How Women Find Excuses to Dismiss My Belief Against Domestic Abuse

Men and women have almost equal contribution in the fucked up mess that our society is today.

Undoubtedly, men have played a prominent role as aggressors and oppressors, while women have been the oppressed ones, historically and statistically speaking.

But in most people’s minds, women’s roles in perpetuating misogyny, domestic abuse, and even rapes have been downplayed.

Women make excuses for their abusive husbands, sons, and brothers, among many other awful things that contribute to the oppression of women.

The funny thing that I want to discuss in this article is how while discussing domestic abuse, women dismiss my advice or warnings to suit their narrative.

WHEN I SAY I AM IN A HAPPY RELATIONSHIP WITH A MAN:

Speaking as a feminist who has a man in her life who respects and loves her, my advice or whatever statement I make in a discussion is dismissed.

They say I have a good guy, the rest of them are not like him and since I don’t know what an abusive relationship is like, I cannot understand the risks of living a single woman’s life and which is why they would continue to live with an abusive man.

WHEN I SAY I AM A HAPPY SINGLE WOMAN:

They say that I am a man-hating feminist who never wants to be associated with a man. Over the years I have been awarded many other such titles, dominating feminist, a competitor of men, delusional woman who thinks she does not need men blah blah blah.

I have been in both situations, single and in a relationship.

And not for one second I changed my core belief that

A MAN THAT DOES NOT RESPECT YOU OR TREATS YOU AS HIS EQUAL, DOES NOT DESERVE YOU. 

Domestic abuse has many aspects and leaving a spouse or partner you love/d is never going to be easy. I never said it would be.

But is it easy to be with a man who can break your skull any moment with a bat?

Technically speaking, almost nothing in life is easy. But instead of finding ways to bring down women who claim to be a feminist and advocate equal rights in a relationship also, not just on paper in society, maybe focus on the reason why you are NOT A FEMINIST.

Feminism to me is religion, it is logic, it is common sense. A way for society to move forward and accept all humans as they are. Just because you have failed to Google a simple definition of what ‘feminism’ is, does not mean I would not call myself a feminist to save me from your judgment.

I have the deepest of sympathies for any person, any gender who is in an abusive relationship and needs help. In fact, this blog is for such people and I get queries from all over the world, from all sorts of people seeking advice. I have studied the topics, researched them and written books on them. So, I know my shit. I know what I am talking about.

But these women defending the abuse and saying ‘this is what marriage is’ and ‘I am putting up with this for my kids’ is a total disaster. Instead of defending abuse and abusive men, break the cycle of abuse by not making your kids watch you get beaten.

And I will always be there to help.

Me, the openly feminist, man-hating single woman. (#satire)

 

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Can A Woman Ever Really Have A Room Of One’s Own? Sasural or Mayka, which one? Neither?

When Virginia Woolf might have written about the need for a woman to have a room, a corner, a place of her own… I am not sure if she knew how relevant this idea would be for years after her.

A friend of mine who is considering divorce recently was talking about her ordeals and how she felt like an imposter, a bother in her husbands home where she lived for about 5 months after they got married.

She was told what to do when to do and during a fight, her husband threw at her face that she ate £500 worth of breakfast in that first month after their wedding. (while he ate most of it because of his manly appetite but good to blame the wife)

Unfortunately, she is not the only one, the only woman who feels like an imposter in her husbands home. This isn’t much of a surprise coming from women who are married into joint families (its the Indian family system in which the guy gets to live with entire family while the women are supposed to leave their parents homes and settle in their in-laws’ homes).

But is the freedom of a woman as restricted when she lives with just her husband, as a couple?

Apparently so.

One woman I know tells the tales of her husband literally locking her inside their home as he feared she might go out and cheat on him. Don’t even get me started on the physical abuse and the whole ordeal of pain.

But there’s another very weird but real case.

This woman lives with her partner and they have been together for about 8 years. There is no physical abuse. They have some issues, they sometimes fight but there is no ‘fear’ of the man as such.

However, since she isn’t the earner in the house, she doesn’t have that authority. The guy feels like he can say whatever, do whatever, make rules and she is supposed to follow because he is ‘right’.

A few days ago, her partner went to see his family for about a month. Before he left, she cried in secret because she knew she was going to miss him.

