(This article was publised in http://archetypeinaction.org)
Two days ago, in the middle of the street in Istanbul, one more woman was killed. Just like the woman who was killed in the middle of the street in Ankara a month ago. Just like the woman who will be killed in the middle of the street in New York, London, or Bahrain tomorrow or the day after.
I’ve been beaten. Roughed up. Almost obliterated. I’ve been stabbed, shot, hanged, even burnt…you think you can control me more easily if you obliterate my womanhood. All of you! I’m alone. All of you have crushed me. Your weight is on me. You’re very heavy. You carry the weight of thousands of years. My father, my brother, my son…all of you. My mother who stood by and did nothing. Each one of you who stood by. You who turned a blind eye to my being crushed and messed up. Just as you accepted the crushing of your wives, your mothers, your sisters, even yourselves. All of you…
How about you, all of you reading this? Since violence against women is constantly in the news and since research shows that this violence is on the rise, there must be something really wrong going on somewhere. We are all so used to putting the blame on others: the causes for the problems are due to others and it’s up to others to solve the problems. We go from one solution to another, from one other to another, but we never think of looking at ourselves. We want solutions without responsibility, we want change without effort, we want revolution but in no way are we willing to pay the cost…
I’ve always been so suppressed that although I wanted to change, the system wouldn’t let me. I’ve fooled myself for such a very long time…I, the victim of the system…of course your traditions, customs, education and your words had much to do with it, but it was me who allowed them to be ingrained in my memory and it is me who has carried them through yesterday into today, through today into tomorrow. One day, I saw in the mirror that I was the system.
Well then, all you women out there, do you ever look in the mirror? What do you see when you look? Losing weight or getting fat? Stretch marks? Pot belly? Sagging boobs? Do you ever look into the mirror at your body except to judge it? Most women, despite having an active sexual life and despite giving birth, never look at their genitals. Even if they look, they haven’t seen. But they accept this as normal. They have bodies and they have sexual organs. The separation between body and sexual organ does not surprise them. They don’t even think about it. Isn’t that weird? Isn’t it weird that women’s bodies don’t belong to them? That they belong first to their father and then to their husbands? And women accept this. They get used to living their entire lives without bodies. Can there be any greater act of violence then this? Yes, there can! To normalise it and not to perceive the violence for what it is… Women don’t question this…They don’t want to because they find it very difficult.
Everybody has a say over my body. Except me. Not in the city, not in the village. They decide to do away with me, because I, the daughter of the family, have willingly slept with a man they don’t approve of. What’s most painful is that my mother is also in on this. My youngest brother is assigned the job…wherever I may run, they will look for me, find me and kill me. And all of you will sit back and watch this. You’ll call it a traditional honour killing in the West. You’ll call it a Namus killing in the East. Men will sympathise with the killer because of their concern that it could happen to any of them personally. But I won’t be around. You will obliterate me simply because I wanted to be at one with my body. This body is my body. No one, not my husband, my father, my brother, nor any judge, any president or God has the right to make claims on my body.
If women cannot reclaim their bodies, they cannot exist as women nor can they change anything. If you do not own your body, you do not exist. You are under the delusion that you exist and you are drowned in that delusion…it is impossible to go forward if women cannot perceive the violence that has been inflicted on their bodies since childhood. If you cannot reclaim your bodies, you are no more than assets which are but tools for maintaining men’s Namus. Namus is translated as honour, virtue or chastity in English, but the word has far greater implications.
The Turkish word Namus originates from ‘namos’ in ancient Greek. It has become ‘name’ in English and ‘nam’ meaning ‘title’ in Arabic. In the days when a woman was explicitly regarded as man’s property, her debasement by another man was deemed equal to the debasement of the gold in his purse. The root of namos is in ‘nema’ which originally meant ownership of a piece of land and the animals which graze on it. Namus: potency, sovereignty, systemic power, rule, law. A masculine word.
Namus inhabits us all to a degree. Is it your Namus or my Namus? Men’s Namus is determined by their women. Who determines their women’s Namus? What are my rights to my Namus?
Although women are exposed to violence from these concepts, they fail to recognize it. These concepts have sprouted words: swearwords, which male dominated societies have turned into weapons…words…swearwords, accepted as normal and tolerated, but always used as sexual threats. Swearwords are ‘part of our culture’. No one speaks out, no one takes offence, no one gets angry…even though women are exposed to violence every time swearwords are used, they do not mind. They do not want to see swearwords as violence…
In order to understand how sexually violent language has developed, we need, first, to examine how profanities have been formed. When sexuality is expressed naturally, the context in which that sexual language is used is quite different.
