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2

Suicide is a taboo subject for conversation. Particularly what makes a person want to commit suicide or what to say in the face of their pain.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”
― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

Suicide is a subject almost everyone has thought of at some point or the other. Almost everyone has wondered what it would be like to end our own life or how it could be done without confronting the great fear - pain, suffocation or other discomforts. Yet suicide remains a taboo subject. The feelings behind suicide. What makes someone commit suicide. We can talk statistics or prevention or helplines, but in the face of actual pain that drives a person to suicide, we have no skills. There is a difference between contemplating suicide and planning to commit suicide. An important one. The first is a fairly common and natural response to unbearable negative emotions. The other is an irreversible action.

I admit I have often considered suicide. I have written about suicide before too. From a perspective of statistics, from a perspective of understanding widespread distress needing political answers, from a perspective of empathy when I read about suicide, from a perspective of failing to support and grieving when someone I know commits suicide and I have also considered suicide as an option to end my own life when I was very sad. Yet, whenever I have tweeted about the subject, I have immediately got responses that amount to stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstopSTOP! It is so immediate that it would be hilarious if the subject were not grave. I have got helpline numbers as replies, I have got advice to not let dark thoughts enter my mind.

Hello! I write and tweet and comment and contemplate issues of human rights abuse. How in the world can one do that without having any dark thoughts? If I were planning to commit suicide, why would I be tweeting instead of finding myself a rope? I understand that it can sometimes be a cry for help by a distraught person, but if the rest of the words are perfectly normal, where is the harm in reading to find out what is being said?

Because here is the thing. Even if a person were tweeting about suicide publicly as a last ditch call for attention and help, the last thing they'd need is to be told to shut up or a sea of platitudes. What they would be needing is an empathetic listener who cares.

What exactly is this fear of talking about suicides?

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I admit I have spent a great deal of time contemplating committing suicide over the years. As in killing myself. I have been in unhappy relationships involving heartbreak, I've been in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic, I've been a broke single mother of a disabled child. Despair and depression are no strangers. And yet I am here, typing this post.

I have actually found thinking about suicide in great detail helpful. Instead of fearing the pain of death (and thus possibly taking a rash step "while I have the courage" maybe after a glass or two of vodka), I've gone and researched methods of suicide. What would cause the least pain? What are the consequences of failure? What is the best method so that it causes least pain and least risk of failing and living with permanent damage? And anyone who knows me knows that when I say research, I mean obsessive information finding till I am convinced I know the subject in and out without actual experience. Enough to make a very well considered decision. On and off, when I'm in utter despair, I've gone and rechecked all the information. And yet here I am, typing all this.

Is this a guarantee I will never commit suicide? No. But it pretty much guarantees that I have given it thorough thought and not found it a better tradeoff for now. It guarantees that if I do it, it will not be a thoughtless impulse, but a decision I take about my life after considering all options I have.

So how has contemplating suicide helped me?

By giving me an option. By giving me an exit from the pain. By giving me the concrete information that if all this gets unbearable, I still have the option to exit. In the process, a miracle happens. I am no longer cornered by my despair. I always have the cheat route out. And because I know that, I am never out of options. I lose the fear of making attempts to change my circumstances that could fail.  Just allowing myself to spend time thinking about ending myself is a catharsis. If no one else, at least I am acknowledging how bad things are. I am listening to myself. It helps me feel heard. It gives me a vocabulary for describing my situation when asking for help. No, I don't mean "I am suicidal, help me or else." I mean "This, this and this is the reason for my despair. I am not able to see functional ways out. I need help." - because hello, I've gone through all the reasons in my contemplation and have them now sorted out in my head.

And sometimes, in a very cynical way, the contemplations have saved me. If I don't care whether I live or die, why not try this one last thing or the other? If I hit a dead end, I can always die.

“Killing myself was a matter of such indifference to me that I felt like waiting for a moment when it would make some difference.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Here is an example how. When I was younger, my emotions were more volatile. Taking what I felt seriously and giving it serious thought helped me see things more clearly and invariably, I ended up thinking that if there was any hope, I could use it and if there wasn't, well, I could always die. But the well thought out option being there and not at any threat of being taken off the table gave me the confidence to know I could opt for it any time and there was no need to do it right now. I could afford to wait and see. I am truly grateful no one immediately tried to stop me at such times, or I'd have been tempted to use the opportunity before someone blocked it from me.

Now I am older. I have a young disabled child. Whoever knows me knows that I'd chew my arm off before I allowed anything to harm him. Well, losing a mom would definitely harm him. So suicide is totally not an option any more. At least while he is alive. He needs me. Period. Again, if I hadn't thought this through, I could have been at risk of giving up without considering the impact.

