© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair
Cheap as chips
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed in 1948 and translated into more than 500 languages guarantees among several others the rights to equal wages for equal work, respect and personal safety to all persons.
However, in some countries, it is said ‘life is cheap’, that self-control is not a cultural expectation, that men are violent towards other men and, often, that violence is directed towards women and children. Their hurt, pain and death are simply considered unfortunate by-products of these volatile cultures in flux.
In our democracies, however, it is said that life must be protected and that protecting all lives, as well as defending the dignity of all persons, is of utmost moral and civic importance.
To that effect, we have laws intended to deter would-be violent persons, mostly men of all ages.
We have courts of law that mete out punishment to those found guilty. We have laws that protect victims when they survive.
Strategies intended to teach children of all ages to control themselves, their emotions and desires are taught in most homes and schools.
Furthermore, in the workplace and the home, there are laws intended to consolidate the rights of women, as the rights of everyone.
Successive waves of academics of both sexes have fuelled decades of political activism bolstered by reams of legislation passed to actualise these rights further.
It’s all relative: However, here, too, in our democracies, the lands of the free, when all is said and done, the lives of women and children seem ‘cheap’ enough.
Physical, sexual and emotional violence is overwhelmingly directed by men against women and, too often, culminate in their murder.
In fact, some statistics indicate that the killing of women, mostly by current or former partners, has been rising over the past ten years.
We have already privately intuited that, haven’t we?
How many more waves needed?
Feminism is currently in its fourth wave yet, still today, in most industries, women do not have access to equal wages for equal work.
They are not granted the same ‘respect’ as is given their male counterparts.
Their personal safety – and that of girls – in the workplace, in the streets and their homes cannot be taken for granted, far from it.
In fact, occurrences of violence are so common that only the most gruesome make the headlines.
Yes, some boys [and girls] get traumatised by predatory paedophiles and by brutal, sadistic brothers or fathers or responsible adult.
These are often enabled by the silence of the mother, wife or partner. Some of these children die, too.
There are also unhinged mothers who commit the unthinkable crime of killing or of letting their child die through neglect and, sure, some men do come to grief at the hand of women, but these are, for now, the exceptions to the rule.
Bottom line: Chronic instances of institutional bias and abuses have undermined parity, equality, stability and self-respect as efficiently as termites, the most successful groups of insects on our planet, inflict considerable damage to unprotected wooden structures – and we have known that to be the case for a long, very long time.
Karma Chameleon rocks: Reality check: over the past 40,000 years, if not even further back, the highly synchronised, cosmic, karmic shuffle has given every person who has ever come to breathe – and die on planet Earth – not just a soul, but also the bud of a personality conjoined to a specific blueprint from which to build improvements a.k.a. personal evolution. The point to remember, though, is that through the constant churning of reincarnation, women have not always been women and men have not always been men.
When was life ever intended to be a breeze?
The ‘nice’ ones among us have not always been nice – not in this lifetime and not many-many previous ones either.
The ‘bad apples’ have not always been bad apples. But in this lifetime, whether we position ourselves in the camp of the good guys or position someone else in the camp of the ‘bad ones’, it is all genuinely arbitrary.
We all have our moments. However, if there is one thing set in concrete, it is that our personal challenge in this lifetime is to foster inner peace, authentic peace with whatever has come down into our day-to-day reality – one day at a time – one breath at a time – one emotion – one response at a time.
Or, at least, die trying – quite literally – in the fullness of time.
Sex kitten or Ballbreaker?
Having said that, a most damning, entirely subjective social reality is so deeply rooted in our psyche that, from beneath the veneer of political correctness, it still trumps all strategies currently in place to make our society a fair arena for ‘the fairer’ and ‘weaker’ sex.
This cognitive bias goes along these familiar lines: Man, generally taller and physically stronger than Woman, is the more powerful of the two.
Man, though he has never quite grasped the vital importance of a caring and happy mother to the development of his children and though, he, himself, has stopped being the sole, essential ‘breadwinner’ several decades ago, is worthy of greater respect than Woman-mother-worker.
The net worth of Woman, generally physically weaker, is determined by her sexual attractiveness, as perceived by the eye of the Man, the beholder of choice. Therefore, Woman can only position herself as a sex kitten, a cougar, a man-eater, a man-hater or a geek.
On the surface at least, by her blind acceptance of fashion dictated by Man for his eye candy pleasure, Woman seems ever-willing to refine her performance as a sexual tease.
Another bottom line: When the gloves come off, these enduring amalgamated biases call for the ever-current casting of Woman as a depersonalised talking, talking doll.
Alternatively, she can be construed as a character with a hidden agenda possibly intending to ‘break his balls’. Meanwhile, as full of his inherited but faded glory as the star in the night sky that burns brightly although it has contracted down over the past thousands of years, Man still postures as the appointed powerful mover, shaker and doer.
Is he truly unaware that he breaks a lot more than he fixes?
Weakness attracts power: Regardless of the time and place and topic, there is no power possible without an apparent flipside: perceived weakness.
Power in our culture is far too often used to hurt girls and women in several ways. What about that is news?
