Chickens coming home to roost

Nobel prize-winner Malala Yousafzai

I’ve wondered why I’ve been so fascinated by it. I normally never read the news, especially salacious negative or destructive items, but I’ve been rivetted to the Harvey Weinstein story.

As I finished the washing up after lunch today, I realised why, and what I’ve been trying not to remember… all those times it was happening every day and as part of life when I was growing up.

I thought of the maths teacher when I was fourteen. When I started this school, my new friends warned me that when he called me out to his desk to go over some maths problem, he would run his hand up under my gym slip, and massage my thigh. Whether the massaging was more than that and my friends couldn’t bring themselves to say, I don’t know, because I was a very immature, slow developer, and he never tried it on me.

I remembered joining the army when I was eighteen, and being measured for my uniform by the regimental tailor. Afterwards when we compared notes back in the barrack room, we all found we’d had the same experience of him feeling our breasts as he took our measurements.  And I thought of a night at cadet school a few months later, when eleven of us were sitting around late at night over a cup of hot chocolate, and we discovered that nine out of the eleven of us had had the experience of a man exposing his hairy genitals to us as a child.

The following year one of us who had been to a wedding in Scotland, was raped in the sleeper on the train back from Edinburgh.  Jo – as I’ll call her – a gentle sweet-natured girl, was so intimidated by the notice which said the fine was five pounds for pulling the emergency chain un-necessarily, that she didn’t dare reach over to pull it and save herself.

There were plenty of us who felt intimidated like that back in the fifties and sixties. When I worked on the South China Morning Post in Hongkong supporting my children on my meagre pay, the managers brought in a time and motion expert from the UK to assess whose job was necessary or financially worthwhile. The expert took a fancy to me, and I was over a barrel between trying to avoid him by fleeing the office and inventing interviews, and being seen conscientiously bending over my type-writer justifying my existence and my salary.

It became a joke on the women’s page that  he was always asking where I was, but it was no joke to me. Finally, I could avoid having dinner with this married man having a bit of fun while he was away from his family no longer, and at the end of the evening, feeling completely powerless, I ended up on the sofa at his flat. I escaped as he undid his zipper, and then had the anguish for weeks of wondering if, when he wrote his report, I would still have a job.

I’ve often wondered since why I didn’t just say no thank you when he pressed me to go up to his flat after dinner, replying:’ I have to get my children up for school in the morning, and get to the office on time!’ End of story. But I was too fearful then of men’s power as I battled for custody of my children, and struggled to keep my job.

Just as when the editor sent me to interview a friend of his a few weeks later, and the blonde handsome Swede behaved as though I was a call girl. Once again, as I escaped his clutches, I knew it was no use complaining to the editor about his influential friend… I would just have been a trouble maker, who couldn’t take it. I wasn’t just trying to get a job like the Hollywood stars I’ve been reading about, I was trying to keep a job which paid me half what a man was paid, in order to house and feed my children.

The choices are just as bad for so many women even now… there are Filipino maids all over the world putting up with all sorts of forms of exploitation and wicked treatment because their families are relying on the money they send home. I read that it is now illegal for men in India to rape their teenage or child wives. But how many child brides know their rights, and how many would dare to offend a strong powerful man who had total power over her life?

There are women and children both in Africa and England and everywhere in between, who endure the horrors of Sharia law, which often includes genital mutilation. There are states in a western country like the US where it’s legal for a husband to beat his wife, while both fundamental Muslims as well as fundamental Christians also claim this right. And many women stay in abusive relationships in order to protect their children and try to bring them up, while leaving a violent marriage simply isn’t a financial possibility for too many other women.

So-called honour killings – when a woman or a girl has been raped – means that in many Muslim countries, it is the woman who is punished for the crime – often with death by stoning or barbaric whipping. That old joke, a woman’s place is in the wrong, is no joke in those countries. Yazidi women raped by Isis, school girls captured by Boko Haram soldiers, women forced to hide behind, and under, curtains of black material invented by men to deny their uniqueness, are up against something much worse than the harassment of Hollywood actresses and their fear for their careers that we’ve been reading about.

Nobel peace prize-winner Malala Yousafzai was a school-girl when she was shot by Taliban in Pakistan for advocating education for women. Since then, she’s recovered from her dreadful wounds, though she’s lost the hearing in one ear. She went to England for medical treatment and to be educated safely away from the murderous men who wanted her dead, and now she’s just started her degree studies at Oxford. She has never given up her cause, and says: “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

There are unheard voices all over the world, and if this scandal about harassed actresses can remind us of those other unseen, unheard women, it will be a service to them all. Because I’m human it feels good to know that one bully is being held to account for his actions, but the other part of me wants to feel that something good  can also come out of this story of human frailty.

When truth is revealed it can be the catalyst for change. I hope this story is big news everywhere, so that people everywhere get the message that it’s not okay to misuse power and terrify or deprive women; that they learn that women do have the right to all the freedoms and goodness in the world that men enjoy too.  Let’s hope that this change of heart and mind can work its way into the consciousness of all men everywhere because of the public downfall of one powerful man.

Not into the consciousness of the many good men who do care about women, but into the hearts and minds of men whose cultures have taught them that it’s okay or even de rigeuer to oppress and suppress the feminine – whether it’s their wives or daughters or other women, or the feminine in their own natures.  The qualities of the feminine – gentleness, nurturing, empathy, creativity, are the things that most of us want in our homes and families, and societies, as well as the masculine qualities of strength and power. Balance, wholeness, the middle way, are what makes for health in people and in societies and honouring both sides of our natures is the way to this balance and goodness.

A tacky scandal in the western world of entertainment may seem trivial when set against the appalling suffering of so many silenced women all over the rest of the world. But good can come out of this saga of silence if it causes a change of heart and mind beyond the homes and habitats of Hollywood and its power brokers. I do so hope so.

