A new normal…

Last Sunday afternoon I went for lunch in one of our women’s homes. Delicious chicken curry, fresh mangoes, spicy dhal…

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She is a woman I respect and love. She has been through more than one life should be able to bear.  She loves the people around her with devotion, albeit at times a bit twisted and confused. She is a connector and a protector.

Her little room is located on the far hallway of a second story brothel…

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Beautiful women in miniskirts and halter tops pass through the veranda where we sit enjoying our lunch…they joke and laugh and offer conversation to pass the time.  And then, I watch a group of middle-aged guys walk up the stairs.  Intoxicated by thrill and liquid courage, they arrange a dance show in the upper rooms of my friend’s home.

My brain tried connecting dots, they were husbands, sons, fathers, out for a Sunday afternoon…

Later the woman they arranged would lock herself in a room with them, and dance. The equivalent of 75 dollars to shut the door and do whatever they pleased. An hour scaring more than her arms and legs and breasts by their cigarette butts.

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One does not leave an afternoon of observing this unscathed.

“Did you ever dance?” I ask my hostess.

“I used to”

“Weren’t you afraid?”

“Of course I was afraid, but what else can we do. If we run out, we have to pay back the money that’s been given. But it’s only really dangerous when they drink too much, and put their cigarettes on you, and pass you around…”

The violence of it all…is too much to bear.

I am not angry. I am perplexed. I am grappling.

Our stances on many issues are likely varying in degree.

I do not care, I celebrate difference.  I celebrate the freedom to express and question and use our voices.

When we use our stories for good, our brokenness to bring darkness into light, we have started the revolution for change. It is when shame keeps our stories locked up that bitterness and fear can poison and destroy.

I have seen this in my own life, and I am choosing a new way…

I recently finished an interesting read…the title may surprise you.  I am hesitant to mention it, but in light of all I’ve experienced here in Kolkata, and at the risk of being misunderstood, I share it none the less…

Vagina: A Cultural History by Naomi Wolf is about, straightforwardly, the connection between a woman’s sexual organs and her brain chemistry.

Naomi Wolf writes about the way trauma to our sexuality affects the normal functioning of our neurology. She writes openly about the sexualization of our culture, and how it affects both men and women, and our relationships to one another.  This is not news to any of us…And I admit that the red light culture offers amped up sexuality and twisted understandings of male and female relationships, I admit my reality is not the norm. Not everyone has their Sunday lunch on a brothel veranda…

But I have appreciated the way Ms. Wolf speaks openly of sexuality and its varying affects on us. She bravely explores those places tagged as taboo.  She speaks openly of pornography and the way pixelized or purchased stimulations change the way an entire culture respond to one another.  And I believe it is worth thinking on and talking about. I believe there is a better way…

“While we are told we live in a time of sexual liberation, this may only mean more sex, or even just more images of sex-and not better or “freer” sex…but a nation of masturbating people who are looking at screens rather than at one another-who are consuming sex like any other product and who are rewiring their brains to find less and less abandon and joy in another’s arms, and to bond more and more with pixels-is a subjugated, not a liberated population.”

Let me be clear, I am not pointing fingers. I am not playing a blame game. I am mourning deeply broken relationships. And the power of shame over both men and women, that keeps us from talking about the things deemed untouchable.

The things that keep us silent and ashamed.

I am wondering where to from here. I saw it played out Sunday.

Normalization at its finest…

How do we fight against what’s become “normal” in our cultures.

What stance is there against the highest grossing industry in the world.

Where can we best use our voices to make changes…

May we have the courage, all of us, whether in Midwestern living rooms, beach houses on the South Island, or dance bars in a second story brothel…to tell our stories, to use our voices of hurt and betrayal and scarring to seek out something honest and freeing and full of light.

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