Thursday, November 23, 2017

#nosgbv Giving thanks in a season of #metoo

With this post, I am setting myself the task of blogging everyday about sexual and gender-based violence from now until at least the end of the 16 Days of Activism to end VAW season--which, for us at Prajnya, ends mid-December. I am committing to writing--not to anyone style, so some of this is going to be fact, some fiction, I am guessing.

I will tag all these posts #nosgbv.


Today is Thanksgiving in the US, arguably the most important American holiday and for academics, a moment of relief at the break-point of a semester when you can catch up on reading or term paper research.

It's been an autumn in which many male icons have fallen from their pedestals like the auburn leaves from northern trees. And women around the world have said, #metoo. None of us has escaped the touch of sexual and gender-based violence.

And yet.

The oft-touted statistic is that one in three women have experienced abuse in their lifetime. The universality of #metoo suggests that the number may be higher--two in three or even three out of three. I suspect that many women and girls simply don't code their experience as violence and therefore, don't talk or report. It's life as they know it.

But just for this moment, I want to think about those who have not experienced violence and express the profound gratitude in those hearts. I want to express gratitude for the violence we escaped.

Thank you for shielding me from all the violence I have not experienced.

Thank you for helping me realise why women pray so hard for good relationships and marriages, but sparing me experiential learning.

Thank you for that time I went into the office building alone on a weekend, did my work and came back, unscathed.

Thank you for the foremothers and forefathers whose struggle and advocacy put in place conventions and laws designed to give me access to justice.

Thank you for every journey on which the man in the next seat has kept to himself and not "accidentally" groped me.

Thank you that the liftman did not flash himself before me alone in the lift, returning from school. And thank you that the librarian did not accost me in the stacks.

Thank you for the times I was too innocent and ignorant to be fearful of what might happen to me, for that moment of blind faith that made a learning experience possible. And for preserving that innocence by keeping me safe.

Thank you for the unknown women--sisters--who form a buddy system for each other on trains and buses and aircraft. And elsewhere in the world. Thank you for solidarity and caring.

Thank you for the times when I put myself in danger and you quietly took me out.

Thank you for lifting my colleague's hand from my knee before a nudge became a caress I did not want.

Thank you for making sure that although #metoo, it was not as bad as it could have been. Thank you for the realisation that I can survive and help those who had it worse.

Thank you for the dates that ended as I wanted and from which I returned fully conscious.

Thank you for sparing me displacement, exploitation and the personal experience of collective violence.

Thank you for the late evening interview where we stayed on our sides of the desk and from which I walked back in the dark of a dangerous city, safe.

Thank you because I escaped that abusive relationship.

Thank you for putting kind and gentle people in my life.

Thank you for the privilege--that I feel guilty about but that shelters me from countless kinds of oppression and abuse.

Thank you for the fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and in-laws that did not abuse my trust.

Thank you for every cutting word you stopped from exiting my mouth. Thank you for every impulse to help. Thank you for keeping me from hurting others or committing violence.

And I know this is selfish, but thank you for making me the one person that the lecherous supervisor did not hit on.

Thank you for sparing me all the bad things that could have happened, even more than I smart from the ones that did.

Whoever, whatever is responsible for my good fortune, thank you a million times over. Thank you for the sheer random, dumb luck of being safe.

Next year, please spare everyone else too--the weak, the meek, the unorganised, the scattered, the scared, the silent, the dispossessed, the abandoned--and spare those who are not these things, but still do not escape. They did nothing to deserve this (no one ever does). I thank you in advance for your consideration.

I also thank you in advance for the sensitivity and awareness that all of us will develop this year. I thank you in advance for the pandemic of kindness and non-violence for which I pray.

Really, just thank you.

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