I am sitting with a bunch of guys in a dressing room at the local hockey arena. Everyone is taking a break from a game of men’s floor hockey, drinking a few beers, and telling tall tales.
Then it begins…comments about the wives and women in our lives:
“I came home the other day and the house wasn’t even clean. What the hell is she doing all day while I am at work? Sitting around growing her ass or what”
“I told her I was coming here and it was blah blah blah, you never spend time with me. Of course I don’t, all you do is nag”
“Did you see that girl in the bar Thursday night….she had huge guns, they were amazing”
“I totally took her home, banged her, and showed her the door…”
And so it goes. Degenerating into inappropriate jokes and comments that no one in that room would say in public or outside of a room of a bunch of men drinking beer and kidding around.
Now, with my new realizations around Gender Based Violence, and the treatment of women, I need to stand up and say:
“Ummm….hey guys…this isn’t cool, you know. Aaaahhh…talking about your wives this way isn’t helping how your son sees women. That, ah.. that girl in the bar is someone’s daughter. Do you want someone talking about your daughter that way?”
Dumbfounded silence mixed with shock, and looks of “who the hell invited this guy?”
Jackson Katz, in the Ted Talk below, clearly explains why focusing on women when talking about gender based violence is wrong, and why this focus needs to shift to men, and what men are doing (and not doing about it). He also clearly explains that men need to become leaders around this topic, and that the true battle will be won, not in public, when we are openly defending women, but within the small groups of men where so much of this harmful talk continues in a “safe zone”.
I hear what Jackson is saying, and it terrifies me. I want to be this leader. I want to make sure my son’s view of women is healthy. I want to protect all the daughters out there. I want to help eliminate violence against women.
Writing for Indrani’s Light Foundation – check.
Helping train others to help women in shelters – check.
Speaking out about gender based violence in social media – check.
Share the message with local schools and other people – check.
Stand up, in the moment, in a group of guys, and call them on their bullshit statements.
That one I NEED to work on, and it isn’t going to be easy.
But I am going to try.
If you are a man, or have men in your life who could use help developing this leadership, and taking this plunge, share Jackson Katz’s video and let’s get started.
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Allow me to set the stage.
A couple weeks ago I buried my father.
I had the highest honor at the funeral to have delivered his eulogy.
It was, BY FAR, the most important speech I had ever and will ever make in my whole life.
I wrote and rewrote and edited and practiced and was generally very anxious about the whole day, but especially that I would do the greatest job I had ever done as a public speaker.
I wanted to rely on my memory but I choose to bring up the iPad and I stuck to the script because I was afraid I would lose my composure.
A dear friend had advised me that the eulogy should educate the congregation about the greatness of my father.
I spoke to my siblings and I spoke to his friends and to many young people that he had mentored and I composed my poetry on my Dad.
During the delivery, I spoke clearly, pausing to breathe and to allow the words to flutter like and angel’s wings over my family and dear friends who were in attendance.
I managed to get through almost 97% of it before my voice cracked and the tears began to flow.
Almost everyone came up or called up to tell me what a beautiful honoring I had done for my father.
Ok Dear Reader,
The stage has been set.
Fast forward to the actual night of the funeral. My siblings and children and nephews and mother are gathered in the humble living room in Trinidad and a friend of my mother comes to visit.
She walks in, loudly announcing that she has spent the whole day in church and has just offered up prayers for my mother.
THEN, she looks at me…
“Indrani,” she says loud and clear, “the eulogy was lovely BUT you should have said how devoted and loving your father was to your mother.”
The WHOLE room of people fell silent.
Everyone is now looking at ME, for my reaction.
Let me remind you Dear Reader, that the funeral would have been less than 8 hours prior and we were all still raw and in pain.
My sister, God bless her, sits upright from a slouched and relaxed position and says, “I MUST DISAGREE WITH YOU. You clearly did not hear the beginning when MY sister talked about their marriage of 62 years!”
The “nasty know it all” woman began to defend her position…she REALLY DID begin to defend her position!
If I wouldn’t have been so pissed I would have been laughing.
I then spoke up in a LOUD and VERY CLEAR VOICE.
And this is what I said….
“I have had many comments on the eulogy and everyone has said how lovely and honoring it was. I must tell YOU, you are the ONLY critic. I MUST give YOU a prize for the honor of being the sole critic.”
I then arose from the sofa, I walked to the dining room table and I picked up a piece of crumpled paper and I PRESENTED it to her.
I said, “THIS is your prize. Congratulations for criticizing the eulogy I spoke at my Dad’s funeral.”
Dear reader of this blog post, YOU should have seen the look on her face.
She could NOT believe that I was indeed defending myself against her attack.
She scampered out of my childhood home as fast as she could.
The lesson of this blog is this…
DO NOT allow nasty people to hijack your beautiful brain. Bring out the big response, stand on your sacred honor and let your brilliance fly.