When he left, she did miss him.

She felt that silence around the home and she often talked to herself out loud.

But something really weird happened that she had not expected.

She loved the freedom.

She watched whatever she liked on TV (there was no struggle like every night where he puts on blood and violence despite knowing she gets nightmares).

She cooked whatever she liked just for herself (she has to make two separate meals because her partner eats bland food so every night she first cooks for him and if there is any time left, she quickly whips up something stupid for herself, survives on junk or eats frozen leftovers because she puts him first). Being on her own was easy.

She often did not cook when she didn’t feel like and ordered food which she enjoyed eating for 2 days. There was no judgment for ordering food or rants about money wastage, it was all up to her.

Having insomnia, she sleeps at weird times and her partner being away, she was free to wake up and sleep when it naturally happened and the quietness in the house was a big factor for uninterrupted sleep.

She loved being on her own despite the few extra responsibilities.

She loves him, missed him terribly, was on the phone all the time and flew into his arms when he got back.

They spent a few very happy together and some weeks in… it was back. The rants, the small things that people don’t talk about because they are not life-altering acts but it does make a difference in the life of someone who goes through it.

Having to watch whatever you like on TV, is FREEDOM.

Having to cook anything you prefer or not cooking at all is FREEDOM.

Sleeping and waking, whenever you like, is FREEDOM.

While the majority of the women in the world are suffering from domestic abuse, lack of basic education, basic human rights, and choice, it might seem like a grand luxury to demand or dream a ‘Room Of One’s Own’ OR more sensibly a HOUSE of one’s own (because a room inside the house of a controlling man is still under his power and doesn’t have much freedom).

Since the moment an Indian baby girl is born, she is reminded constantly that her husbands home is her actual home and she is merely a temporary passerby at her parents’ home where she grows up and builds her earliest memories.

However, she is forced to leave that home and go live with her husband (and often his family) however far that may be.

Only if all this was worth it.

Only if all these sacrifices gave a woman that place where she could be free. A place where she could breathe free.

One may call it selfish and that even to live with a friend or any other human, one would have to make compromises.

I ask, why does one need to live with someone at all in that case.

To have a room/home of her own is something women are promised as soon as they are born and they die like fucking unwanted guests but they never get to live in any place that they could feel like is their own.

Single women rock this ish. I guess they got this figured.

 

Reacting to ‘Faye D’Souza & Barkha Dutt speak on India’s Me Too movement | Times Lit Fest Delhi’

I loved watching Faye and Barkha, two of my favorite journalists, speaking about #MeToo in India. Tavleen had some rather weird ideas about the movement and was brave enough to say them out loud in public.

Until the end though, she didn’t seem convinced, so here I summed up the objections and answered them in the most straightforward way possible in two sentences or less. She didn’t seem to get it but here is another attempt.

Why do women not slap a man who tried to kiss her or go into a room with a man where he is in his underwear?

Many do, plenty don’t. Its called the ‘freeze’ reaction. It’s the Neurobiology of Trauma. 

We had to go through Sati and the likes. And you young women can’t stop a man from kissing you. Why?

Every generation has its own problems. We didn’t have to fight for voting rights, doesn’t mean we don’t value them and doesn’t mean our struggles are less important.

City women are hogging the space with their unimportant agendas and protests against sexual harassment when there are issues like sex trafficking that are more pressing and need more attention. Why not focus on them?

It’s like saying when there are diseases like cancer, why are you researching flu drugs? Stupidity is all.

Why didn’t they just kick M.J.Akbar, why not get him sacked, why become a victim and use the ‘victim card’?

When you aren’t believing them now in this advanced age, with years of experience and professional history to their credibility… would you and others have believed them back then? Plus, there was no technology.

‘#Me too’ only empowers the elite class?

First of all, every woman in every class of society has a role to play in women’s rights struggle. And secondly, why don’t Tavleen and the likes of her do something for the non-elite and lead by example? Just because one lives in an apartment doesn’t mean she has to lay the onus of cleaning up the filth on women’s rights on the most oppressed women. What logic is that? Each person can play a role and its got to start somewhere.

Men like women. What’s wrong with it?

