55Friday: “This Woman’s Work” edition

Happy holidays, sweet readers. Today is Black Friday and that’s actually a flawless description of the moment I’m typing in now. I’m feeling rather overwhelmed by the dark…mostly because I’m staying with my little sister and she’s sleeping, so I can’t turn on any lights. ;) I’m also supposed to be vewy, vewy quiet, so she can hunt wabbits in her dweams, but she’ll have to tolerate the clickety-clacketing, since I have pirated wifi and as long as I have the mighty iBook and a connection, the 55 will go on. :)

I spent my day in transit; six hours of flying through three airports (with a two-hour layover) and one misplaced, gate-checked, carry-on bag later, I was back in the state where I once played as a toddler. I arrived in mukluks, the memory of last night/the season’s first gorgeous snow fall in DC dominating my thoughts like a new crush. Still swoony for Frosty, I stopped cold once I left the artificial climate of the airport and saw…a giant cactus. In 70 degree balminess. What an amazing country this is, from one end to the other.

My ultra-vegetarian family never did celebrate Thanksgiving (“such a typically American approach…to be grateful ONCE a year”), so I didn’t mind traveling today, but I looked at my fellow passengers on each PACKED leg of the journey and wondered about them. Surely they were trying to get home to a TurDuckEn or something brined or deep-fried. Maybe it even tasted familiar.

What did you eat? Did you create your own holiday with the family you chose vs the one you were born to, or did you go home? Did anyone gobble an all “brown” feast, with nary a cranberry in sight? Where YOU responsible for all that cooking?

Thanksgiving is for family but it’s usually staged by women. My Uncle in Maryland was a rare gent who cooked with Auntie, side-by-side; she handled the Amreekan fare while he made a most excellent sambar, to go with the Mallu portion of the menu. I remember adoring him for that. Most of my friends, no matter their ethnicity, had just their mothers stressing out over creation.

Women are the keepers of traditions, the path to religion and the source of life itself, which is why the following statistic (Thanks, Kenyandesi) left me queasy:

One in six women worldwide suffers domestic violence — some battered during pregnancy — yet many remain silent about the assaults, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

No, I’m not surprised that women are such targets, or that the pain is so widespread…but to put such an accessible number on it–again, “one in six”– is like a bracing slap in the midst of all this fuzzy, post-prandial contentment.


Each week I throw out themes because you seem to enjoy them, but I try to emphasize that no one minds what you write your nanofiction about, so long as you just write. So go ahead, write anything, and then leave your contribution (or link) to our beloved weekly project in the comments below. But.

If you are stuck, if your screen is blank and your fingers are stiff above the keyboard because you don’t know how to direct them, then know this: today is the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Even if you don’t commence your brainstorming with that in mind, then maybe you are thinking about women or violence or the collective secrets a community keeps. Suddenly this Friday is Black for another, sadder reason. “One in six”? That’s too much pain.

For every woman who is going to be at the mall in a few hours, excited about “doorbuster” specials, another is crying herself to sleep. Hell, the former could have been the latter, before waking up to tackle the day’s legendary sales. “One in six”. Sigh. One in a million would be inexcusable…

31 thoughts on “55Friday: “This Woman’s Work” edition

  1. With your permission, let me kick this off with the following verse by Guru Nanak regarding the ill-treatment of women, from the SGGS ji (page 473). It exceeds the 55-word limit, but given the extremely serious subject matter and the source of the writings, hopefully nobody will mind me bending the rules on this particular occasion:

    We are born of woman, we are conceived in the womb of woman, we are engaged and married to woman. We make friendship with woman and the lineage continued because of woman. When one woman dies, we take another one, we are bound with the world through woman. Why should we talk ill of her, who gives birth to kings? The woman is born from woman; there is none without her. Only the One True Lord is without woman.

  2. With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description

  3. And the remaining five heap verbal and emotional abuse on their husbands who suffer the humiliation quietly for lack of a better alternative.