Dear men, here is a simple question for you. Is making love something beautiful for you? Yes, of course. Then how come you utter the same words that you use when making love when you hate or get angry? Have you ever wondered about that? Love and war are not the same. Yes, of course, when you swear, you don’t attach the same meaning to the words. But you utter them and you hear them in return. Regardless of how common it is…regardless of how natural it seems… on the street, swearing establishes men’s dominance. The level of swearing establishes the level of dominance. When a man wants to dominate another man, he uses parts of the other’s sister’s or mother’s bodies to add to his arsenal of swearwords. When a man swears at a woman, he tarnishes her body and her sexuality. When a woman swears at a man, she alienates herself from her own body by aping male dominance.
Women, have you ever called anyone to task about their swearing? Or refused to make love with your partner on account of his swearing? Unfortunately, violence proliferates so insidiously that you women don’t recognise it.
Much as I sympathize with women’s fear, I am only too well aware that this fear can destroy you if you do not overcome it. Women will continue to be exposed to violence for as long as they choose not to confront it, and for as long as they surrender themselves to it for the sake of an easy life: they commit violence to themselves by accepting and by ignoring it.
All my life I’ve tried to be good. A moral young girl, a moral woman, a moral wife, a moral mother… moral or not, I no longer care. Because I’ve understood that your morality is all about what I should or shouldn’t be. Year after year I tried to be moral, but I saw that I always fell short of the ideal. The only right I have is the right to be condemned. Finally, I have realised that morality needs condemnation in order for it to survive.
I do not accept this for women. No. Why is it always so difficult to say ‘I do not want this’? Why are women’s lives founded on what other people think or say? On the one hand, there are these ‘others’ who make you negate yourself. On the other hand, there are those women who want to have a pat on the back. They are applauded and idealised for living only to be loved. They survive only by forgetting who they are. This kind of woman lives for and through her husband and children. Do’s and don’ts surround them to such an extent that they change into puppets whose strings are manipulated by others. They are not aware of this. They choose not to be aware of this… because women can only get a pat in the back if they live for others and not for themselves. But isn’t this also violence? Why are women expected to sacrifice themselves? Why is being judged accepted as normal by women and men when a woman refuses to play the roles that are imposed on her?
You shouldn’t load your fears on to me. Until now they’ve been wrapped around me, crushing me. I’ve always done what you required, always been squashed and shaped by you. You domesticated me. You bent, twisted and judged me. You educated me, you distanced me from who I am. I was so afraid of being cast out, my fears destroyed me. I lived silently within you, breathing evenly. I breathed in, I breathed out, there was nothing left. Enough, you have exhausted me.
For women to really exist, they shouldn’t be ‘womanly’. For them to exist as real women, they must reconnect their bodies to their genuine sexuality. For women to exist as real woman, they must not allow their skin to be hurt. They should reconnect the link between skin and brain. Existence also requires becoming an individual. To exist as an individual, you must take off your mask and unpeel your disguise. Once revealed in your own skin, you cannot hide behind a mask however much society insists on it. Unfortunately, as women are socialised, educated and conditioned, they are distanced from their true identities. They are dressed up in socio-cultural garments. They even veil themselves. Until they divest themselves of these disguises, it will not be possible to approach the subject of existing as a woman.
Unless we, as women, harmonise our natures with our brains and bodies, with our chemistries and chromosomes, and with our instinctive and social approaches as women, and if we do not identify with our true natures, we will always be cast in roles which incorporate violence.
The journey to existing as women is taken by washing ourselves clean of the toxic prejudices which stop us from recognising our natural physical integrity. I believe we’ll reach the first stage in this journey when we can stand naked and unadorned before a mirror, and look.
Do you know that wounds that don’t heal don’t grow any scar tissue? A scab appears to form, but really, the wound keeps bleeding inside. I don’t want wounds that bleed inside anymore. I say enough! Do you hear me? I won’t let you hide the inconvenient truth behind the sacred screen of family ,morality, love and society. You are phoney, ruthless cowards who hide your immorality under a cloak of morality. We are not the children of our parents. We are the offspring of fears. The children of fears and blood ties: those red-handed guardians…I say enough! Whether you hear it or not I will continue to scream. Stop hurting my skin…
The more that what is real is suppressed, the more space there is in which to impose delusion. Violence is a chain and the first link, regrettably, starts in the family. By ignoring the rape and abuse of children within the family, we take away their right to be children and then their right to become women and men. For those who have experienced sexual traumas in their childhood, there is a very low possibility of existing as women or men. Even when the past experiences are forgotten, the body has an infallible memory. Subsequent to trauma, the child’s life isn’t self directed according to their feelings and the natural desires of the body but by her or his fears. These fears, especially in women, bring about alienation and separation from the body and then self hatred.
Of course we can live in the world and ignore our bodies’ needs. However, in order to fully exist, it is essential to be integrated in our bodies. The children who have experienced traumas are obliged to live forever after with fears. When they grow up and have their own children, they bring them up to share the very same fears: therefore, children are not raised by their parents but by their parents’ fears.