Like whoever you want but treat them like humans- with respect and decency. Akbar employed women journalists with the hidden agenda to hit on them and take advantage of their fragile advancement. Here comes the faux feminist the suffragists had warned us about.

Why are not men included?

They are. Watch Terry Crew’s #MeToo speech. And guess what happens when men come forward with their stories and who supports them? It’s people like you who mock men and disbelieve that a man can be assaulted and its feminists who stand with those men and fight for their rights.

Why didn’t women speak earlier?

Many did. They lost their careers, lives, trust in humanity. Plenty didn’t because they saw what happened to those who did and didn’t want to deal with the consequences. Plus, if you don’t believe them now, you won’t believe them in the past. You’d have found another excuse to discredit them. Why Didn’t Tanushree Speak Earlier?

Why doesn’t #MeToo recognize the difference between groping and rape and treat them both differently?

When has anyone ever said that a rape convict should get the same punishment as that of a sexual assault convict? The boundaries of what’s a violation and what should or shouldn’t be included are arbitrary in the movement but one thing that’s for sure isn’t arbitrary is CONSENT. Being groped or violated in other ways physically has life-long damaging impacts on a person’s psyche. Why is their trauma not worth our attention?

Why media trials? Why not just go to the police?

Oh yes, because we know how prompt and efficient is the justice system in India. Besides, if the #metoo was not a movement and had the media not talked about this constantly, would big shots like MJ Akbar ever be taken down? Watch SPOTLIGHT film to know the true powers of investigative journalism.

We all have women like Tavleen in our lives who will do everything possible to tear down other women instead of simply being empathetic to survivors. And they are such exhausting people to deal with because no matter how much you try and explain, they will keep changing the goal post of their argument and never admit that they are causing so much harm.

Tavleen claimed to have sympathy for the 5-6-year-old poverty stricken rape survivor but guess what will happen when such girl would go to Tavleen and share her story? She’d say “where is the proof?“, “why didn’t you kick him and slap him?”, “why were you alone with him, where are your parents?”.

When you say victim blaming statements like these, all the women around you are internally thinking they can never trust you with their traumas. You just don’t deserve it.

I Had Never Told Anyone ‘You’ll Die Alone’ But Today I Did & I’m Not Sorry

It takes a lot of anger and outrage to yell at someone “you’ll die alone”.

I have had my moments of rage, sparsely scattered throughout my small life but I have never ever hated anyone that much to say such a mean and cruel thing to someone.

Today I did, however, break my rule and said it. And I am not sorry at all and the reason I am sharing this with you over a blog post is:

1- Misplaced blame makes you say things you never thought you’d say.

2- Once an abuser, always an abuser. 

So, let me cut the suspense, if you are a regular reader of my blog, you know this guy.

Yes, this is the idiot stalker I wrote about in the past and also shared his stupidities in a video. 

He got married about 10 months ago. For some weird reason, he contacted me on my work email from his work email to tell me about that and asked me to speak to his fiancee. I asked him why and he never had a proper response but he kept insisting that I just introduce myself to her as a friend. I didn’t.

Last month, I got an email from him saying he was very depressed and in a lot of trouble.

I got worried and asked what was up.

Drunk as he usually is, he blurted a lot of bullshit about him loving me and all. And then he insisted again that I talk to his wife.

It was the middle of the night in India. I was confused, why would I talk to his wife.

Then he revealed a little.

He said that she and he had a fight and she was in the room either sleeping or pretending to be asleep. He asked me to talk to her and calm her down or something.

This was all totally weird but considering how some strange woman was locked up in a room with this psychopath, I really got worried about her.

I instantly told her that it was not my place to say anything but if she isn’t alright, she could share. That night our talk did not go too far but I got the jist of it.

He is a drunkard, abusive, narcissistic asshole who is beating his wife since day 1 of their honeymoon. 

The next day she got in touch with me privately and told me several other dirty secrets of his house that I as a friend never knew obviously. But those were the things about his background, why he has become such an asshole and the role his parents have played in making him that misogynistic monster– all credit of which goes mostly to his mom.

My heart broke into a million pieces listening to her pain. Ultimately she asked, what should she do. She was at her parents home that night because the fucker had fractured her wrist in the fight from last night.

I suggested what any sane, logical person would. Either seek professional help, set boundaries, give him a deadline to control his alcohol and abuse OR simply walk away from a marriage that is literally breaking her bones.