In some of my more selfish and melodramatic ways, I've even thought "What will be, will be" If I am not there, someone or the other will care for my son, though I can't imagine who, right now. But then, in such a melodramatic moment, the desire is also to leave a lasting mark on the world when I die. And oops, it is not "orphaned kid in moment of despair". I'd like to be remembered for something better, thank you very much.

Whatever it is. Others may have their own reasoning. Still others may come to a well considered decision that suicide is actually a good choice for them, When my father was dying of Parkinson's, he had the option of looking forward to an indeterminate bed ridden existence with little control over his body, being bored out of his wits and too exhausted to do anything about it but to wait to die. He begged me to kill him almost every week. It is illegal and I have two more dependents, or I would definitely have arranged for him to be freed as per his will if it were legal. Others do it out of poverty. Starvation. When the alternative is to live in debt and watch your family suffer with no hope of ever providing for them in sight, it can be a brutal life to look forward to, and death may simply be a matter of running out of the ability to fight.

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn't mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank -- but that's not the same thing.”
― Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and other stories

Whatever it is, however it plays out, a suicide is not about dying or exiting the world, it is about escaping unbearable torment. A person who feels unheard and uncared for, is unlikely to respond to a panicked flood of platitudes that s/he has heard a hundred times that drowns their voice all over again, even in the contemplation of death.

How agonized we are by how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live. ~ P. Sainath

My suggestion is that we all examine what this fear is that stops us from listening on hearing that word. Because the lives of many around us could depend on how we respond to their pain. If someone has made a well considered decision to die, there isn't much we can do about it, but if someone is screaming into a void of despair, perhaps us offering a listening ear will give them the space to be heard, and in the process get a clearer view of their situation.

What do you think?

14

I have rather radical thoughts about love, sex and . I wish to state them, because I am getting increasingly itchy about the compulsive prudery pervading everything these days, even as divorce rates soar, premarital sex thrives and acceptable public opinion continues to chase some vampire romance-like view of love as an absolute - one true soul mate, etc.

I've been married twice, had a long live in relationship that was better than the marriages, divorced once, separated twice. And I have learned from all those.

Currently, I describe myself as solosexual with detours and am happier than I've been in a long time. I no longer believe in marriage and even less in monogamy as a commitment. I have successfully ruined excellent friendships by marrying them. Some have even improved after breaking off. What have I learned?

About myself, I have learned that I am not a suitable candidate for 24/7/365 relationships. Too intense, too close. I am too idealistic, too uncompromising and too unwilling to accept the mediocrity of daily life once a relationship mellows into a comfortable habit that usually settles comfortably into the woman making compromises for a happy family life. I don't stop working at it, and I feel betrayed by my partner stopping working at it. I most certainly don't do well relating with the world as someone's belonging - even a cherished, precious one.

I am also quite asocial and even when things are going well and like ample space for me to be left alone with my thoughts. I'm not interested in anyone's socks, playing 20 mushy messages or how their day went, unless they have something to share or something seems off... or on. In turn, I like a man leading a happy and fruitful life not needing rescued from himself or his tanhai. Together for joy, not compulsive habit.

It isn't easy for the man either to be held answerable for the actions of a woman who does not even notice convention, let alone toe it. Even one who accepts my freedom feels resentment over being asked questions he feels obliged to defend over things he never felt strongly about. Why? Because I'm his woman! Apparently that means he is responsible for all I do and for running a customer care service for unsolicited opinions about bringing me in line - which he is most incapable of doing. This pretty much decimates a man's ego in today's society, so a wife like me ain't exactly happiness for the man either.

I find the best intentions eventually collapse into a resignation of "too much headache". Yet of course, I am incapable of being someone I am not. Someone tame, someone who colors within lines, someone society will approve of. Nor would I, if I could.

I have stopped believing in love as a relationship. Love, to me is moments of intense affinity that we chain together with a relationship in some desperate hope of more sense of belonging coming from the same source. To me, love is a feeling that simply is or isn't. It cannot be controlled by rules about where it should manifest and where it shouldn't. It also never goes away entirely. A memory can trigger it about someone you don't even like anymore.

I have learned that relationships die because the people in them stop making them work. In my experience of myself and others, more relationships have died from willful hurt and neglect than from someone "straying". From simply being too lazy to improve on a good thing till it goes broke and then too lazy for the phenomenal effort it would take. For those who believe in monogamy, any straying comes much after a sense of belonging is lost. For those who don't believe in it, the straying is irrelevant to the relationship anyway. Yet such a big fuss is made of loyalty to a partner, and so little about continuing to nurture a relationship. I believe in loyalty. Intense, committed loyalty, but not rights, including exclusivity over what another person is allowed to feel.

