Everyday Rape Culture

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White White, Gulp, Choke, 2017, 20 x 20 inches, Mixed media on Silk and Canvas

This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign

SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:

1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.

2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.

3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.

4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.

5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.

6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.

#metoo #rapeculture #smallnotsosmall #littlenotsolittle #arttherapy#dontshutup #accountability #society

I Love Men, I Love Men, I Love Men

I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN.
I am attracted to many men and everyday I meet men who are kind and wonderful. I write this because that’s not enough. Being kind and wonderful and honest IS not enough, today. I want to love more. For that, I need YOU to understand.

This is a triggering time for me. Bangalore, India is my home. A group of women were molested, in masses, on New Year’s eve, on a street I know too well. Bangalore is where I came out as queer and Bangalore is where I found identity as an artist.

But this, this is not about a place.

It is about each time my breasts are pinched on a train, or my ass is groped, be it during the Chicago Cubs rally or in a tightly packed Mumbai local to Churchgate… OR at house parties or in college, with the guy who brought me to some party, or an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand what it means to threaten violence.

It is about each time I have to share the same articles with my male friends, and help them understand, what they don’t understand…,
what it is like to walk down the streets with breasts and a backside.

It is about each time my professors, teachers, mentors, all male, have breached my personal space, hugging me too tight, asking for a kiss after a meal, telling me to “not tell.”

It is about the fact that I can count on my fingers my male friends, who openly identify as feminist. Five, five to be exact.

It is about the fact that I cannot count on my toes and fingers, your toes and fingers, and her toes and fingers, the number of times I have experienced assault and had my female and male friends experience assault through sexual objectification and harassment.

This is not about waking up each time a rape, molestation, sexual assault is reported, and asking, “Now, what should we do?” and going back to our lives earning wages, making art, until the next time, when femininity is attacked, again.

This is not about statistics. Which city is safer. Which city is not the “rape capital”. There is no such thing. Every city, every street, every house is “rape capital”. Why? Because the DAMAGING effects of patriarchy are pervasive. So invisible, so internalized, our fathers get triggered if we bring it up and our male friends call us too sensitive, asking us to forget, to protect, to dress better and not tempt. (Message me if you want to read about this)

I know nothing else but to dedicate my life, my therapy, my work, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting to lessening the damages of the patriarchy. If my posts trigger you, great. If my work triggers you, great. If my life triggers you, great.

I refuse to be exhausted. I refuse to die a death where my voice is unheard and I shall agitate, educate, organize, share, speak, build, argue till my last breath, till women can walk from their house till the grocery store without fear.

Image: The Fearless Collective

http://fearlesscollective.tumblr.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefearlesscollective

And please note, dear readers- there is a reason I’m not saying I’ll keep working till EVERYONE can walk safe. I would love that. That would be ideal and that’s what the world must look like. But that’s not the point here. The specific trouble being addressed here is female objectification and assault by male privilege, which is one of the damaging effects of patriarchy.

 

 

Deepening Community

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you living in better conditions”

-Khwaja Shams Al-Din Muhammad

I have been working at a wonderful art library this winter, here in Chicago. As I sort through my regular duties like filing books and organizing information, it has happened a few times, that a burning question on my mind has been answered by a book, that has chanced upon me.

It’ll so happen that I’m thinking about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore, and I’ll be shelving books in one corner of the library- and suddenly, I’ll feel a need to look at the title of a particular, seemingly random book- it’ll shine out to me.

This happened today with this lovely, hazel-orange book called ‘Deepening Community’- Finding Joy in Chaotic Times.

http://www.deepeningcommunity.org/

The author has outlined some wonderful ways of categorizing communities- shallow, fear based, or deep.

In shallow community, one believes- “Take care of yourself- no one else will”

In fear-based community, one believes- “We’ have a greater right to happiness and life, than “they” do. We are stronger when they are weaker.

In deep community, we believe- mutual acts of caring build a sense of belonging. We know and act when neighbors and family are sick. Mutual acts of caring occur often.

I’d love to hear from you- where do these three types of communities show up in your life?

How would you like to be cared for?

Here is a link to the pdf version of the summary of the book: http://tamarackcci.ca/files/deepening_community_finding_joy_together.pdf

 

Let’s Build Better Tools to Relate to Each Other this year

Endings don’t mean much to me, it’s all an ongoing path…the end and the beginning are both one.

Here’s to more questioning, more facing on conflict, better relational tools and hence, a deeper dive into this fantastic existence.

An article on better resolution tools on this gift called “conflict” that we run away from:

http://www.jaysongaddis.com/how-to-resolve-conflict-in-your-relationships/12039417_291966607640674_4649074349713813394_n

Light the lamp and there’s radiance

As I think about Art Therapy, Feminism, the new political year in the US and the political turmoil in India…my thoughts lead to this Kabir song I’m sharing:

Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance,
Such a small bundle,
It will bite dust one day,

It will mingle with the mud,
in the temple,

Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance

Who will awaken in the light of this utter turmoil we are facing today? Do I have what it takes to awaken? 