Through these last couple of weeks, she gave him chances and he has failed to keep his promises for more than 120 minutes!!! That is how long-lasting his sanity is.

Anyway, the reason that blew the handle and made me say the worse of things is because of what happened last night.

At about wee hours of the morning, Indian time, he was calling me.

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Look how he is attacking me ‘teaching his wife’.

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My DP these days btw is about divorcing in order to not set a wrong example of marriage in front of your kids…Something like that. It pissed him off as expected although it was not directed at him.

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The audio I forwarded him is the one in which he was blurting out that he loves me.

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These images fully opened are below once this conversation finishes.

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I feel weird now but I totally lost it when he tried to blame me for trying to create a rift between his wife and him and now that I encouraged his wife to stand up for her rights, he is attacking me saying my intention is wrong.

I had no faith in him and never expected any sense of decency from him anyway. But the only reason I spent my time speaking to his wife is that I can empathize with that poor woman trapped with him in this abusive marriage. 

And this is the second woman whose cries I have heard this past week who is being abused by her husband.

Should I feel sorry for these abusive morons who abuse these innocent women?

Nope. I don’t. 

I really never thought I would ever say “you’ll die alone” and other mean things I said above… but this was the height of my patience.

I have tolerated a lot of BULLSHIT from this moron in the past that I have shared in the blog and video, but the most I did then was just BLOCK HIM.

But getting to know how he is abusing his innocent wife, I cannot ignore his stupidities and simply block him without giving him a piece of my mind.

BTW below are the images I reminded him of who is in love with whom.

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Turns out, once an abuser, always an abuser. And that marriage and commitment do not change violent, abusive men.

 

Got a #MeToo Story? Here’s What To Do According To A Criminal Psychologist

#MeToo has been exploding in India lately and has already shaken some very solid foundations in Hollywood, academia, and journalism worldwide.

I have not met one woman in my entire life who has not faced some sort of sexual harassment in her life. These experiences worsen among women of color.

New advancements have been rising yet most of them are ineffective and unhelpful to the survivors of assault.

When it comes to sexual harassment reporting and suing, one of the major obstacles that can make or break your case is the reporting of the assault. Julia Shaw, a criminal psychologist in her TED Talk recently shared some life-saving information on the best way to report and take action after going through an assault incident. You can watch the talk here but in a jist, this is what you must do or in other words,

How to turn your memory into evidence:

Get into an isolated location and write these things down immediately even before talking to anyone because judgment and reactions can tamper or distort your memory.

1- Timing- write about the incident as soon as you possibly can.

2- Type- a handwritten note won’t have a date and time like a note on your phone or computer, that would later be crucial in your testimony. So use technology to your advantage. Make it time stamped.

3- Relevance- write down things most relevant to your case. It is easy to get distracted and write an emotional account of what happened because of course, it is an emotionally overwhelming experience. Yet, try to think of the most relevant details that can help your statement.

In other words, this is a list of things that your note would need (a screenshot from Julia’s TED Talk):

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Julia says just as easy it is to write it at that moment, it is incredibly easy to forget as time passes. Also because our brain is such it tries to block out the bad memories to survive. Hence, she introduced an ANONYMOUS ONLINE REPORTING SOFTWARE called SPOT!

Please check it out and introduce it to your workplace and try to get it integrated. If your employers are genuinely interested in taking a stand against sexual harassment, they will make good use of it.

We all think sexual harassment is never going to happen to us until it does. And I know how scary, confusing, humiliating and stressful it is to recall what happened and process it.

Yet, it is high time the perpetrators have been taking advantage of the silence of the less heard in the workplace and SPOT is a weapon that can help survivors deal with their pain a little better.

I hope it helps survivors and makes positive changes in organizations.

Why looking at wedding pictures on Pinterest causes me anxiety

Pinterest is a wonderful home for everything beautiful you’ll ever find on this planet- both human-made and natural.

When I discovered Pinterest it was to research for ‘what to wear to an interview’ search.
I found great stuff on that.

My search also extended in the later days to heavenly travel destinations, magical baked goods, makeup tricks, writing and blog related info and ultimately wedding outfits.

