Another year, another day of celebration – International Women’s Day 2014. I have often found it a liberating and significant day. Last year, I “womaned” a stall in Tavira library, so that women, could spend a moment to acknowledge and remember, a woman, a sister, a mother, a teacher, a friend, any woman, who made us more than we have made ourselves. Women were invited to write on cards and put them on a tree. By the end of the day the tree was full of purple, green and white cards, tied with ribbons.
This year, I spent some time pondering about how to celebrate – fabulous women. I thought about some of my friends, the ones I knew growing up in the 1960′s and 70′s. Where are they now? Have they had happy lives? Have their children been to University? Simple enough questions, but probably not ones that I can answer. Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, has its implications – call it consequences. When you leave that faith, you are shunned by family and friends. So, I do not know what lives my friends have had. We do not share childhood memories. We do not share photos of our children.
In the years, since I left, in 1982, I have found new friends, ones who share emotions, loves, hard won battles, easy days and slow fun nights. I thought about celebrating those moments.
But this year, I have written an article about and for women who are not yet free to have those easy days. I have written about misinformation and indoctrination. I have written about a woman called Marilyn and her brother Richard. I hope you will read it and share.
It can be found on the AAWA.CO website. I am also posting it here. Thank you for posting the AAWA link to your Facebook wall and for sending it to your Twitter friends. We all need friends!
Women Have the Power to Change the Course of Their Lives
For now I will “rest my case.” But it seems to me that far too many JW women, by their often unconscious choices, allow themselves to have their power taken from them because of misinformation and bad advice from the Watch Tower Society – recommendations made against and in sharp contrast to good, healthy advice from professionals.
PsychCentral offers some good advice about shaping healthy relationships:
“If you’re always on the giving end in the relationship; if you’ve accepted indifference, abuse, or manipulation because you don’t believe you deserve or can get better, it’s time to take charge of your life and to make some changes. If your guy will agree, try out couple’s therapy. Couples can and do change with commitment to the process and love for each other. If your boyfriend won’t join you in the project, get some therapy for yourself. Build your self-esteem, develop the skills you need to be successful in the world, and increase your confidence. A stronger you will help you find the loving relationship you deserve.”2
Women can enjoy mentally healthy lives by educating themselves and doing what women have always done: sharing their stories. We can stop the abuse by raising young men who value women as equals. There is hope and guidance available for both genders, as modern experts in the field of mental health like Margaret Singer and Steven Hassan3 have created models to increase understanding about abusive relationships and unethical mind control. Their useful and well-researched information – along with the help of qualified therapists – can definitely debunk any and all Watchtower misinformation.
This article was posted the day before International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2014. On March 5th, 2014, a new survey report was launched by the European Fundamental Rights Agency. The report is based on interviews with 42,000 women across the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU). It presents the first results from the most comprehensive survey to date at the level of the EU (and worldwide) on women’s diverse experiences of violence. This is particularly important because many women do not report their experiences of abuse to the authorities, (and among Jehovah’s Witnesses, women are not encouraged to report abuse). The result has been that most violence against women continues to be hidden and perpetrators are not confronted. Here is a link to the report: http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-vaw-survey-main-results_en.pdf
Here is a link to the press release associated with the launch of this report: http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/press-release-violence-against-women_en_1.PDF
In this video, a survivor of abuse expresses the importance that those who are in a position to help need more than just one-half day’s training. Jehovah’s Witness elders receive no training at all for dealing with such matters and, therefore, should always refer all cases of violence or abuse to trained professionals. http://fra.europa.eu/en/video/2014 Violence Against Women Survey
Comment from AAWA editors:
If you have a story to tell that could help other women, we would love to share your experience. If you are interested, please contact Steph Le Gardener or Lee Marsh.
[Credit for graphic "Long Hair" - Vassiliki Koutsothanasi]
One of the liveliest sessions of Flipside, was created by the presence of Will Self. Having been asked about their books, Bernardo Carvalho and Will Self shared their thoughts on identity. Will explained that he enjoyed exploring women characters “as he is not a very manly man”. “It is like shape shifting to explore the female persona”. Will read from his book “Umbrella” and the whole text came alive, as he made us hear his London 1930′s character’s voices.
Bernardo Carvalho read from his novel “Nine Nights” and said that in contrast to Will’s novel, he felt his writing lacked description. Will contradicted this observation with examples of description from “Nine Nights” and then made some profound statements about how Carvalho had written about Brazilian identity. “It is about the other in Brazilian culture, the looming otherness, darkness, that lies behind Brazil”. Carvalho seemed to enjoy the banter.
This last event at Flipside, was introduced by Liz Calder, as a celebration of some of Brazil’s writers. Everyone attending the workshop was given the book “Other Carnivals – New stories from Brazil”. This is a book of 12 short stories and four of the authors, were not only present, but they read parts of their stories. The artwork in the book is the work of Jeff Fisher . He also created the colourful and distinctive artwork for the Flipside stage. The Suffolk Chair Collection should perhaps also get a mention as the classic wooden chairs were a feature of the stage.
First, Ariana Lisboa read from her short story “That year in Rishikesh”. It explores the nature of imagination and the making up of stories, such as a memory of meeting John Lennon – stories acting as an anesthetic to block out reality. Next, Bernardo Carvalho, read from “The language of the future” his short story that explores the language of prejudice. Next, Ferréz shared the background to his story called “Neighbours”. It is an in your face story of living with watching neighbours. It was read by Ángel Gurría-Quintana, who chaired this session and also edited the book.