I believe that we can confront the ugly face of truth by seeing it for what it is. Unless we do something to ensure that this issue is discussed, incest, abuse and the rape of children will increase. Societies will never consist of women and men, at harmony with their sexual identities, who have the courage to exist. Violence will breed violence over and over again.
It is too dark. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to remember…I did all my homework, I want to play with my dolls. We have guests, men and women laughing away in the back garden of the house…I took my doll out of its box to play with it. The man who comes through the door into my room, brown-haired and huge…the smile stuck on the huge man’s face inside my small room… he was leering. I remember his foul smirk very clearly but his face…he sat on my bed, as if he’d been in my room before…he was stroking my face. I just sat there frozen. Scared to death…I was afraid but my voice had fled down into my body. I couldn’t move. My inner voice was telling me to shout, they are all in the garden, just shout. My lips stuck together…he sat me on his lap. His hand moved up under my skirt, into my knickers, and then between my legs…I can’t make a sound. Everyone’s in the garden. Why does no one wonder where I am and come in…everyone’s in the garden. I couldn’t resist, I was scared but I couldn’t run away. Run away!..I can’t run away. Shout!..I can’t shout. I can’t breathe. A wheezing sound in my ear, the grunts…the grunts taking over the whole room, suffocating me, the wet sticky stuff on my leg…
Everyone’s in the garden…the man looked into my eyes, an evil look…my tears flew down into my body…I didn’t shout, I didn’t cry. As if nothing had happened…except the white slippery thing penetrating my dreams every night, and a fear as big as silence itself becoming a part of me. Had anything happened? Even though I’ve been quietly screaming that day’s scream for years, I can’t get anyone to hear the truth. And apart from that, did anything happen? When everyone was in the garden…why is there always darkness in my eyes even though it isn’t dark?
Did you think about the cost as you read this little girls true story? Indeed it is no different from the story of the little girl raped by twenty-six men…the bodies of the children who are conspired against and used by their family member or trusted elders… all those high and mighty men, high and mighty judges, high and mighty lawyers who do not condemn this…isn’t this what violence is?
You’ve read entire shelves of books. You memorize sentences that sum up life. You take refuge in knowledge that confirms your existence. You prefer your clothes to your bodies. You are scared to face your brains that are so easily aroused by nudity. You shamelessly call it shame. You are men and women in hiding, drowning yourselves in big words, pitying others, not realizing that you are the pitiful ones. You are pathetic souls pretending to live, disconnected from your bodies through complicated definitions. But anyhow, you don’t exist.
It’s as if ovaries are full to the brim with little subservient girls. Afraid to ask why, squeezing their spots in the mirror, thinking that womanhood is all about curves, only connecting to their bodies to check for the tell-tale signs of cellulitis. Men and women who automatically regurgitate experiences, enslaved to the illusion of having learnt from past pains. You lead fairy-tale lives while afraid to see your own dark faces.
There are struggling lives, I see them. Struggling hopes, with every breath, in words never uttered. Screams silenced because women were afraid to be judged, to be outcast, to be killed in the name of Namus, to be burnt in a witch-hunt. Women who are forced to go undercover even though there is no more nakedness left in them. Men who can’t break free from their crotches for the sake of power. There are babies whose feet never touch the ground, born naked and wrapped up in pieces of cloth, moulded by fears and admonitions, babies who learn to be ashamed of their bodies, who grow up to live the illusion of manhood and womanhood. Lips that don’t know moisture but are laced with admonitions…blind eyes whose dirty gaze defiles the silence…coarse fingers that don’t know how to touch…you are crowds, constantly sharpening your axes with the clamour for power. But anyhow, you don’t exist.
I can perceive, feel and cannot ignore all the painful experiences of other women because my natural womanhood has endowed me with compassion untainted by the notions of power and advantage of the male dominated system. I am a woman and also a mother. That’s why there is a concrete equivalence to the experiences of all women in my body, in my heart and in my feelings. I am a woman. It is impossible for me to accept that the child to whom I gave birth should struggle and die for the sake of these notions of male dominance. The death of other mothers’ children arouses such anger in me.I am a woman. I am so strong that I can accept all the sorrows in life. I know the reality of life can only be embraced by accepting life’s sorrows and not by avoiding them. I am a woman and I well know that all women will be able to say ‘no’ and resist only when they exist as women. This is why I write, this is why I will continue writing. This is why I resist and this is why I will continue resisting. I am a woman. I shall not allow the male dominated system to take away my womanhood. I know only too well that nowhere in the world is it possible for men to be men unless women are women. And I refuse to live in a world that the male dominant mentality has messed up and where violence and hatred is nurtured.
I am not asking for heaven as promised by the male dominated religious mentality. Instead I want heaven on earth, on the earth where I exist now. I know that it is possible to create a better world, one in which men and women can live with their natural sexual identities, and live in awareness of their differences. For this reason, I am determined to fight to change the world in this direction. And I call on all women to revolt and to say ‘no’ to the way of thinking that the male dominated system has imposed on us.