    As one who has suffered physical violence at the hands of my rage-aholic wife, I feel sick to my stomach every time I see this crusade against men. It simply ignores the reality of human conflict for the convenience of a simple black & white story. A story digestable by the lowest common denominator. It has become an artificial construct, a Cause unto itself. Phrases like “crying herself to sleep” have become propaganda tools for The Cause, artificially evoking sympathy for one party with absolutely no regard for the source or the dynamics of a downward spiraling conflict.

    I suspect that The Cause provides the do-gooders, the Mahila Mandals, the social activists – and well-to-do women with more time and money on their hands than they know what to do with – with a purpose in life, something they can feel good about, something they can flaunt in public and boost their egos with. Reality be damned.

    I recently stumbled upon the plight of a fellow battered husband who put up his story on Sulekha. http://www.sulekha.com/blogs/blogdisplay.aspx?contributor=abused_husband

    Time to introduce some balance here.

  4. Battered Husband, I feel for your plight. But I think you should probably suspend your instinct towards Manichaeanism, in making this the hackneyed “battle of the sexes” issue. It doesn’t hurt to celebrate women once in a while. Just think of your mother. I’m thinking of her right now. See, without women, we would have no mothers, and without mothers there would be no mother jokes.

  5. Just think of your mother. I’m thinking of her right now.

    You’re thinking of my mother? dude, that’s creepy!

  6. You’re thinking of my mother? dude, that’s creepy!

    Before this thread gets sidetracked and hijacked any further, I believe Gator was referring to his own mother (and not in any dubious sense).

  7. Crash. Crash. Broken glass. Crying. She jammed her 5-year old fingers in her ears.

    It always happened around the time Santa was to come home. Maybe she should’ve told Daddy she didn’t really want Santa to come this year if he didn’t like him. Why else would he be so angry every year at this time?

  8. “Roughly 80% of DV victims are women.”
    “Really? But desis donÂ’t do this.”
    “They do.” “Anyway, victims can live in shelters, isnÂ’t it?” “In California, 90,000 women and children are rejected from shelters for lack of space annually. There are 3800 animal shelters in America. Only 1500 womenÂ’s shelters.” “Shocking. Where can I learn more?”

  9. Jai, we are so fortunate to have you at this neverending cocktail party. What gorgeous words, what a truly apposite way to commence our discussion. I don’t think anyone will mind “bending” things as arbitrary as rules when it comes to your comment.


    battered husband:

    I am so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Thank you for introducing balance with your story.

    No one should be oppressed by fear and bruised by love, no matter their gender. November 25th is a day set aside for women, hence this post. Instead of feeling resentment, why not choose solidarity with other humans who can unfortunately relate all too well with your life? We all deserve peace.


    you don’t have to write a 55 to comment. say whatever you feel, if this subject moves you.

  10. I have nothing but the certainty of uncertainty when you return. I long to love you less. I long for the love I pray you have for me. I try to leave. But every time you call, my heart rushes out of my body towards you. Kill me. Once and for all. Make it stop.

  11. To follow up Jai Singh, I give you Tupac:

    And since we all came from a woman Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman I wonder why we take from our women Why we rape our women, do we hate our women? I think it’s time to kill for our women Time to heal our women, be real to our women

  12. not my words, but they seem apt for the topic:

    And since we all came from a woman Got our name from a woman And our game from a woman I wonder why we take from our women Why we rape our women, Do we hate our women ? I think it’s time ta kill for our women Time to heal our women Be real to our women

    don’t recognize it? look here.

  13. i’m off topic [hardly a surprise], but my 55 reflects my rapidly turning crappy day. nothing says fun like a good old-fashioned freak out about your career choices:

    Sitting in the library, not looking at the screen but through it, lump in my throat, wondering if I made the right choice? Tears spilling out of overflowing eyes. Sobbing. Trying to hide it. Storming out, frantically phoning home. “Mom? What if I made a mistake? What if I don’t want to be an attorney?”

