Monday, 17 September 2012

Weapon of Mass Destruction- SHAME

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 The last I heard those words years ago when I was a child of 7, I cannot recall when precisely or under what conditions.
It is such a simple child’s rhyme but I couldn’t understand it then!
And although I don’t hear the word shame much anymore, along with so many other women living a male dominated society, I experience it every day.

Shaming someone doesn’t really need much, it doesn’t have to be loud it’s a subtle ploy...a smirk here, a timely laugh… a reproachful glare or a disapproving stance.

Make someone feel small enough and soon they will forget who they can be.
Diminishing someone is an age-old weapon to control behavior; it’s completely bloodless, it costs nothing and once done right, rarely needs a reload.

It’s a quite insidious energy like a giant black snake slithering past you in the middle of the night, it doesn’t need to bite you with its venom or show you its fangs, just the fear it evokes by its presence and the potential danger it presents is enough. Its been used for centuries by those who benefit by suppressing talent, ability, power to suit their own agendas.

As an Indian woman in particular, I see it all around me and taste aspects of it wherever I go.

It’s in the little things that ‘seem’ so inconsequential; must wear a duppatta, cover your chest, so men don’t ogle at you. Don’t show too much skin when you step out lest you get pinched, poked, mauled or raped. It’s for your own protection.
The first thing anyone asks of a victim of assault here in this country is
 “ what was she wearing?”.

"The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see."
Ayn Rand

No one ever says to your face that you are the inferior sex, but it’s implied all the time in so many ways. There is a long list of must dos that must be ticked off before we are respected, accepted and loved.
The ideal Indian Nari must….
-       Must maintain yourself; but only expose for your husband don’t be a ‘fast’ girl and show for the entire world to see… tauba tauba!!!
-       Must get good grades; but no need to think for yourself or voice your opinion…( tch tch badey intellectual ban gayi!)
-       Must have a well paying job; but don’t make your own decisions (hmpff these modern girls I tell you, soo selfish !)
-       Must be adjusting – bend over backwards to fulfill everybody’s needs at     
       the cost of your own { chi chi! “log kya kahein gay” ( what will people say)}.

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.”

It’s a very confusing message we send out to young girls. Our eyes are beautiful but our breasts are not. We must work hard to be beautiful and accomplished BUT we have to earn our right to have an opinion, a voice or any choices or make our own decisions.  

Our boys and men need not be taught how to look at women nor should the laws insure a woman’s safety but we must dim down ourselves so as to keep them from acting on their primal impulses. Nor are they taught that we are the same as them and don’t have to earn our right to be treated with respect or consideration.

"You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won't discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself. "
Geneen Roth

Shame is such a powerful weapon, it has a domino effect, maim one and the rest will submit just from the fear of it. Shaming someone for their choices is emotional violence at its worst.

When a man thinks its ok to pass comments on me on the road,
Or when am asked to cover up for my protection,
Or when am asked to prove my worthiness, because I am born a daughter and not a son
I am compelled to look at the energy behind it.
What is the religious or cultural influence that makes ‘that’ ok?
Is it from the decades of Hindi movies that show men chasing women around trees while they sing love songs? Or from the never-ending advertisements that show us that our self esteem sits in pot of fairness cream, toxic hair dye or in the latest anti aging formula? Or is it from the music videos that objectify women, by showing them little more then a collage of boobs, eyes, thighs and bums?

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, what is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”
Philip K. Dick

So what is the solution?
How can we turn this poison into medicine?
When we start to live life consciously, it stops being about pointing a finger and becomes about finding and healing that which allows the wounding to take root.

My sister says she sees it coming from a deep place of insecurity and lack, this need to make someone else feel small and less. 
I couldn’t agree more but I also see that what makes it possible for someone else to shame us, be it a person or society as a whole, is that we are seeking their approval.
We need someone else to tell us what we wear, how we look, feel or think or do is ok. And in that approval we find our sense of safety and where we belong. But in the seeking of that outside approval we give up our own power.

I think here in the sub continent men are taught to believe that shame really is a woman’s domain, her burden to carry, and her plight to bear. They have been taught to see us as the weaker sex, who has to be managed and handled.

From where I’m standing, the other side of the coin of shame, is Honor.
And like everything else in the patriarchal society we have looked outwards to save ours. Our whole notion of what is appropriate has been handed down to us. We are taught to follow convention and to suppress our own inner knowing.

Wikipedia defines honor as -“ an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honor, and the moral code of the society at large.”
I believe that just like Love is the antidote for Hate, Courage is for Fear then Honor is the one for Shame.

When we understand that our rights are not given to us like some boon earned through penance and suffering but are ours to claim.
When we learn to honor ourselves, gender bias and its associated power games become irrelevant.

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”
Anaïs Nin

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