I do not wish to limit another. I do not wish to be limited by another. Love ought to be what expands us, not preventatively limits us.

Does this mean I no longer love? I do. But I don't set it in concrete. I feel it, am enriched by it, and am free of it once the moment passes without obligation. I feel no need for love to have a consequence. To turn into sex or marriage or a proposal or resentment over being unrequited. Or even be expressed. I have nothing against a relationship evolving either. Sometimes it does. But it doesn't "have to" and have to with "the right one". There are many right ones, with people who resonate and moments of meaning, and there are none that are always, tediously right.

Do I not believe in relationships? I do. But I'd like my partner to walk along. Independent, together. Our relationship is between us. I commit to nurture it, to treasure it and to fight for it when it is in trouble. But I do not commit to being owned by it. I do not commit to it overshadowing all other relationships or limiting their potential - including the potential for genuine, heartfelt intimacy. I would not want to own another either.

For someone who has never had simultaneous relationships and is absolutely disinterested in casual sex, it is surprising how strongly I have started feeling about rejecting monogamy. Would I have had? I honestly don't know. I'm quite content as a "solosexual" and currently feel no need for anyone in order to have a happy sexual life. The issue is the principle of it. Having thoroughly disliked the chains of being one half of a couple, where I have to dumb myself down and cater to expectations of what a part of a couple should be, I no longer am willing to get into all that. It is unpleasant.

And I have found there are many kinds of love, with many kinds of people. Many kinds of intimacy, that enrich, expand, grow with time, fade, metamorphize. There are many kinds of togetherness, of independence. They stretch across ages, genders, locations. There are even loving, caring relationships with men (gasp!), where both feel attracted, stated, yet there is no sexual relationship. Because there are no rules that say that "you're repressed if you don't sleep with people you love and are attracted to while you are single" either.

If there is one thing I have found common to these relationships, it is that there is a sense of grounding. Of being exactly who I am. Of being cherished, and of cherishing in turn. Of being accepted, appreciated and accepting and appreciating in turn. Of freedom, and yet being securely held. And it is all love.

 

My relationship is with the person. It is between the two of us. If it gets between me and the world, that is not acceptable to me. Because my first commitment is to myself. Self owned.

2

When words that convey extreme contempt are used, they ought to be used with responsibility, if at all they must be used. For, is not telling people what to think an insult to their ability to reach conclusions?

This post is about an article by Sujata Anandan where she essentially calls Anna Hazare a Tin-pot dictator and condemns his dictatorial policies. I would like to address several things in her article.

Flogging of alcoholics

As the wife of an alcoholic and an occasional drinker myself, I see drinking alcohol and alcoholism as two different things with little in common other than the consumption of alcoholic beverages. For example, a regular drinker could comfortably visit Ralegan Siddhi to cover this epic news and have a drink later after returning home. An alcoholic would travel to the nearest town to find a bar, try to wriggle out of the assignment altogether, sneak in his bottle or finish it fast and return to an environment where alcohol is possible.

You cannot reason with an alcoholic. I mean, you can, but it becomes irrelevant when it is time to drink. It is also not only about the mind. The body forms a dependency and doesn't function properly without alcohol - this is how "medical licences" for alcohol happen.

It takes what many recovered alcoholics call "hitting rock bottom" or overwhelming and undeniable bad consequences for an alcoholic to undertake the overwhelming effort to fight his/her own body and mind to quit. Most alcoholics go to their graves without ever attempting this fight. Others try, lose momentum and lapse.

In other news, while drinking alcohol may be a personal choice, alcoholism is a social, economic and security menace. Alcoholism is almost always associated with domestic abuse - not even because the person is evil, but he is simply too drunk to care that others hurt because of him, and he always wants things his way, because he is too drunk to deal with  anything. They destroy domestic relationships, make enemies out of friends, deprive dependents - particularly children or resources that should rightfully be theirs for nurture.

Alcoholics will buy alcohol no matter what. It isn't a multiple choice question, unless you are talking which brand. They will switch to cheaper brands, dubious quality, spend their last dime, borrow, steal, prostitute themselves or their wives, whatever it takes to get their quota. It is a compulsion. Alcoholism itself is a dictatorship.

Drunk drivers on the streets are a risk to more lives than their own.

I don't see alcoholism as a personal choice, if it damages other people. It is far worse than say exposing people to passive smoke.

