When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else -- Joseph Campbell.

Identities and Abuse

I tend to get hung up on identities. A lot. Being a woman of Asian descent, I see the inequalities between genders become more pronounced because every incident hits home. Heck, most incidents even start at home. My parents are by no means control freaks (well, at least my mother isn’t), but I’ve fought my fair share of battles as a teenager, and even as a 20-something, to assert my independence and assumption of responsibility.

Sample conversation with my father:

“You can’t talk to boys.”
“Why not?”
“Because I said so.”

Oh no you didn’t. I’m very proud of myself. I have never been able to tolerate unjustified authority and I still don’t, regardless of the relationship. I ended my curfew the day I hit 21, I took over my own bills and even some of the family’s at 18 and I put myself through college with a 3.8 graduating GPA. I’m sorry – telling me I’m not a responsible adult and that I “don’t know any better” just don’t fly.

My independence is a part of my identity. Losing a sense of who I am is my second greatest fear. Being alone is the first. But identities are molded by the people in our lives, who can or cannot be extremely abusive. Physically, mentally, verbally, emotionally and even sexually. Especially sexually.

Where do the lines begin and end to qualify oppression and abuse? Where should they? When is enforced authority because of a role in life too much authority? I’ve seen men in my family being allowed to get away with being the control freaks that they are simply because they’re the husbands. They’re raised to believe that being born as men affords them the right to make decisions for the women and children in their lives. From deciding where their wives and daughters will work to whom they can talk to, to what they can or cannot wear and even right down to what they’re allowed to eat or drink.

Can’t look at another man. Can’t step out of the house after dark. Can’t have people over for tea. Can’t dress a certain way because that’s against the family rules. Rules??? Why does a healthy, active, contributing member of society need fucking rules to live in her own home??? Just because she’s married?

For anyone who might reading this post and thinking that it’s easy for me to talk about the domestic abuse in families without understanding the social structure, you’re wrong. I’ve seen plenty of these “valid” inequities in my own family and in my own home. My father no longer speaks to me because he cannot control me or my decisions. I don’t allow him to. Some friends of mine tell me it’s easier said than done to put your foot down. No it’s not. I’ve had a lifetime of stomping my feet and it still isn’t easy for me. I just can’t fathom handing over my entire life to a ridiculous patriarch, father or husband. The abuse that the women in my family have survived may not be as violently extreme, but emotional scars usually don't heal after the physical scars have.

The trigger for this post is a movie I just watched. It’s called Provoked and it stars Aishwarya Rai in the role of Kiranjit Ahluwahlia, an Indian woman who had been repeatedly abused by her husband. The movie seems extreme, but shock was more rude when the credits said that the movie was based on a true story. The related article that I found online is here.

According to the article,

Following a campaign, led by SBS, Ahluwalia's conviction was quashed on
appeal in 1992. The court accepted some new evidence - that she had not been
aware she could plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished
responsibility, and that she had been suffering from severe depression when
she killed her husband [...] Ahluwalia's successful appeal against her
murder conviction set a historic precedent - that women who kill as a result
of severe domestic violence should not be treated as cold-blooded murderers.

I’m fucking pissed.


susan said...

Understandably. But this is something that happens every day in America, Europe, all over the world (see book The Burning Bed by Faith McNulty 1980 and movie 1984) based on a true story. While there is not the parental dominance here that you find in Asian countries, the spousal abuse fostered by old beliefs still linger. It's going to take a long time before this, as with any change in human nature, becomes abhorable to all.

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