  14. This isn’t really fiction, but I had to tell the story:

    The large, black crater on LindaÂ’s thigh came into view as she hitched up her skirt. “ThatÂ’s where the jerk shot me. I see him again, he goes home in a box.”

    She was nowhere to be seen the next morning. “Her husband came with flowers and she followed him willingly,” the shelterÂ’s manager sighed.

  15. My little attempt-

    They all stood in the kitchen, laughing and making the food. It felt warm and fuzzy- exactly the way a family holiday should. She felt like she trust and feel at home again.

    Perhaps they need seconds, she thought and went outside. ThatÂ’s when she heard the whispers and her home blew up into smithereens.

  16. Woops- still 55 :-)

    They all stood in the kitchen, laughing and making the food. It felt warm and fuzzy- exactly the way a family holiday should. She felt she could trust and feel at home again. Perhaps they need seconds, she thought and went outside. ThatÂ’s when she heard the whispers and her home blew up into smithereens.

  17. Gurjit boarded the train bound for India with her family. Her father carried a pistol, in case the train was attacked by the muslims.

    She, with her mother and sisters, were armed with a different weapon. Small bundles of fabric concealed cyanide pills, because against the attackers, the women would be far better off dead.

  18. Anna, thank you for your kind words as always. The verse I quoted is quite famous; great words by a very great man, written 500 years ago, yet just as relevant to the world today and, indeed, for all time.

  19. I can’t stop glancing at her.

    The lights of the city illuminate her, smiling, pretending not to notice; long legs stretched under the dashboard.

    Beside her, the world is a shadow; our passion, an oasis of idealism.

    My religion commands “Bow to no-one”;

    Yet I willingly kneel before her, defenceless, a sacrifice to her love.

  20. Deflated Woman She knew the additional pounds she had recently gained irked him sending his barely tamed eyes wandering. She knew exercise would help, but work exhausted her. She even knew that his calling her a fat lazy bitch would escalate to more.

    She miscarried his sons the next day. And he never let her forget it.

    (homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women)

    Rites of Passage In a community where induced pain heralds adulthood, where gracefully bearing it is considered honorable, where mothers hold down daughters, while girls lay helpless, spread-eagled, it was a proud day when the girls became women bearing cuts only because their hands were so unused to the crisp paper upon which their certificates had been printed

    (2 million girls a year are at risk of FGM/C)

    Spilling Tea

    Watching the tea boil, she lifted the pot by its handle just as the froth threatened to spill over. She had put in the ingredients mumaji liked, wishing for once that today she might please her.

    Startled her hands flew to her burning face.

    Chai ubraighai.*

    Not three months later he married the landowners daughter.

    *The tea spilled over.

  21. Thanks ANNA for highlighting this issue.

    Battered husband, my heart aches for you, but dismissing this issue as a worthless agenda for women with too much time on their hands is not what you want to do is it really? As someone who has been abused, do you not feel that regardless of gender, violence (physical, psychological etc) needs to end? Can you not stand in solidarity with humans, who like you, have been taken advantage of?

    I aknowledge that men are abused too, by their wives, mothers, fathers, and it is no less dispicable. But evidence shows that women get battered at higher rates. In India and China they get aborted or killed shortly after birth in droves, or die due to neglect, in Africa and the middle east they go through genital mutilation, in America one in four get raped. Child marriage results in girls getting pregnant before their bodies can handle it leading to obstetric complications resulting in fistulas which get them thrown out of their communities. The world over women are denied access to education, money, livlihoods, etc etc etc

    In Kenya a maasai man when asked about the recent refferendum answered that he voted “no” because the new constitution would include rights for women to equal men’s rights. His reasoning: “What kind of man would I be if I was equal to a woman?”

    Women’s diseases get less research funding, and women’s rights are sacrificed on the alters of honour and morality.

