It takes conscience, compassion, clarity, and courage to empower a victim of abuse. This whole business of empowerment is a sham, opines Mona, showing us the light at the end of the tunnel, exclusively for Different Truths.
There has been a great deal of band baja about women’s empowerment lately. I was at a gathering last week, where two young girls presented a dance inspired by the idea of women empowered. As I watched the two, fresh-faced, naive lasses, sway their graceful bodies and daintily wave their arms through the air, occasionally raising their fists in a gesture of strength, their eyes wide with fury, I wondered if these sprightly girls had at all been touched by the reality of disempowerment. What challenges do they anticipate in their future? Do they already experience some form of oppression, which they haven’t yet awakened to? Are they aware of or in denial of the abuse that their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins or friends might be subject to?
We see the plight of these women rendered in song and dance, poetry and literature, films and art, but how does a woman’s empowerment actually play out on the real stage of life? What are the consequences that a woman faces after speaking out against sexual, physical or emotional abuse? She might expose a vindictive boss or colleague, demonic in-laws, callous parents, a cheating husband, a manipulative sibling or relative, an abusive son and daughter-in-law or for that matter, a corrupt system. But in the absence of any legal recourse, what is the final outcome of a woman’s protest? Does she live happily ever after, while the offender sits curled up, mortified and whimpering in a hole, pleading forgiveness? Do all the wrongs that are done to her stand corrected? Is it truly a release; the euphoric end of oppression or the beginning of a debilitating and isolating depression?
This question prompts a little soul searching. If a woman was to confide in us, do we take her accusation of abuse, seriously? Do we care to rally around a woman friend or relative who has mustered the gumption to reveal any hint of abuse, after we have satiated our initial curiosity? Do we respond to a confession of trauma with “Let me know if you need to talk” and avoid any further contact with the victim? Do we have the nerve to demonstrate our wholehearted support to the victim with the courtesy of social inclusion? Do we care to get involved?
The answer is often absurd as would make Marie Antoinette proud. “If she’s unhappy why doesn’t she leave?” But leaving a job, a marriage, a family is not a piece o’ cake, my dears. With all that is at stake, removing herself from the situation simply absolves the offender but punishes the woman, who is robbed of all that she has invested. This suggestion to uproot herself is typical of a society that prefers to tiptoe gingerly around the core issue so that the higgledy-piggledy applecart will remain stable while the lone apple would roll off and rot in despair.
It takes conscience, compassion, clarity, and courage to empower a victim of abuse. If you ask me, this whole business of empowerment is a sham! Frankly, my dears, do we really give a damn? Are we blind to the fundas of “conflict of interest”? Do we forget the cliché, “The truth is inconvenient”? The irony stares us hard in the face. How could women possibly hope to be empowered… when our society thrives on men of power? With egos hardened through years of adulation, shame and regret are mere words that bounce off their conceited, shiny veneer that is varnished by a selfish society, lacking in responsibility and the integrity that is necessary to ‘bell the cat’.
Let’s take a scenario where a woman calls out on an abusive man. The extended family is the first to react, appalled at her foolish indiscretion. She will be inundated with frantic advice to hold her tongue, for their own vested interests will now be on hold, all because of this woman, so annoyingly bold! Thus, begins her solitary climb up the mountain of treachery, of humiliation, doubts, suspicions, and lack of credibility.
Next, comes the circle of many ‘close’ friends, who, except for a handful, instantly withdraw into their shells, gossiping, waiting to see how the saga unfolds! Forget the man, it’s the woman who’s put to shame; punished and shunned for daring to blame. Even those who privately acknowledge the crime will feign ignorance in his presence, treat him with pride. Why, the ‘strong women’ too, who passionately extol women’s empowerment and who enthusiastically support the “#MeToo” campaign; will privately reject the poor woman, without the incentive of photos, bouquets, plaques, and applause. Is it surprising then, that the abuse continues for generations? As long as men are allowed to get away without social reprimand; as long as an abusive man can walk tall and dismiss the woman as a mental wretch, the effort for women’s empowerment can never sustain.
The abuse will continue with increasing brazen arrogance. Today it is ‘her’, tomorrow it could be our darling grand-daughters. The recent furor is but a tiny wave in the ocean. Her cry will subside with sad indignation. The great accusation will remain unheeded, unresolved, like a stubborn elephant in the room, feeding on lies, deceit, apathy, and ridicule! The demoralised woman will patiently await some validation of the injustice, of her pain. But the years will simply pass her by, as the world forgets she reluctantly lays the past to rest. But the wound will never ever heal and every time another woman screams, her festering wound flares up again!
No. It is not enough to empower women to speak up. It is crucial that we empower ourselves; that we overcome our fears and cowardice so that we can honour and protect a woman abused. Only then will a wicked woman or man think twice, before they assume that women are helpless mice.
Photos from the Internet
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