While I don't agree with the method of flogging, as someone who has read extensively on alcoholism, I can see how a rural environment lacks absolutely any leverage that is "legal" to prevent this damage to families. For a population of alcoholics amounting in the millions, we barely have enough affordable support for de-addiction in cities. Leave alone villages. Obviously, there is a point where you either bend rules, or watch many people suffer the consequences of one person's alcoholism. Would I have done it the same way? I don't know.

But this is far from a dictatorship. In focusing that Anna "sometimes" flogs alcoholics, it is easy to overlook who is doing it other times. Sure, it is human rights abuse according to fancy, imported ethics. So where are the facilities that an alcoholic can be arrested and rehabilitated if found in a village where alcohol is banned? Is it more "human rights" friendly to get an alcoholic arrested, likely beaten by the cops instead, accommodated in some prison while the country's over burdened system waits for his case comes to court? Or should this glorious Sharad Pawar experiment be ignored - I thought she liked it, but it shouldn't be enforced?

Power to women to close down liquor shops

A little more research would have told this writer that this isn't an experiment by Sharad Pawar, it was an ammendment to the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949 - her tin-pot dictator Anna Hazare is the one to demand it. Ralegaon Siddhi was the model on which the conditions were developed for banning liquor based on a vote by the women of a village - very dictatorial, huh? Nice style, calling him a tin-pot dictator, and attributing the result of his appeal as an experiment by someone else. It is obviously an article written by a gushing fan, but the facts stand there. Also the RTI, etc.

Banning alcohol and cigarettes

I smoke and drink, but as a citizen of a democracy, I also recognize the right of that village and its elected body for self-determination. With the number of people who smoke and drink, I don't think it is something that can be imposed by some freak dictator on the majority.

Which brings me to - this is the second mention of youth running away from Ralegan Siddhi rather than bear "dikkats". I only want to point out that with all the publicity the village got, as well as the massive mud slinging efforts mobilized, it should have been relatively simple to interview a few of those youth about the tortures they escaped. Surprisingly, months along, I'm still searching news for this epic article that would kill all support for Anna among youth, etc.

That said, I was a staunch supporter of the IAC movement, but I see it drifting away from the things about it I supported. However, this doesn't mean that our national sport of mud slinging is a good idea, and this is one big reason media today cannot be trusted for information in order to form your opinion. You are fed conclusions.

Thus, when an editor chose to do this, I thought why not debunk it, for no reason other than I value the freedom of thought and oppose vilifying anyone?

8

While domestic abuse is distressingly common, it is equally normal for the victim to receive little or no assistance in dealing with an abusive partner or member of the family. Sadly, the "mind your own business" mentality continues to triumph against all logic. It does not seem to strike people that if marriage is not supposed to include abuse, abusive behavior between married people cannot be considered the "relationship". Absurd social assumptions of privacy continue to inadvertently strengthen abuse and stack odds against the victim and allow situations to escalate to levels where the only thing remains is for the chain to break at the weakest link - whether it is a person or a relationship.

But it need not be so. It is possible for socially committed people to influence situations so that abusive people cannot leverage their silence as a consensus against the victim. It is even possible without much risk or effort. What remains is to do it.

How can domestic abuse be prevented by bystanders?

A lot is possible. I'm listing out a few ideas that can be attempted according to the situation, how well you know the victim, and how strongly you feel about the matter.

Voice what is happening

You may not object, but make it clear that you notice what is happening. Abuse thrives in the shadows. For example, one person overruling or suppressing another in a group can easily be acknowledged with something as simple as "five of us want this, 3 want that, and XYZ seemed to want this till ABC stopped her.". In essence, you are doing nothing about the actions of the abuser other than stating them. However, an unfair action being stated reflects badly on the actor and discourages further similar actions out of a wish to not be seen as an unfair person. This is among the safest choices, as you are not required to know any backgrounds of actions beyond what you see, and if it isn't abuse, but has an alternative explanation, you do not end up making any accusations.

Make your disengagement clear

Abuse typically interprets silence of third parties to taste. Your lack of disagreement can be presented as your agreement with the abuser's view even if completely false. It is important to categorically make disagreement clear. While most people hesitate to make a scene, abuse going unchallenged gives it power because it creates the illusion of social sanction. You may not necessarily confront the abuser, but you can easily say something like "I see no harm why s/he shouldn't join us." By providing an alternative perspective, you break the image that "everyone" thinks like that. More so, you never know when others in the group also don't like but remain quiet, and it provides them with a graceful reminder to make their distance known too.