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A wedding is a large area. First I drooled at the long flared wedding gowns, then at the lavish wedding venues, creative wedding decorations and then the iconic and signature- couple photos.

It’s addictive. Looking at two flawless people madly in love with each other in moments that are sacred is just magical.

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Once you start looking you just can’t stop. The lovely poses, the creative shots, the look in their eyes… what’s not to like.

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I admit. My eyes were glued to my screen for hours spread over months. But as much as I loved admiring those pictures, I noticed a deep feeling of anxiety and restlessness after.

Let me explain my situation a bit first.

I’m 30 plus now. When I was 20, I was one of those girls who wanted to have the most lavish wedding ceremony with a loving man and I’d dream endlessly of how I would be the best wife on the planet. I would watch some of these TV soaps featuring the all-sacrificing wife which I now think are ridiculous and stupid.

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But that time I would see myself as the all loving and epitome of sacrifice wife whose sacrifices and dedication would make people drop to her feet in respect.

And then my elder sister got married and things changed. I saw the real side of the struggles from planning a wedding ceremony to actually living under the same roof with a man you now call your husband.

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To be honest, I didn’t have the best example because the guy my sister married was an asshole in every sense of the word. Up until now looking at my father, I had only seen men as humans. With that guy, I saw how men can be monsters. From verbal abuse to physical and from the direct attack’s on her to public shaming of my family, he did it all.

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The impact of all of that on me was so profound my own relationships suffered and I broke off. Since then I’ve been so cautious that I don’t believe any man easily when he shows interest in marriage. Being cautious is one thing but I also wonder if I am now commitment-phobic because this idea of staying with one person forever just sounds like a lot of pressure.

What if he changed, what if he turned out to be a jerk? What if he cheats or lies?

And it’s not just about that.

These days the pressure to be perfect is so high it’s exhausting.
All these people posting pictures on social media with their spouses and kids… it’s an extreme pressure to look happy and picture perfect all the time.

From looking at my sisters’ experiences in both her marriages, I fear if I can keep up that fake image of marital bliss in case I’m unhappy. And even if let’s assume my husband doesn’t turn out to be a jerk, people still argue and sometimes won’t be feeling that Pinterest worthy romance towards each other. What happens then?

The financial aspect of this marriage business is also soul-crushing. The best of the best venues, dresses, camera crew, makeup staff, and interiors are free on Pinterest. Looking at those luxury things for hours makes you want to want them. But affording those things is a whole different story.

To be able to afford that, one needs to be a millionaire easy. Even the most budget-friendly weddings aren’t cheap. And realizing that you can’t afford those fancy things adds to the layer of depression and resentment.

Then you start to question your life choices and financial stability. And that reminds you of the family pressure who wanted to see you married six years ago. Whose hopes are on you and you’re scared to death about accidentally bringing another jerk home who doesn’t respect the family.

Oh god, can you believe we started at Pinterest, innocently browsing some images and we ended here in a mid-life crisis?

(Lucky for me, I am more attracted to intrinsic values than extrinsic material possessions and trophy spouses, hence able to maintain my mental well being, otherwise, I may have robbed a bank or married a wealthy jerk long ago and may have already killed myself with the pressure to keep up the fake image of happiness).

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Does Sexism Hurt Men? Yes says Emmanuella in ‘The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder’

It’s a treat day for my lovely blog readers.

Today we chat with Emmanuella and her inspiration behind her latest book ‘The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder’.

So, let’s get to it.

Who is Emmanuella?

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Emmanuella Hristova was born in Oakland, California and grew up in the Bay Area. She is the third daughter to Bulgarian parents who immigrated to California shortly before she was born. She began drawing at the ripe age of four and studied fine arts for five years in high school. There, she received many art accolades including a Congressional award for her piece Boy in Red in 2009. In 2015, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. She began writing poetry at age twenty-four when she was in graduate school. She earned her Master’s in Education from the same alma mater in 2017. Emmanuella spent two years as an English teacher in Richmond, California. During that time, she self-published her first poetry collection: The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder. Currently, she is writing her first novel. She speaks English, Bulgarian, Spanish and is now learning French.

What’s the book about?