 

 

From the Ajab Shahar Project:

“Guru shatters the pitch darkness, the lamp destroys the utter blackness, says Kabir, urging us to light the lamp in our temple. ‘Jagariya’ – literally ‘one who awakens’ – is the last name of Asariya bhai, and many of the other singers in this mandali. So it’s not surprising that their families have been in the tradition of singing Kabir and other mystic poets for several generations. Kabir is a widely loved nirgun poet of the 15th century, well known for his rude and rough rhetoric, designed to shake us out of our unconscious ways. The song casts a powerful spell as it weaves together the other voices that ‘awaken’ – Devji Asariya Jagariya and Devji Ghabha Jagariya – who are from nearby villages. As the song says, light the lamp and there’s radiance!

Asariya Khima Jagariya has imbibed the tradition of ‘aradhiya bhajan’ from a very young age from his father Khima Bapa and his grandfather. He belongs to Kharoda village in Lakhpat, Kutch in western Gujarat, can be contacted at +91-81411-73115”

Winter Solstice & Relationships

“Buddhism teaches that however passionate two people are at the start of their relationship, over the course of time the intensity of that feeling will fade and change. This is because romantic love is all too often a manifestation of the world of Rapture, which is, by definition, short-lived. The passing of the rapturous phase does not necessarily mean that the couple will have stopped loving each other – although some people think this is what has happened and can get very worried – but that other aspects of the Ten Worlds have come to the fore.

For example, through the rose-tinted spectacles of Rapture, Ms A is beguiled by Mr B’s easy-going charm. But as Rapture fades, as it must, she’s increasingly irritated by what she now sees as his laziness and refusal ever to take a stand on anything. In other words, the tranquility that attracted her has begun to repel her.

It is in this confrontation with the reality of two people living their daily life together that the wisdom of Buddhism once again reveals itself.”
– Soka Gakkai Buddhism

Happy Holidays. Much strength to transform poison into medicine to those who are struggling in relationship, with themselves, their chosen or not chosen families and friends.

This can be a triggering time, please take care of yourselves- if possible, not by isolation but through gaining some new tools on conflict resolution, sharing in community and working through triggers…atleast that’s what helps me.

Musings

Sweltering red rock.
Watermelon slices outside prison, waiting to dissolve in the succulent juices of an April summer.
April is always a month of insights. Last April, a clear, spiritual focus found me. I always knew it was coming, but sometimes its the dazy heat of April that quietens the mind, and tells you it is time.

Suffering. Memory.
Memory, play, repeat.
I was walking, walking fast, walking calm,
Walking slow and focused- staring at the weary faces of the women waiting for me to shell out my ‘peace games’ and ‘art therapy kit’, I was reminded of my ex-partner-a gentle guy who ended up threatening to wring my neck in our last fight. A small gesture, a maddening anger. Pain bubbles as sadness mirrors- everyone is suffering.
Did I give in?
Does love resolve itself? Does time resolve pain?

As I walked on the broken cement at the women’s prison, I thought of Jimmy Baca- an ex-convict I’d met in the US many years ago when I was teaching in a prison. He had lead an extraordinary life of suffering and transformation. Spending six hears in prison, out of which, three years, in isolation (Some American prisons have isolated cells for certain types of incarcerated people)- he taught himself how to read and write. He had suffered and suffered and suffered his whole life but the man I saw and met was a man who was clear, unjaded, humble and whole. A fellow inmate convinced him to read out his poetry and slowly and steadily, he built his life back.

One can read more by googling him and his work but the most extraordinary thing about him and his work was that there wasn’t any ‘golden end’. Any rags to riches tale, any wiping out of all of his suffering with a stroke of fame. Sometimes, we think of transformation as magic. Pain becomes glory. And you’re a clean slate again.

But perhaps, acceptance is transformation itself. We often think of acceptance as giving up. But maybe, in this very quest to transform pain, we are only looking for rewards? Baca portrayed transformation as acceptance. Of self and the other. Of fear. and pain.

Can one really transform the pain of the other?

Does one just forget?

I finished my session with those beautiful women today, hungry to learn, waiting to receive, unfree, burdened by their pain. I packed my drums and said goodbye and I remembered, April is the month on insight.

prison

Expressive Art Therapy- Community Building

Khula Aasman is a beautiful, earthy space for artists right in the middle of Chembur in Mumbai. With their focus being ‘Play for Peace’, they work whole heartedly in the realm of community based therapeutic art work, facilitated over long periods of time. They’d invited me over to do a ten-hour, two-week spanning therapeutic engagement with the women-at-risk. The focus was for it to be a community mural- with their ideas, stories and representations of truth.

Check them out here!

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Tasting

What stories do you feed your lovers?
The rice has been boiling,
for over a week now,

I’m waiting

You taste of an old memory,
a bowl of greens beside me
you tell me
a secret,

But the rice has been boiling
over a week now,

I’m waiting.

The starch has started
to stain my lips,
the water is turning dry,
What stories do you feed your lovers?

I’m waiting.