters with the possibility of menopausal age being delayed.’ Yes, it would take unbelievably long time because our social structure is by all means patriarchal. Patriarchal system has been indoctrinating men to marry younger women and women to marry older men. As long as poverty and patriarchy exist, men would continue marrying much younger women, they might not even stop marrying female children. Child marriage is becoming illegal, raping children is so increasing in many societies.

Women experience a major, rapid change in fertility as they menopause. But men’s changes are not very significant. ‘Testicular tissue mass decreases and the level of the male sex hormone testosterone stays the same or decreases very slightly. There may be problems with erectile function. But it is still a general slowing, rather than a complete lack of function. The tubes that carry sperm may become less elastic. The testes continue to produce sperm, but the rate of sperm cell production slows. The epididymis, seminal vesicles, and prostate gland lose some of their surface cells but continue to produce the fluid that helps carry sperm.But in case of women, It is an end of fertility. The body no longer makes female hormones after menopause. Hormone replacement therapy is dangerous. It causes cancer.
Not necessarily nature, it is society dominated by men that has given men the privileges to mate with younger women which is the reason for them being fertile forever and suffer from different health problems much less than women of the same age. Because of menopause or lack of hormones, women suffer from Osteoporosis,Heart disease, Poor bladder and bowel function,Poor brain function (increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease), Poor skin elasticity (increased wrinkling), Poor muscle power and tone, Some deterioration in vision, such as from cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) etc. Women do not deserve to suffer from these diseases.

Breasts, buttocks, genitals, nipples, thongs are not allowed at Grammy’s.

grammys7f-1-web

Breasts, buttocks (buttock crack and buttock curve), genitals, nipples (female nipples, not male nipples), thongs are banned at Grammys.

I will never ever dress like Lil’ Kim to go outside my house. But if a woman wants it, I will not say, no. It is her wish to wear whatever she likes.

Really? But I am totally against the burqa.
I am probably thinking that the dresses are not objectionable if female nipples are covered. But again, I am curious to know if men could have big breasts and women were flat chested, would men have to hide their nipples?