“The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder” is a collection of poems that explores a tumultuous year of love, heartbreak, and all kinds of unimaginable loss. Emmanuella’s debut poetry book documents the birth and death of a relationship, and the death of her sister. Each poem is an emotional time-stamp that plunges the reader into the depths of the author’s feelings as they burgeon and wane. The book reads like a diary and chronicles the boundaries of the things that we all feel: passion, heartache, and pain that gives way to hope.

So, what did you personally learn in the process of writing this book that surprised you?

A surprising outcome of sexism is that it negatively affects men too. Patriarchal ideas that construct gender roles and subsequent societal expectations constrict male emotional and personal expression.

For example, society defines women as the more emotional gender, thereby expecting their emotionality while constricting men to emotional repression. In addition, because traditional notions of masculinity dominate that of femininity, emotional expression is often seen as a sign of weakness. Especially when experienced by a man.

Have you ever heard that argument that women shouldn’t be or aren’t world leaders because they’re more emotional? This argument exists because of the subtext: emotional expression is female, a male is better than female, therefore emotional expression is less than or weak. And God forbid a man to be “weak” as this contradicts a principle of hegemonic masculinity: that men dominate over women because they are “stronger”. Thus, gender expectations create a dogma that men are not supposed to express their emotions. They are taught from a young age, to suppress them. Men don’t cry. Crying is for little girls. Crying is for pussies. Even when you’re sad.

There is a tiny ounce of truth to the difference in emotional expression between the genders. In most female brains, the corpus callosum is larger than in most men’s brains. The corpus callosum is the bridge between the right and left hemispheres; it links the emotional parts to the linguistic. But warrants communication differences, not lack of emotions. What this signifies is that for most women, communicating about feelings is easier as there are more messages passing between the two spheres. It may be more difficult for most men to communicate their feelings—they’re at a loss for the words. But this doesn’t mean emotional bankruptcy. Men are still emotional beings, as much as women are. Feeling and expressing emotions is just a part of being human, and for society to mandate how and why we are to express ourselves solely based on our gender is both counterintuitive and mentally destructive.

In the United States, studies show that older men become, their circle of platonic male friendships decreases. Because men are not supposed to express their emotions, especially among each other, they’re forced to seek an emotional outlet through a female partner. This is both expected and encouraged for men, who often state that their best friend is their wife. On the contrary, women often have a female best friend separate from their husband.

Thus, women enjoy plenty of emotional outlet through romantic and platonic relationships with both genders.

However, it’s here that men are the unlucky ones. Decreased friendships and human contact lead to higher rates of depression, violence, and suicide. Which, is evident in the Western world as men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

Sexism and hegemonic masculinity can affect so much more than mental health. Hegemonic masculinity demands compulsory heterosexuality. As a result, alternate forms of gender expression and sexuality are often discriminated against and marginalized. No homo, bro.

It’s tough to be a girl. But under the patriarchy, it’s tough to be a boy too.

Why did you decide to write a book on this topic?

upon walking down the street

UC Berkeley needs to cool it down

with the construction—not because of 

the noise, the smell, or the blatant

inconvenience when walking; but rather,

because only by walking 

to the bus stop on southside I pass by 

three construction crews, on a daily basis. 

All eating their lunches,

who stop simultaneously to watch 

me walk from one corner of the

block to the other, leering, as if

they’ve never seen a woman before, as if

my existence was solely for 

their viewing pleasure. As if

the entire sum of my being as a

human was my breasts, legs and ass. 

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, a young woman I used to mentor gave me a green Moleskin notebook. She told me to document all of my adventures. My undergraduate graduation characterized many changes in my life, and at the time I was working out my own definition of feminism. I decided to start writing a book about feminism and Christianity. But what began as short musings about sexism jotted down on the BART train, eventually became woeful poems about oppression, harassment, and assault.

And then, two months later, I fell in love for the first time. I never decided to write my poetry collection; it came out of me, rather. I documented the relationship from beginning to end, birth to death. I wrote to express my feelings and sentiments. It wasn’t intentional. Pent-up emotions swelled up inside of me and they didn’t have any place to spill other than onto blank pages. Eventually, that green Moleskin became a chronological account of one of the darkest periods of my life.

What’s the book about and who would benefit or like to read it?

