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Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

Part Two: Is Feminism Still the F-Word?

In Life in Society on April 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Answer: Yes, because systems of oppression still exist.

By Bekah McNeel

Here’s an underdog for you: An androgynous victim-turned-vigilante whose ideas of retribution are merciless and often gory. Lisbeth Salander is the anti-heroine of the book Men Who Hate Women, also titled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We cheer for her because we know how wounded she is, and the book makes little mystery of her oddity being the manifestation of the psychological effects of violence.

It’s tempting to see this violence as a modern perversion brought on by media violence, the sexual revolution, and video games. It’s tempting to hearken back to a sweeter time when a woman could go for a walk at night without fear, back before people were evil. But the heart of oppression is more native to our species. It’s more basic.

When asked about motive behind domestic abuse, men’s answers included anger, fear, insecurity, frustration, and other emotions triggered by desires for power, sex, or control.

(CNN Living, “Men Tell Oprah Why they Beat the Women they Love”, http://articles.cnn.com/2009-04-02/living/o.why.men.abuse.women_1_christy-abuse-sir?_s=PM:LIVING., accessed 3/30/12)

Abuse happens in cycles and abuse happens collectively. It happens to random strangers and to cherished spouses. There is no one answer as to what makes men want to beat or oppress women as a people group or as individuals.

Here is a concise list of disturbing facts lifted from the Oxfam Canada website:

16 Facts about Gender-Based Violence

1.     Around the world, as many as 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way – most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member.

2.     Women are more susceptible to violence during times of emergencies or crisis due to increased insecurity.

3.     1 in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

4.     About 1 in 4 women are abused during pregnancy, which puts both mother and child at risk.

5.     Laws that promote gender equality are often not applied.

6.     At least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation/cutting.

7.     ‘Honour’ Killings take the lives of 1000s of young women every year, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa and parts of South Asia.

8.     At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be expected to be alive are ‘missing’ from various populations as a result of sex-selective abortions or neglect.

9.     Over half a million women continue to die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.

10.  Rates of HIV infection among women are rapidly increasing.

11.  More often than not, perpetrators of gender-based violence go unpunished.

12.  Worldwide, women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate, limiting their ability to demand their rights and protection.

13.  Early marriage can have serious harmful consequences including, denial of education, health problems, and premature pregnancies, which cause higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. The power imbalance also means that young brides are unable to negotiate condom use or protest when their husbands engage in extra-marital sexual relations.

14.  Violence against women represents a drain on the economically productive workforce.

15.  Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across borders 80 percent of them women and girls. Most of them end up trapped in the commercial sex trade.

16.  Gender-based violence also serves by intention or effect to perpetuate male power and control. It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse.

(http://oxfam.ca/what-we-do/themes-and-issues/womens-equality/16-facts-about-gender-based-violence, accessed on 03/30/12)

For further exploration of these and other statistics, readers may visit the below sites:

International Justice Mission http://www.ijm.org/sites/default/files/resources/Factsheet-Gender-Based-Violence.pdf

United Nations Women’s Development Fund http://progress.unwomen.org/

National Organization for Women http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html

Photo by Kent Bartlett

Feminism is still “the F-word” in systems where it threatens a broken status quo. No one would say that a woman fighting for equal pay is in the same straits as a young girl trapped in the sex trade, but there is some solidarity there. Any system, even a family system, that says that women are inherently less valuable, capable or dignified than men is a system that makes way for abuse. Any system that sees education, health care, and legal rights as strictly belonging to men is a system that fosters oppression. A woman’s health and welfare in this world should not be dependent on the good will of the men around her.

I’m not saying men are evil. I’m not saying women are virtuous. We are all human and prone to abuse each other in large or small ways. Which is why we have to plan for the failure of our own virtue. We have to plan boundaries, structures, and accountability to keep us safe from each other. We cannot assume that we are incorruptible. This is not a new idea. This is why the United States has a Constitution. It’s not perfect, and it’s malleable. Some of the changes to it have come from surges of conscience that propelled us forward and made us better. Like the 14th and 19th amendments, which recognized that unless these people were citizens, they would be vulnerable and unprotected.

