If you haven’t yet realized, women are a miracle. And I’m not referring to their ability to give birth, to give life, to have miraculous bodies that can do wonders that humans still haven’t understood fully or even remotely begun to appreciate and value.
I’m referring to the fact that despite the millennia of violence, exploitation, oppression, hurt, injustices that we’ve gone through, we are still alive.
I learned recently that a young female friend of mine committed suicide a few years ago because of her abusive husband. (And she’s not the first woman I know who has committed suicide for this reason. But that goes without saying, of course.) The way the conversation about her suffering went was something horrible like: “The stupid girl, now, just because your husband is abusive, you go and take your life? She left an infant child, too. How selfish of her. Women are so naive and irrational – if only they thought before they acted.” Imagine the expression on my face as this comment is made *on top of the news I was given*.
And then there are the number of women (Muslim and non-Muslim) I know who are being abused emotionally, sexually, physically, psychologically. Then there are the ones we hear and read about. And then there are those who don’t share their abuse experiences with others but you can tell from their interactions with their partners/husbands that they are being abused.
Then there are all those communities that try to kill women even before they’re born.
Then there are the number of women who have been killed by their husbands or fathers (or mothers!) or boyfriends or men whom the women rejected.
Clearly, we are not meant to survive. The efforts to kill us are not mistakes; they’re a part of an oppressive system that thrives on violence against us. And so when we still remain, when we remain alive, we are a miracle.
Of course, none of this is to even imply that women have never rebelled against patriarchy in history, against the violence they’re going through. In fact, it turns out that there are communities in the world, like in Tanzania, where women are marrying other women so as to avoid marrying possibly abusive men. Women know what patriarchy is; women know how to deal with it.
This is also why I cannot find it in me to disrespect women who have simply stopped even trying to fight patriarchy. But don’t mistake that for giving up their fight against injustices against them – because they’re still fighting patriarchy, just not in the external, very obvious ways some of us would prefer. This is why I can’t blame my Mother when she asks me to do things or to have beliefs and expectations, or to tolerate in men practices/attitudes, that I find absolutely unacceptable.
Because some women’s working with patriarchy is a survival strategy. Because the alternative is death for too many women. And this is no exaggeration. Hell, death is too serious, too real a possibility even when we do work with patriarchy, even if we fully endorse and explicitly support patriarchy.
It is a miracle that women have not risen up universally, at the same time, and strangled the roots of patriarchy. It’s a miracle that we have survived as a female species. For too many millennia, there have been wars against us, where so many of us have been killed, and yet, yet we survive, we remain, we persist. This is a miracle.
And this is why women bonding with other women is such a beautiful and such a necessary thing. Because it is how we have survived.
Now for a poem ❤
Strangle the Damned Patriarchy!
When patriarchy swooshes over your being like a tsunami,
Trying to swallow you because you threaten its existence,
And you’re stifled
Because everything and everyone around you has been engulfed in it already,
Just remember, Daughter:
You will survive this just like your mother and your grandmother did
As did other women before you
Because despite patriarchy’s hold on us all,
We continue to exist.
But it’s no longer enough to just exist.
It’s no longer enough to just survive it.
We must form a shield together, as one,
Stand mightier than the waves of a tsunami
And stand up to patriarchy
So it can turn back around
NO! So we can strangle it the way it’s strangled many of us
We must never allow it to return
So our daughters never have to face its wrath
And begin to live in peace at last.
Oh yes. The following lines of Tupacs “Keep ya head up” come in mind: “We ain’t meant to survive/cuz it’s a set up/but still/you’ve got to keap ya head up.”(Even though he was sadly enough VERY sexist, objectifiying women all over the place and even sexually assaulting a fan)
More appropriately, Audre Lordes Litany for Survival also comes into my head:
“For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.”
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makes me want to cry when I see the truth in this.