The poems in The Day My Kisses Tasted Like Disorder is about love, heartbreak, depression, and grief. The collection begins with the relationship—falling in love, hesitation, turmoil. Eventually, I chronicle the end of the relationship and dwell on the breakup. Two weeks later I find out my sister is dying from stage 4 cancer. And depression unfolds as a result.

Although I began writing about sexism, I chose to leave those poems for the final chapter. There, I tackle sexual harassment, sexual assault, and oppression. The poems move through all the emotions I’ve felt as a result—torment, sadness, anger and reveling glee. The final chapter is dedicated to grieving and healing women:

The aftermath.

For crying girls everywhere,

hiding in the bathroom stall.

May you find your healing. 

This chapter begins with one of my favorite poems to read aloud: upon diluting myself, which is about how women are forced to suppress their identities in order to navigate a male-dominated world. Thus, “diluting” their spirits in the process:

upon diluting myself

I am a woman.

I dilute myself in order to survive;

I suppress myself, recoiling into a tight ball

to not threaten the more powerful sex

so they don’t realize that

the most beautiful part of me is

my brain and not my body,

my thoughts and not my tits,

my heart and not my hair,

my feelings and not my face.

 

The chapter continues with February 15thmen make me feel uncomfortable, which is about being touched without consent or solicited on the street. The next poem, upon walking down the street, was the first entry in my green Moleskin.

upon being a woman is the longest poem in the whole collection, and it’s the most personal. It’s a documented account of (almost all) sexual harassment and assault I’ve experienced since I was a child. When I was still starting out in graduate school, I read an anonymous poem on Huffington Post about a woman recounting the first time she was coerced into giving a blow job and vomited. She must have been six years old. This poem compelled me to write my own, but I started recounting backward. I begin as an adult, and every oppressive or violent account with a male makes me feel smaller until you reach five-year-old me. I’ve never been able to read this one out loud, it’s that personal.

February 15thdo they make makeup for crying girls? follows. This poem is about the right to grieve: whether it be about loss, heartbreak or oppression. Women don’t need to smile all the time or be pleasant. We can cry, and we will cry damn it:

 

Do they make makeup for crying girls?

The kind of mascara I can

wear to my sister’s funeral,

where I don’t have to fear

the black tracks running down

the smooth skin of my 

cheeks, marking the years I

will spend crying for her absence.

 the day

The final poem, here’s to the woman, is the second poem in the collection written in response to International Women’s Day. This one leaves wallowing in the past. It looks forward to the future: one in which the woman is recognized. It’s a reflection of my current voice which includes admonition, anger, and strength:

 

here’s to the woman

One day in the year cannot

truly honor and recognize the amount of

unappreciated work that women

actually contribute to the world.

But we can try; so,

here’s to the woman:

Here’s to the single mother

working 1+ jobs to support her family;

Here’s to the woman pioneering

in a male-dominated field

while facing discrimination,

belittlement and/or harassment

and still shows up;

Here’s to the woman who

gave up a career to raise her children;

Here’s to the woman who

put off starting a family

to pursue a career;

Here’s to the grandmother raising

her grandchildren in retirement;

Here’s to the mother who

left everything in her home country to

provide a better life for her children;

Here’s to the sexual assault survivor who’s

asked, but what were you wearing?

Here’s to the woman who

pursues an education—despite the

the physical danger it may put her in;

Here’s to the woman who’s

told she’s not

pretty enough

she wasn’t asking you;

Here’s to the woman who’s

told she’s too pretty to do that

but does it anyway. 

Here’s to the woman who

speaks out against sexism

while being challenged

and still speaks;

Here’s to the woman whose

societal contributions are overlooked

because she was not born a man.

Here’s to the woman.

Thank you.

Links to my book: 

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Social media links & website:

My website: http://www.ehristova.com

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Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/ehristova

It Takes a Village To Raise a Child, Also to Abuse One: Talking to Farzana Gafoor About Hush Hush

Farzana Gafoor is a documentary filmmaker based in London and the guest on my blog today. Her documentary Hush Hush is based on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse in India. Below is the trailer that was released recently.

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Considering how rampant the problem is and yet how slow our corrective action is towards it, this documentary is set to reveal some uncomfortable and ugly truths.

