Spread the word.

2 04 2010

I just realized that since I am neither an academic nor a self-identified feminist, it has taken me over three quarters of my life to recognize the fact that I have been and still am oppressed. By men.

Recently I thought about why it took me so long to realize this glaringly obvious fact. Living in a strongly male dominated society as I do, it should have been very apparent but maybe the conditioning went so deep that it was never something I thought about till I moved towards women – lesbians, feminists, academics – all sorts of unusual and intelligent characters who taught me, above all, to think.

Coming out was probably the first step on a long road towards the dawning realization that most men bully, tolerate or patronize women in ways so numerous that listing them would be exhausting. But one of the most important factors in my state of ignorance about my own oppression would have to be the fact of my privileged position in society. My life has been far easier than that of most Sri Lankan women, for no better reasons than that I was taught to speak English and was reared in a secure and liberal environment. So, my awareness of male oppression never got beyond the point of a fury that I would never win a physical battle with my brother, even if I was fighting for what was mine.

But then, how easy it would be to simply go with the mainstream flow and block out the incessant and infuriating male behaviors I now observe so clearly around me – from the tiniest details of thoughtless behavior to the relentless objectification/sexualisation of virtually every woman around.

Don’t straight women notice these things? Or is it just much more in their interests to deny and so condone them? Straight women have to live with men and off men to a great extent. Men are their protectors and providers and most importantly, the fathers of their children after all. Perhaps these are compromises they make, consciously or otherwise, in the search for motherhood and security. And living as we do in a deeply conventional South Asian society, the pressures to conform that are placed upon all women, are even greater.

I imagine that women suffering poverty and violence have little time or energy to meditate for long upon their circumstance. Their battles are for survival. They are the ones who suffer the most, who are deeply oppressed and whose voices are therefore rarely heard. But on the other hand, a high profile, educated, intelligent woman might not always wish to jar the status quo. The ways in which she is oppressed are much less apparent and far less painful and she has much to gain by silence and cooperation. So the most articulate women capable of effecting the greatest change become precisely the ones who would never be required to raise their own awareness and speak out. Given a choice between protecting one’s personal comfort and security and waging a constant battle for equality and power, few would choose the latter.

I know there are some amazing women who do just that – who give up so much and spend their lives fighting for equality and women’s rights. They are usually the lesbians, feminists and academics. In our society it often seems the word has not spread much further than that.





What is love?

29 12 2009

Three of us pondered an ancient question.

1.

We talk about love so much, I don’t even know if there is anything much left worth saying about love. I mean, what is love anyway? A feeling? A chemical reaction? A moment? Someone meant to happen to you? Who knows?

One thing I’ve seen over the years is that there are very few ways we love. In between those few ways, there will be many shades. But really, there isn’t that much difference about the way we love whether we are male, female, lesbian or just plain straight.

Some hurt because they love and others cause hurt for love. You may want to keep her with you because you love and I may want to walk away because I love. In the end, what do you call love anyway?

Is it when you hurt so much that you feel you are in a bottomless pit and everything is dark around you? Is it when you look around and only see the gap the other person has left? Or is it being able to share the pain and chaos of everything around you? And feel secure and cherished? Or are they both love?

How do you love?

2.

Some people love by letting go. Like the old saying: “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you they’re yours, if they don’t it was never meant to be.”

I think that means – if someone wants to be with you they will. If they don’t they won’t! Not much we can do!

I used to love obsessively – write her name in my blood and carve it on my skin. But I was 13 then. I have not loved like that since. But that first love is the only one in which you are irrational and possessed. Every other love is more pondered upon; you are slower in letting go and slower in giving yourself. Indeed, I believe that in any true love one should not give oneself completely. You have to keep some part of yourself for yourself. It maintains your own self-respect and also that of the other person in your life. You are yourself first and only then one part of couple. If you are not strong, not self-respecting, then the couple will not be any of those things either.

3.

I think love is the hidden and very convoluted reason for everything everyone does in their life – whoever they are. Even the murderer’s motives might track back to love – the need for or the lack of it. We don’t often realize this – how deep it goes and how the need for love governs the strongest of us. I don’t even think we really understand how much of our actions and thoughts are caused by chemical reactions, environment, history and the ways in which our brains work. That may be why we mistake so many other feelings, reactions and situations for true love and end up in co-dependent, infantile, unsatisfying or downright abusive relationships.

I think love and loving, like other skills, must be learned – often or maybe always through pain. But the process must be pursued and till one can love like an adult – with strength of mind, responsibility and courage, one is not really loving anyone but oneself.

But I also believe that once we achieve that level of understanding of our own minds and hearts, all kinds of magic will happen.

And that’s the point.