Around the world, women are without rights. I’m not talking about the choice to wear a hijab, or stay home to raise children. I am talking about the women who do not have that choice. Women for whom what they wear, say, and do is all limited and mandated by a system designed to control them. Not in the way that we all have to obey laws. Not in the way that we all have to submit to systems for the good of the whole. There are systems that deny women basic human agency. (For that matter, there are systems that deny whole people groups basic human agency … another essay for another day.)

If there are mandates that apply only to women, then that begs an explanation which may contain the DNA of oppression. If the explanation is that women are less capable, valuable or dignified, then a door is open to the stripping of their rights. The dehumanization process can begin with a simple statement about what women are “better suited” to do. So we must be very careful with our choices and how we explain them. We who have choices owe that much to the women who do not.

There are systems that need more than redefining and explaining. In another lesser-known novel, A Walk Across the Sun, by Corban Addison, economic systems built around supply and demand keep sex trade the booming industry that it is. Furthermore it brings women into a world of violence, where they then play an integral role in continuing their own oppression and the oppression of others, whether as brothel madams or teenage “mean girls” critiquing each other’s body shape and hair style.

This can happen on small scales too: women who are abused become abusers. The men who are abusing them were often abused themselves. Inside a system of oppression, there is rarely a simple dichotomy between perpetrator and victim. Inside the system of oppression, whether it is economic, social, or domestic, almost everyone needs rescue on some level.

The rescue begins by acknowledging that the brokenness is real and that it is closer than we realize. There are enemies to violence and oppression: justice, empowerment, and a place to heal. In so far as feminism is promoting these things for women who are denied them, it will always be “the f-word” to systems of oppression.

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Getting It

In Art, Life in Society, Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

To be content, I must create.

A work of art, of literature, of science;

Something unique, something my own.

And to be happy, truly happy,

My creation must be recognized,

Acclaimed, and enduring.

http://fugatur.wordpress.com/about/

Street Art in Oslo, Norway by Alice Pasquini

How sad, his wife replied,

That evoking a smile, teaching a lesson,

Watching a sunset, relieving a burden

Provide you with neither contentment

Nor happiness.

You don’t get it, he shouted.

Thank goodness, she sighed.

 

By Robert Deluty

[Motherhood: Journey Into Love, An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Edwina Peterson Cross, published by Mothers At Home, Inc. (c) 1997]

The Lesson

In Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

 

An angel hovered near the earth

To listen, should I call.

God had sent the angel here

To catch me, should I fall.

 

No summons did I make above

For I felt that I knew best.

The angel could just take God’s love

And care for all the rest.

 

No need had I for any help –

My problems few & small.

I had the answers I would need

Were my back against a wall.

 

Photo by Kent Bartlett

The smallest problem began to grow.

I could not make it stop.

Trouble, trouble everywhere –

Soon there was a crop.

 

As I pondered what to do,

I raised my hands above;

Then, I felt the angel’s grasp

And God’s continued love.

 

In my despair, I found the peace

That I’d been searching for.

It was there all along

When I opened up the door.

 

More grateful now, I could not be

When I look up towards the sky

And ask my Master for His help;

For He always hears my cry.

 

He sends an angel to calm my fears

And meets my every need.

I’ll listen now and talk to Him.

I’m glad to let Him Lead.

 

Georganne Conway

Copyright © November 3, 2008

 

Parietal Art

In Art, Nature on April 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm
Gua Tewet cave painting

Borneo, Indonesia - tree of life

By Heila Rogers

Parietal? What is that again? “Parietal lobes” sound familiar? As in: the parts of the brain on the sides or walls of the skull.

