Sadhana was deeply disturbed. She had just come home from her first Women's Circle—a gathering of women like she had not experienced before. Perfectly sane, 'normal', educated and emancipated women like herself sat in a circle and shared their deepest hopes, fears and needs. There was something about the circle, and the process, that brought out truths that she had known, but not been able to vocalise. More disturbingly, truths she had buried deep in her subconscious, had surfaced as woman after woman shared. Truths about the inequity, inequality, stereotypes and unconscious biases that women, even women like her, still faced in the 21st century! Women, in a 'free society', still walk in fear of violation. They see themselves as human beings, who can be overpowered. In an age where we are questing for success rather than survival, one would think our deepest fear would be failure. But Sadhana had heard repeatedly that every woman's deepest fear is to be violated emotionally and physically.
She mulled, "300 years of the slave trade-ravaged Africa, creating large tracts of desert, inter-tribal wars, hate and paranoia. What has 5,000 years of subjugation and suppression done to women? How has it impacted our collective psyche? Does it contribute to our paranoia? If 44% of Indian men think women are inferior, what are the implications?"
She had been called to the circle by an urgency to find answers. There was something sub-human in the way a group of men had overpowered and abused women in two of the most horrific rape cases in the metros. She trawled through the internet and came across the Social Dominance Theory, which studies how power tends to get polarised between 'dominant' and 'subordinate' social groups. There was an age of owners vs slaves, then colonisers vs colonised and, through it all, men vs women. It was observed that the dominant group stopped 'seeing' the subordinate group. It was as if they became invisible, 'sub-human', objects meant to serve the dominators' needs; the subordinates were no different from the land or insentient materials to be mined, harvested or exploited.
Horrified, as she started seeing the invisibility of women in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in her life, she appealed to the Goddess, "Mother... Why... How?"
In the great Quiet of her being Shakti spoke, "It is OK to be visible. It is OK to be invisible. Both are choices for you to experience. Show up and shine through. Emerge out of the testing fire of your dominator. Equally, master invisibility, and learn how to surrender your ego to My higher plan. How else are you to come into your own, your true enlightened power?"
Shakti Speaks is a monthly column by Nilima Bhat, a facilitator of personal transformation, based on dialogues within The Women's Circle, a DNA initiative that seeks to restore gender relations and empower women.
In June Shakti speaks about 'Unfair expectations: Setting us up, Letting us down'
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