    Violence is violence whether the perpetrator is a man or a woman. Dismissing violence against women is horrendous, just as dismissing your side of the story would be. You’re extremely right in that your voice does not often get heard, but don’t dismiss the people who might very well be on your side championing your cause already.

  22. Fantastic 55s by Kenyan Desi. A few more from me:

    The woman lay sobbing in the corner of the bedroom, the bruises on her neck now clearly visible.

    Her husband had screamed Submit; self-righteous rage and authority justified in the name of the sacred cow of “culture”. It was his divine right, after all, tacitly condoned by “the community”. Compassion and the law be damned.

    There was little the women felt she could do. Conditioned deference on her part, conditioned brutality on his. Her husband would never admit to being wrong; in his mind, his power and superiority must be maintained.

    She resigned herself to the trap, as her female ancestors had done for 40 generations.

    Her daughter would not.

  23. My last one for this week, to finish on a more positive note…..

    She is my gateway to paradise She is laughter in the sunshine She is every heartbreaking ghazal She is every gorgeous sunset She is every hope and dream She is the one, without any question, without any doubt She is liberation She is love She is life She is the other half of my soul.

  24. Thank you Badmash and Kenyan Desi — I’ve just been speaking from the heart :)

    (The romantic 55s, not the wife-beating ones, obviously !)

  25. Kenyan Desi: Get your facts right..funds exist only for womens diseases. Billions of dollars get spent on research for breast cancer, but hardly 1 % of that gets spent on research for prostrate cancer. In a lot of places in the world women are denied access to education, livelihood, but they do not have the responsibility of providing for the family and they get the right to a free lunch off the guys money…and women can give excuses of not being educated for not bringing in money…nobody on earth ever gives a guy the right to any excuse.

    ARJ: Get your facts right…there are more male victims of domestic violence than female. It is just that no one ever gives help to a male. Society is misandric and expects men to take care of themselves and give to women while women should be pampered and given all that they desire.

    Women who have the opportunities for education and livelihood do not have the responsibility of providing for anything…on top of it, legal systems all over the world give women the power to kill the guy by filing any case and get him arrested without any proof with no repercussions if the woman files a false case. Women claim to have the responsibility of taking care of the kids, but women who do not do that work cannot be held responsible legally in any manner and they just harass the husband with false cases and the threat of a divorce which is all about taking money from the hardworking man and giving his money to the woman in the name of alimony and child support even when it is perfectly clear that the man has done nothing wrong. Besides, a woman is needed only during the pregnancy and breastfeeding stage. Beyond that, a child does not need a mother anyway…a father can do equally well. When such circumstances exist where the man is under constant threat from the woman, only a complete fool will believe that women are abused.

    Jai Singh: Women who are conditioned for defence are the ones who wasted their childhood thinking that they would get married and live off the blood of the husband and enjoy life by doing nothing while the guy does all the hard work of bringing in the money by putting up with office work, deadlines, stress and office politics. Women who expected a free lunch all their life deserve to face the consequences of their irresponsibility in the same manner that a man who is irresponsible is expected to face the consequences of his actions. Or if the woman was denied opportunities because of her parents, it is the parents who deserve to be punished and not the husband who is working for his money unlike women who live off his money.

    1 in 6 statistic from UN – UN as an agency is probably one of the most corrupt and unethical ones in the world with a sole intent of swindling tax money from all taxpayers in the world. In five years, Bill Gates has achieved more than what the WHO has achieved in more than 50 years which shows the extent of corruption that pervades UN. UN also released another false statistic that 70% of Indian women were abused, but when questioned by RADAR as to how they came up with that statistic went scurrying for cover and retracted that statement.

  26. Redrejesh-ur an idiot, a complete idiot if you HONESTLy believe that men suffer MORE domestic violence. I have all the reserach in the world to prove otherwise. You sound like a chauvinistic asshole. Wake up and smell your chai because you definitely need a reality check