Let’s hear it from Farzana:

  1. Tell us about this documentary in brief.     The documentary shares the stories of survivors of CSA and creates awareness on the misconceptions the society has on Child Sexual Abuse. We have interviewed a psychiatrist, a therapist who share their insights on this issue. We also interviewed an activist, Insia Dariwala, who assist in housing and helping victims of CSA.  It is highly important to hear the variety of stories and circumstances that these individuals who come from all walks of life on how they have coped, survived, in a positive and meaningful way.

 

  1. What made you approach such a serious subject   This is actually my second film on CSA. The first one was an experimental film, Phoenix, where I had actors play the role of survivors. And post completion of the film, I still was not satisfied as I wanted to meet real survivors and share their stories with the world.  And also this comes from a very personal experience. It is disheartening, especially to know that many cases involve very young children. We have to start educating children about “good and bad touch” at an early age. To tackle child sexual abuse the focus must be on prevention and awareness. Many in our country are under the impression that boys don’t get abused, its only girls. We forget to protect our boys when both male and female children are equally vulnerable to be subjected by this kind of abuse.

 

  1. What were your challenges while working on Hush Hush    The biggest challenge that I thought is that I would never be able to find a survivor or a victim who would come forward to share their story in front of the camera, especially in India.  But I was completely wrong. I got in touch with one of the survivors who ended up introducing me to a pool of other survivors from his support group. And they are the strongest people I have met by far. It amazed me to know that there are survivors out there who are waiting to share their stories so that this brings about a change and other children do not have to go through what they have been through.

 

  1. What were your learnings or lessons that you didn’t expect prior to beginning this project?Through this documentary, I met the founders of a Survivors support group, Bola, who themselves are survivors. As of now, the shocking fact is that they are the only support group of adult survivors of CSA in India. With India being such a huge and populated country and a lot of CSA cases happening at an alarming rate and it really shows a lack of awareness. For these survivors, it wasn’t about getting back at or seeking justice against their perpetrators, it was more about transforming themselves from a victim to a survivor by accepting that this wasn’t their fault and by getting the right help and therapy they need.  In some cases, when a child goes through such a traumatic experience, the brain could suppress the memories of the trauma and he or she could go on about their adult life without knowing that such an incident happened to them. I learned this by meeting one of the survivors who had his memories of his abuse come back to him only at the age of 25.

 

  1. What solutions or changes you think this issue needs?Definitely more awareness programs. Just as how much important it is for a child to learn math and science, it should be the right of a child to be aware of this issue. And also for parents to know how to deal with it. The schools should have awareness programs like good touch and bad touch for the children accordingly to different age groups. Most children who have been subjected to such abuse, grow up thinking it is their fault and they had made a mistake. Someone needs to assure them it wasn’t. There should also be a process in such a way that when a child cannot confide to his or her parents, they should be able to talk to another trusted adult, for example, the child’s teacher. In that case, school teachers should be trained as to how to deal with children in these kinds of situations.

 

  1. When is the documentary coming out and where will it be available for viewing?We are looking for a good platform to release the documentary hopefully by the end of this year.

Can denying women’s conditions in India really help?

To treat cancer, one has to first admit that something in their body is not right. Then they go to a doctor. Based on the doctor’s reports, they might confirm that their body has cancerous cells, and then they discuss the course of treatment. It should be the same when it comes to women’s safety. However, Indians are too overwhelmed by ‘the glory’ of their country to admit that something is not right. So you can forget about going to experts to seek advice (the equivalent of going to a doctor in the case of cancer).

India is not an individual person but a nation among many others who share this common place called Earth. But ‘the doctor’, a.k.a the Thomson Reuters Foundation, went ahead and did the examination anyway and provided their diagnosis:

India ranked world’s most dangerous country for women.”

READ MORE ON YKA 

An Open Letter to the average Indian in the times of divisive politics.

Lately, Hindu-Muslim tensions in India have been on the rise. There is a lot of friction caused due to the divisive politics.

In this environment, it is crucial to have a dialogue with both groups and find common ground.

My latest piece published on Youth Ki Awaz is that open letter.

Dear average Indian,

I write this today with a heavy heart because I’m searching for you in this crowd of people who seem to hate each other so much that they allowed this hatred to rip apart an eight-year-old child’s life.

I know you are there somewhere, no matter how agitated, lost for words and shocked. Hence I made this effort to write to you.

 

Find it in full here.