Food for threadbare gourmets

Spring is coming to this end of the world and I feel like different food. With cold chicken the other day I used a favourite way with avocado. To half a cup each of chopped avocado and cucumber, use three quarters of a cup of cream, a quarter of a cup of lemon juice, one finely chopped onion, two cloves of chopped garlic, salt and black pepper, and put it all in a blender. Whizz until smooth. I love this with raw or cooked vegetables as well as with chicken, cold turkey or ham.

Food for thought

Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.” Gloria Steinem

 

 

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28 Comments

Filed under army, consciousness, cookery/recipes, culture, family, life/style, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized, womens issues

28 responses to “Chickens coming home to roost

  1. Brenda Wilkinson

    Thoughtful article and so true. Thank you.

    Like

  2. Dear Valerie,

    I, too, have been following the Harvey Weinstein news. Simultaneously, a case in my own hometown is monopolizing the local news. A particular high ranking officer o the Kansas City police force has been preying on female victims for 30 years. The list of his transgressions is ever growing in the public eye and one has to wonder how he’s gotten away with them for so long.
    Your wonderfully written article has me wanting to scream in outrage. Are there any women amongst us who have not been the brunt of some lech’s advances? A friend of ours once told me that a man is simply a delivery system for his organ. Too many men prove his point, don’t they?
    Thank you for your voice crying in the wilderness. Happy spring to you as we are enjoying autumn.
    Shalom and much love,

    Rochelle

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  3. Hello Rochelle, thank you so much for your heartfelt comments… horrifying story about your police chief.. abuse of power over terrified women as usual !
    Haven’t yet showed this story to our friend, who is beavering away outside… but I’m fairly sure he will agree with you!!!..
    Thank you as ever for your generous words… I must get my skates on, and read some of your words… I’ve got very behind with everything for the last few weeks…
    Enjoy your autumnal weather, with love, Valerie

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In many ways it seems like we’re going backwards in the US, which gets discouraging. However, perhaps the Weinstein fallout will be a breakthrough in changing attitudes and behavior. Thanks for writing this important post, Valerie.

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    • Good to hear from you Valorie… I think the important thing is that what’s going on at the moment may be a warning to others to desist, and for women to have the courage to resist!!
      And it’s always encouraging when truth emerges, I feel …thank you for your encouragement, good friend….

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  5. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who hasn’t been exposed to some sort of sexual harassment… I’m horrified that’s the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And then there is that icon of GOOD FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Bill Cosby…right up there with Weinstein…and he gets a mis-trial.
    Sigh!

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  7. You were riveted to the Hollywood scandal and I am riveted to your post since it echoes mine on so many levels. And I love Malala Yousafzai!

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    • Hello Evelyne,
      How fascinating that our experiences are so similar and it would seem,- the experiences of so are many others judging by their comments…thank you for sharing your thoughts … and yes, Malala – she is something, isn’t she? I loved this photo of her – such strength and gaiety, sweetness and gentleness – all the feminine virtues

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  8. It absolutely appalls me that this kind of abuse and oppression continues almost unchecked. I am glad the Harvey Weinstein story is out but whether it will make much difference I don’t know, especially when both men and women were willing to elect Trump as President. Every time I look at Trump and remember his behaviour towards certain women, I am reminded of all the times when I had to deal with sleazeballs, starting from about the age of 11. I remember men who got away with improper behaviour just because I was young and powerless.

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    • Hello Amanda,
      Thank you for your cogent comments… I’d decided not to mention Trump, as I try to desist from forever feeling negative towards him – but you’re right of course ! So depressing… apparently polls show he could be re-elected !!!!
      And what you have to say about the men we grew up with seems to mirror the comments of so many others too… it really is amazing… makes one wonder if these men are the normal ones – surely that many men can’t be perverts !!!
      Anyway, thank heavens for the good, kind decent men!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘ it feels good to know that one bully is being held to account for his actions, ‘
    It may not be a lot, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
    We need to educate girls to worry less about being liked and approved, and more about being strong.

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  10. So good to hear from you – thank you for your comments… yes, I agree that we need to teach our daughters strength, and also that we need to teach boys respect, and honour …

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  11. It seems that in some cases men are now being held to account for the things that were considered acceptable just a few years ago – I think also of all the scandals here in the UK in recent years, such as Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris, yet it just shows the scale of what was going on in one part of the world and what is still going on in too many places.

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    • Yes, I felt the Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris scandals were particularly nasty, as so many children and others trusted them and no-one wanted to believe them … whereas no-one trusted Weinstein !!!
      Jimmy Saville always gave me the creeps – I could never understand how he was so popular…
      Weinstein’s excuse that that was how things were when he grew up cuts no ice at all !!! the victims ( people like you and me ) always knew it wasn’t okay !!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Truly horrifying what so many women and girls are subjected to, as you have so graphically outlined..
    What are the causes?
    Certainly, a disgustingly faulty system of religion or ethics some are brought up to embrace. Also, I can’t help the unpopular view that some of it is due to the change from the romantic ideals whereby women were to be revered, protected and respected. The principles which held that no true man could ever subject a woman to force.
    My wife was brought up with the unwavering view that no matter how much she might love a man, a hand lifted to her would result in her leaving him straight away. No second chance. I firmly believe she would have stuck to that conviction..

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    • You are one of the lovely men who make a difference…
      I think your wife is right… except that some women are trapped by poverty or circumstance, and have no choices… Women’s refuges here in NZ have helped make a difference, but they are always cash-strapped and reliant on scarce government funds for an unpopular cause !!! Ah well, vive le revolution !!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes to everything you say. Just…. yes. Speak truth to power.

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