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I grew up a Catholic. I was one of the best Catholic girls you could ever want to meet. I was openly critical of ALL other faiths. I remember so clearly at a young age reciting the Lord’s Prayer in church and asking why we did not repeat a line that my Anglican friend used to say and I was told, “THEY don’t know the real prayer.”
Shamefully, I admit that I accepted that response as gospel and I told my friend, MY DEAR friend, that her prayer was wrong.
How hurt must she have been?
I persisted in my dogged dogmatic beliefs well into my twenties until I began to realize that ALL faiths taught the same thing and that I did not have to lambaste people about what they should believe.
The teachings from my childhood have made me a moral individual and for that I am grateful. I no longer practice anything and I consider myself a just and moral individual.
When I went to India in 1984 to get married, one of the first questions I was asked was this:
“Are you having your period?”
I was shocked and upset.
WHY was that anybody’s business?
I was told that the priest would not do the ceremony because I was unclean!!
I remember thinking, “At least the Catholics never called me unclean!”
I refused to answer that question and I refused to play the game of being bound by yet another set of rules that made NO sense to me.
Fast forward to a few years ago, a friend asked me to speak at his Hindu temple during a women’s gathering.
I knew from past experience that this sect of Hindus DID NOT allow their women in the presence of their priests. I told my friend that I would speak but he should expect me to NOT agree with the segregation.
He withdrew his invitation, which was probably a prudent thing to do on both our parts.
The quote that appears in this blog by President Jimmy Carter seems to chronicle ALL the distaste I had seen, felt and understood throughout my life from people steeped in their religious beliefs.
There is definitely a place for religion, otherwise, the system would have died away already.
BUT why do women STILL follow religions that perpetuate a bias against females?
Why do men who love their wives and daughters still follow the dogmas that are prejudiced against women?
Would these same men and women be ok with words like:
“Women can’t be doctors.”
“Women must just be housewives and bear children.”
I have no answers to these questions.
I still have the questions and they get louder in my head.
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A short while back, I was in a very nice taxi going from NJ to NY. The conversation turned as it often does to “So what do you do ma’am?”
Always at the ready to spread the word about stopping Gender Violence, I said what my passion is and then told some stories from the U.S., India and Trinidad.
He began asking lots of questions and then told me a story of a family member who has been abused for 10 years and her 8 year old daughter who has also been suffering under this oppressive regime.
I gave him my card to give to the family member and then said that it is SHE who must want to be guided out of that situation and into a healthier one.
Then, for some unknown reason, I began to talk about men who MUST have things their own way. I told some more true stories, then said:
“And then they come home to find one towel out of place and start screaming at their wives and children.”
He got very silent. Then he said, “Ma’am you could be talking about me.”
“Really?” I replied, “Tell me what you mean.”
I already knew what he meant, but I needed him to speak out loud the bad behavior that he has been exhibiting.
As he spoke it came pouring out of him, almost as though he had just been waiting for someone to confess to.
We went back and forth for a while and then he said this:
“You know ma’am, she is not even my culture. She is better than women in my culture. She learned how to cook all my special food and we have twin 2 year olds and a 2 month old. She is so busy and tired and I don’t know why I shout.”
“I have too much stress and I have a short fuse.”
A short fuse! Such a simple phrase, a phrase that people use to give themselves permission to behave very badly.
I used to have a short fuse. I used to be THAT person who yelled and shouted at a moments notice.
I remember how scared my kids would be when ” the short fuse monster” would come out.
I understand about short fuses.
There is a cure!
Short fuses can grow into VERY long, even ULTRA long fuses.
You MUST be SICK of the way you are acting.
No one can get you to grow your fuse, only you can do this for yourself.
Again, glad you asked.
You must ask for forgiveness from the people over whom you explode. You must be sincere.
You must be able to hear them tell you how much you have hurt them, AND you are NOT allowed to scream at them for their feelings, or blame them for any of your shortcomings.
You MUST then forgive your own self. Forgive the parts of you that are NOT in keeping with the elegant individual you wish to be.
You must continue these two things everyday for the rest of your life: apologize to others and forgive yourself AND you must NOT give yourself permission to scream at another human being.
This is what I told that wonderful young man. “When you feel like screaming say I feel like screaming at you. I do not know why I want to scream. I will go for a walk around the block and I will come back.”
This really can work, but you must elicit the help of the other person in trying this simple behavior change technique.
Go ahead, grow a longer fuse. Do it for your own mental, emotional and physical health and do it for the loved ones in your life.
It is an exercise worth doing.
It is worth the life energy you will invest.
Grow a longer fuse, because a short fuse is a lousy excuse to be a nasty human being.
I was at a well known treatment center a few weeks ago and on the last day of my event I decided to eat breakfast on the lawn.
I usually ate in the cafe but on this particular day the weather was glorious and I wanted to savor the fresh air.
I sat at a table that was already occupied by two young women.
I immediately started to engage with them as is my way and we were having a sweet conversation.
Another woman joined us, and the party began.
Within 5 minutes, the new woman had chased away one of the original people and was expounding on how I should fix my life.