Nothing at all but, these days, one could be excused for thinking that we, collectively, in our democracies, have only just now been jolted out of profound slumber.
We are blinking in the face of a very harsh but ancient reality.
Yes, men and more men, over the centuries, over the past decades and the past months and again today have taken advantage of their default power in overt or covert ways.
Suddenly, it’s like, OMG! Wow! Read that! I can’t believe this!
Side-winding Mind-meander coming up: So, let’s indulge in a fresh side-wandering mind-meander to ponder if only for a moment, a couple of other factors beyond the ones mentioned above are likely to contribute directly or indirectly to such dyed-in-the-wool, subjective, dangerous, cultural and personal mindsets.
Top design houses in Paris, London, Milan and New York may dictate the fashion must-haves to some, but not to the masses who, regardless of age and gender, keep the retail industry humming by buying billions of cheap, disposable pret-a-porter items.
As per Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is a counter-reaction and, as an aside, one such counter-reaction is the average 28 kilos of textile waste thrown on the global landfill heap, year in/year out, by American and Australian consumers who spearhead that problem.
Another counter-reaction stems from the dictates that ‘fashion’, throughout each era, has placed on women and more recently on prepubescent girls as well. We know that fashion bloggers and celebrities have the power to make or break a fashion-label or new collection.
Fast fashion retailers such as Zara or H&M translate designs from the runway to the retailer with lightning speed. Disposable fashion is a major pollutant, but it does offer cheap wardrobe options. So, how to explain the ongoing flood of skin-tight pants and bare-all tops for girls and women that still swamps boutiques and marketplaces from Paris to Rio and from New York to Sydney, as far removed from catwalk selections as Ikea stools are to leather Chesterfield sofas?
Bound like Christmas hams: How to explain the enduring selections of depersonalising, flimsy, body-hugging – or denuding – clothes for girls and women that have appeared and reappeared in shopping centres around the world for the past two decades?
Shorts and skirts are have shrunk drastically. Woman’s legs are exposed all the way to the top – a great look when combined with athletics thighs of which there are very few in our midst, now that overweight has once again become the new normal. Her pants, leggings, jeans and jennings are so tight that the density of her lower body appears forced-fed down the garment.
When in the jungle: Surely, women of all ages, have long ago had confirmation, in one way or another, that their homes, playgrounds, workplace, sports fields and streets can quickly become unstable, hazardous, unhealthy, even, when it comes to their wellbeing and personal safety.
So, from where comes the impulse that pushes so many ‘thinking’ women of all ages to show so much … ‘shape’ and so much skin in urban environments?
Here is the thing: when I go trekking say, in Borneo, I know I will eventually walk across swarms of mosquitoes and come into contact with a few blood-thirsty leeches looking for warmth, and so I dress accordingly – not in beach attire, not in yoga gear.
I am also aware that we will most likely, hopefully, come across a few lovely, vocalising gibbons, a siamang monkey or two, and birds clad in all manner of colours contemplating the meaning of life on branches overhead.
And so, I understand the likelihood that droppings, nuts or twigs might drop as I walk past and, so, I wear a hat that is easy to wash. I am also very much aware of the uneven, root-bound, often slippery terrain, and so I wear appropriate footwear – neither sandals nor sneakers nor heels.
The takeaway here is very simple: my proactive behaviour and my choice of ‘gear’ will not, in any way alter the environment.
Mosquitoes will go on swarming and droppings will keep dropping but, by the time I reach the shelter for the night, I will neither be covered in itchy, red lumps nor in monkey droppings.
Works for me.
Bit by bit: OK! Hopefully, you get what I am getting at and, perhaps, we can agree that for aeons and decades and years, women have tacitly enabled men’s warped understanding of what a woman is.
First, a long time ago, women allowed men to demand that they bared a tiny bit of throat and then a tiny bit of chest and then a tiny bit of cleavage, while they, themselves, remained stiff-necked in their cravats and protected by the cloths of their suits and the leather of their boots. Then, starting with the ankle, men got away with demanding that women show a bit more and more of her legs.
Honest question: Today, how is Woman any more proactive and protective of herself and her own space than were her ancestors?
My body, my purpose: Since Woman’s passive acquiescence predates any period of living memory, the average contemporary Woman is not baring all that is currently legal to bare within an urban setting, meaning all her body parts except her aureolas and her genitals, as an act of defiance against calls for modesty from a couple of sectors.
Instead, has it simply ‘always’ boiled down to Woman silently stating, Je Suis Femme.
Subtext: no amount of male lechery and volatile temperament will ever force me to reconsider the wardrobe choices Man makes on my behalf because these lend me allure and sexual attractiveness is my vehicle to obtain what I want.
Serious question for us, women: Why do we go on tweaking, juicing or spicing up our attractiveness as if it were our only asset?
Can we not, instead, together and separately, play it any which way we choose to discover the authentic dimensions of our being?
What if we, somehow, found the will to stand proud and the willingness to speak from our core – not from the low end of our ego, as we usually do – even to those who have that relative power we either envy or fear?
What if we were able to show up, up-levelled enough to shine our light brightly into the chaos of our own culture in flux?
© 2017 Carole Claude Saint-Clair