Parietal art is therefore … on the sides of caves or walls. This kind of prehistoric cave painting – at least in a particular cave in France [Lascaux Caves] – means renditions of animals on the walls of deep tunnels stretching back underneath mountains. Inside exist amazing sketches and imprints made by blowing paint over a person’s hand placed against a wall. These works have survived for an incredibly long time. In these caves, unlike some other cave art throughout the world, there aren’t representations of people.

Research shows paleolithic man used scaffolding and artificial light to construct this art. Unlike some cave drawings in other parts of the world, none of these appear to be narrative … as in, no stories.

Why were these created?

Probably the purpose was religious. Many of them are not easily accessible, especially for a nomadic people. The works were probably completed by shamans only. Ancient people evidently practiced animal worship, and likely experienced spirits in the form of lions, buffalo or horses. The drawings might’ve been a kind of prayer. Requests for successful hunts. Or a part of vision rituals. The handprints include those of children, making some researchers think that the sick were taken into caves hoping perhaps to make a connection with the gods for healing.

A cave painting in Indonesia (shown above, thanks Wikipedia), entitled “Tree of Life,” pictures hands with a vine twining among them.

Without prior knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls or any Hebrew or Greek – way before the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – this painting appears as if it could be a pictorial representation of the Bible verse:  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB John 15:5)

Many years before those words were written, this cave painting was established. The possible understanding(s) of such a concept by mankind waay B.C. or BCE is fascinating.

Or maybe it was the reverse. The concept and truth were there from the Beginning – at least a bit of it expressed in this very, very old painting and then in the words much later.

What is that truth?

What about, as expressed in these cave paintings, humankind’s desire to capture (have power over) or control … life, a situation, or a … creature?

Other questions:

Artists used bulges in the rock face to provide definition. How were these artists selected by the tribes? How did they display their talent? These so-called “survival societies” were pre-literate (but I imagine lots of verbal storytelling – they were still people after all) — and worked hard to get food and keep alive, so says the prevailing wisdom. There were issues of disease and accident. Where did God fit in? Is it true that they had less “leisure” time? Is art – the pursuit of creating or inventing visual things – a leisure-time, luxury pursuit? Or is it central to human nature and survival?

What about our disposition to go beyond ourselves for help?

It’s interesting to note that many of the caves were facing a certain way so as to be lit by the setting sun during the winter solstice.

What drives the human desire to worship? To go outside of ourselves to do so?

Where does the urge to create come from? No animals have it. They just live.

What about the desire to create pictures, a visual record? Why do we like to tell stories? Why do we want to, or feel a desire to attempt to control or manipulate the future?  With “mystical rituals” we desire to capture the essence, or copy the creation of beings. What’s going on with that?

Prehistoric man looked around at the stars, the sun, experienced emotions, felt the love she or he had for others … and drew conclusions.

Another issue with this parietal art is that underground itself was perceived to be supernatural (apparently non-spirit-seeking spelunkers experience visions in deep caves – something biological about this). Caves alone, even without decoration, were seen as gates to the Beyond … indicating an awareness, a sense of eternity?

Dr. Jean Clottes has much of interest to say on the subject at:  http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/clottes/page7.php

“Finally, hand stencils enabled them to go further still. When somebody put his or her hand on to the wall and paint was blown all over it, the hand would blend with the wall and take its new colour, be it red or black. Under the power of the sacred paint, the hand would metaphorically vanish into the wall. It would thus, concretely, link its owner to the world of the spirits. This might enable the ‘lay people’, maybe the sick, to benefit directly from the forces of the world beyond. Seen in that light, the presence of hands belonging to very young children, such as those in Gargas, stops being extraordinary (Clottes & Lewis-Williams 1998, 2001).
”

“The animals, individualised by means of precise details, seem to float on the walls; they are disconnected from reality, without any ground line, often without respect of the laws of gravity, in the absence of any framework or surroundings.”

This all reminds me of the following, about “eternity in the hearts of men:”

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (NIV Ecclesiastes 3.11)