THIS woman KNEW that:
1. I was hanging around negative people.
2. I was deliberately choosing to hang around negative people.
3. I was clearly not making the right choices in friends.
Mmmmmm…. I wanted to:
1. Snap at her.
2. Throw my OJ at her.
3. Dig out my inner bitch and have at it.
Instead, I chose to turn my body away from her and engage with the other woman at the table.
Ms. Know-It-All then turned her attention to the woman I was talking to and proceeded to tell her how to fix her life.
This woman was just the most “knowledgeable” person I had met in quite a while.
She then told me to contact her and that she could help with my foundation.
I almost choked.
I smiled at her, and said “Have a good day” and went to class.
I congratulated myself for not losing my cool and for having the courage to be graceful about leaving the table.
Have you ever met people like this?
Some of these people are in our families and it’s not so easy to leave them behind.
There are, however, lots of people we continually choose to be around who are always “in our business.”
They know everything about everything. They are experts at philosophy, history, psychology, social skills etc. You name it, they have the answer!
I don’t know about you, but I am not in the market for any more Know-It-Alls in my life. I have had my fill of them. They were irritating then, and they are irritating now!
The difference in me is now I have the courage to leave and not CARE what they think of me.
I do not care if that woman thinks that she is JUST the thing I need to make my foundation reach one million people.
I will take my time, surround myself with people I admire and respect and LIKE, and I will reach the right amount of people in exactly the right time.
There is a KNOW-IT-ALL lurking around every corner, waiting for us to show the slightest interest in the wealth of knowledge and then…
They latch ON!
It is harder to extricate yourself from their clutches than it is to just leave them alone the first time you meet them.
I hope you meet some of these people soon and you can begin to practice the strength of believing in yourself.
These individuals give us the opportunity to stand firmly in our knowledge and allow them to expound to someone else.
If you meet one of these individuals at a party I recommend faking a bad stomach and getting the hell outta there.
I don’t know about you, but I believe that life is too short to waste precious time on people who just LOVE to hear the sound of their own voice.
Oh how Facebook has reduced us to junior high feelings all over again.
Those feelings weren’t that great the first time around. Now they are possibly worse because, on top of the same old teenage insecurities floating to the surface we have that feeling that OMG, really, I am a grown adult and am so emotionally involved in who is my friend or not on Facebook.
REALLY? Grow up!
The inner monologue goes something like this:
Will you be my friend?
Did you like my post?
Why did not you like my photo?
Why didn’t you comment on my post on your wall?
How come you didn’t Facebook me?
The inner voice is louder now: “What’s wrong with me that you do not want to be my friend or like the shit I post?”
Any of these statements ring true to you?
I shake my head in wonder of myself.
I recently had to de-friend someone who I thought was my friend but who did not act like my friend.
My finger hovered over the button to click as I planned on de-friending that person.
Oh the shame to de-friend….
The shame that I did not want to be their friend.
The shame that I was being mean or I was acting like a bitch.
The shame I would hurt their feelings.
The shame that as much as they wanted to be my friend…..I did not want them to be mine.
But the shame is that other person did not respect me, my rules, terms, conditions or non-conditions (as the case may be) of being MY friend.
Why should we feel shame de-friending someone who is not being a friend.
I click “de-friend”. I did it.
Oh the guilt. I have been de-friended and I know what it feels like to be de-friended. It’s like HEY I thought we were friends what the HELL is wrong with you to de-friend me? What did I do wrong?
Oh the guilt, will they call, text or email me asking me why? What will I say?
The guilt if I made someone feel less of a person because I did not want to be their friend.
It is amazing how this thing called Facebook can evoke these and so many emotions.
There is my Facebook friending insecurities rant.
Now I have one less friend….so friend me, I have a spot to fill!
You’ve probably had situations like this…
You can’t put together a sentence.
You have something to say but the words don’t come across.
There is sound from your voice but no one seems to be hearing you.
I recently wondered what I needed to do to be understood because my words were not coming across to others.
I so desperately wanted to be heard. I wanted to jump out of my skin I so wanted to be heard.
It was frustrating.
Then I became angry.
I am angry because they are not hearing me.
I am angry that my message is not being understood by them.
I am angry because I am not getting the response I want from them.
What I realized is that my anger is not so much about them but about me.
I am afraid to be 100% honest about what I need which makes me angry……angry because I don’t feel safe enough in a relationship to be honest.
I am afraid of offending someone which makes me angry….angry at myself for being afraid of the truth.
I am afraid of losing their friendship which makes me angry…..angry because if they are my true friend then, damn it, I should be able to be truthful.
I am afraid of losing their love which makes me angry…..angry that I may not be lovable enough that they will still love me even if I tell them what I need.
And if I did offend, lose their love or lose their friendship then perhaps they are not someone I should be speaking to.
So the next time you are talking with someone and they don’t seem to be hearing you, ask yourself:
Who am I really angry at?
If you are angry at yourself, ask yourself why?
Once you answer the “why” the other answers become clearer.
Donate to Indrani’s Light Foundation
Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.