Milton Hatoum was the last of the four writers to read his short story “A burial and Other Carnivals”. It’s a story which recalls Carnival in Manaus, as the storyteller attends the burial of Dona Faride. The language and description is quite beautiful. I just have to share a couple of sentences. “There were also mermaids, hoarse from all the singing, semi nude and tousled-haired odalisques, dethroned princesses, carnival celebrants dressed in rags, paupers who were given a bowl with banana porridge or jaraqui fish”. ” The drunkest revellers dived into the river to soothe their hangovers, others argued with vultures on the beach or tried to find the girlfriends they had lost at some point of the merrymaking, when no one belonged to anyone and carnival was a hallucinatory miracle”. The story ends with a memorable proverb. “A mother is worth a world” and “Soon it will be Carnival……..”
The 12 stories in the book present snapshots of Brazilian life, past and present. It is imaginative, vibrant, a mix of the funny and the tragic. The book reveals, subverts and delights.
The sun and smiles came out for the 3rd day and final day of the Flipside Festival. Identity was the theme that permeated the day yesterday and dislocation and exile is the undercurrent to the first session today. Adriana Lisboa and James Scudamore both shared aspects of their novels that delve into this rich source of inspiration. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Adriana Lisboa has many awards, including the José Saramago Prize for her novel, “Symphony in White”. Her new novel “Crow Blue” is one of the many Portuguese/Brazilian books that Bloomsbury has published in translation. This book was launched today at Flipside.
This event was chaired by Daniel Hahn , the Director of the Centre for Literary Translation. He started the session by asking Adriana Lisboa about what it means to be Brazilian. She now lives in the USA and reflected on how few books are read in translation there. She also questioned the popular cultural view of Brazil of carnival and football. Daniel then turned to James Scudamore, who talked about the novel as an exploration of the inner life and Scudamore said “we are not in the business of writing tour guides”. I write a novel because I am reacting to my surroundings, its a test. It is not a determined attempt to define those surroundings.
Daniel asked Adriana about whether there is a pressure to represent Brazil. She said “she challenges that”. I wrote because a Brazilian guerrilla character presented itself and it makes a link to Brazil, but I write about Japan, so do I represent Japan? no.
She said, that since living in other places, her viewpoint about Brazil has changed. “I have a different perspective. I now wonder if I am now seen as the writer who no longer lives in Brazil but writes about Brazil. I think its good to see it from the distance”.
James Scudamore said he had stuff that he needed to address and he could NOT write about Brazil. He then read from the opening of his book Heliopolis, set in contemporary São Paulo which was long listed for the Man Booker Prize. The reading he chose is an amusing account about helicopters, gated communities, and a man who wants, his lover Melissa’s husband, Ernesto, to discover his presence. He then moves onto the terror of being found in Melissa’s bed, by Melissa’s father. He ends the passage with “colour is a matter of context”. Quite a haunting statement. He was asked why he did not name São Paulo as the city he chose to write about and he replied he decided to just call it the city and let his imagination play with that.
Adriana then read in Portuguese and English from “Crow Blue”, about her character’s childhood in Copacabana in Rio. The character remembers the light, “and each child seems locked into their own architectural creation, on the beach”. “the intimacy of the sand was so far from the Popsicle sellers”. The drama of the city did not even figure in the drama of the ocean floor. She ends with the line “the sun was for everyone”. Daniel asked her about the translation calling it a “perfect translation”. She laughed and said “sometimes the translator improves the text”.
Daniel asked the writers, “who in Brazil is reading Brazilian literature”. Adriana said “people mostly read books in translation” and “yet more and more people are beginning to read Brazilian writers”. James reflected that perhaps this weekend is important because now, we can start to read about Brazil and not with the intention of learning about Brazil, but to experience Brazil. “We all have our own understanding of place”. He said he was asked once by a Brazilian taxi driver “if Margaret Thatcher is still Queen”. He reflected, “You fuel your imagination by reading stuff and you can train it well”.
Adriana said English has precise words, more so, than in Portuguese. The language explain things easily, so she likes the way her book “has been simplified”. The discussion followed the questions of the audience, looking at the cordiality of Brazil. Adriana reflected “Its very easy to make friends in Rio, but it seems shallow, whereas in the USA to have a friend seems to have depth”.
In the lunchtime event on Sunday at Flipside, the author Alex Bellos talked to Susie Nicklin from the British Council, about the Brazilian defeat in the 1950′s World Cup to Uruguay. As old footage was shown, Bellos commentated and explained the coverage which focused both on the pitch and the animated and excited crowd. He told the audience at Flipside, that after the defeat all aspects of that game were considered, even the fact that the team wore white and there was a thought that this was the wrong colour for a Brazilian team. This prompted a competition to be developed with the condition that all four colours of the Brazilian flag should be used to create a new strip. When researching his book “Futebol, the Brazilian way of Life”, Bellos, contacted the winner of that competition and was shown the image that had been sent in that eventually became the winning strip. He talked about the role of politics and corruption in Futebol and recalled that President Lula´s first act was to introduce 2 laws to avoid perceived and real corruption in football. Bellos argued that because Brazilian football lacked rules and organisational structure, this introduced an original slant to the game, that made Brazilian football much more exciting in the 1960′s.
Bellos was asked about Pele. He recounted the story of two heroes of the game, Pele from São Paulo and Garrincha, from Magê, who was much more a man of Brazil, a man of the people, albeit, a drinker and womaniser. “Even today no one ever says a bad work about Garrincha”. He said he thinks people are slightly disappointed by Pele because he appeared to be a black guy who wanted to be white. He reflected on how Brazilian players can talk and talk, unlike British player who sometimes struggle to make even one sentence when interviewed.