Make a stand

Make your stand clear. You don't have to support the victim, in fact, it is better that you don't in that moment. What you can do is make it clear that the abuser's behavior is unacceptable. "Please don't speak with your wife/husband/child like that in my presence". In this, it is important that you do not side with the victim who could be targeted in retaliation in your absence for things you said. Your confrontation should strictly be between the abuser and you, even if the subject is the victim. This may mean not involving information confided by the victim in particular - which may be seen by the abuser as an attack by the victim to influence you against them.

Use authority

Understand this. If you are in a position of authority and you don't challenge abuse, you are sanctioning it in the environment. It is absolutely reasonable to use your role and authority to set norms of behavior. "No hitting. No intimidation." "I have asked her for her opinion. If I wanted yours, I'd ask you." Straight, non-negotiable forbidding of inappropriate behavior when you have the authority to do so.

Offer support

Make it known to the victim that s/he can reach out for help. Cliched as it sounds, offer money if you can. Offer a safe home if you can. This cannot be stressed enough. Money and accommodation are the biggest reasons victims dare not leave abusive relationships. A stash of money comes in Handy for a quick taxi out when shit hits fan. Offer contacts. Discretely collect and share information on inexpensive accommodation if you offering is not possible or otherwise unsuitable. Offer it quietly and in an easy to remember/access manner. Repeat offer periodically, so that it remains in mind as a constant resource that can be trusted not to vanish. You may not be able to offer an option to get out of the abusive environment, but there may be other things that could help. Ask. Ask if there is anything.

Provide socialization

The biggest symptom of abuse is a person who withdraws, avoids social contact, feels awkward about answering questions about self and has poor self image. Having company helps. Helps provide a diversity of conversations rather than only abusive ones dominating the victim's interactions, which is how abusive situations narrow and create a perception of isolation and inferiority. Socialization also reduces opportunities of abuse as well as increases the threat of discovery and social disapproval.

Check up

Keen an eye, ask friends to occasionally check up on the person. If warranted, provide the victim a simple code that will mean she needs rescued. Something that is not blatant to others. DON'T take it lightly, ever. One of the things that helped me finally decide to risk moving out on my own with a disabled child in tow was something as seemingly unrelated as a day of internet outage resulting in phone calls asking if I was all right since I had vanished online.

Rescues

Unless you feel capable of taking charge of the victim's well being or offering a substantial part of the assistance needed in recovering, do not do solo rescues. Get police along. The rescue is the beginning. then comes the challenge - of rebuilding life. More difficult to get that assistance after being rescued. Much easier if the police are involved all through. A victim is also less likely to be intimidated into covering up in the presence of the police asking questions of the abuser.

Speak with social workers

They have options, ideas and assistance that could help the person much more effectively. They also have the manpower and diverse competencies to keep an eye, intervene or provide support as needed.

When to call cops rather than be sorry later?

You see unexplained injuries, acute depression to the point of aloofness, inexplicable changes of behaviour that are out of character for the person, hearing loud/angry voices or sounds of objects being thrown/banged/hit/etc, if you have a safety code that gets triggered... if you feel uneasy about the well being of someone in a known abusive situation.

Very likely that it will be a false alarm. Do it anyway. For one, you never know what you prevented by interrupting on time. For another, as someone outside the abuser's control with the power to call cops and get the abuser in serious trouble, you act as a shield. The abuser cannot prevent you from acting in any manner you wish, including reporting possible domestic abuse/crime. It becomes essential that any cops arriving find no trouble. It is as much a deterrent as a response.

If enough people do these simple things, society would be much safer.

26

Patterns of assumptions and stereotypes manipulate collective responses. Patterns based on things we refuse to acknowledge or even are aware of. "Strong man", "Caring mother", "damsel in distress", "hen pecked", "old coot", "shrew" and more aren't just common terms, they are common ways in which we see people and there are patterns. There are scales of gender, power and fear for everyone.

To see the astonishing impact for yourselves, observe a group discussion in any group - no matter how "equal". Observe when decisions are made. Sure, everyone is speaking freely, listening attentively, regardless of gender. But here is what you will see. It will be the voice of the powerful male in the group expressing an opinion, post which the matter will seem concluded. Consciously observing, as you are, you might even find really astounding moments, when most people in the group may disagree with him, yet they will be left accepting this conclusion. And no, it makes no difference if you point this out. They can't "stop" - you will STILL observe the same pattern.

There are many, many such ways where we can quickly get an understanding of what our unconscious beliefs are, from how they manifest. Specially visible when "logic" was actually going in another direction.

I'm not blaming men or anything. They are doing it as unconsciously as those following them.

Five predictions:

  • A woman will have to fight very, very hard to get her stand accepted as a decision, something a man will be able to shake with a careless word.
  • Observe who was the last person to speak in favor of a certain action before it got adopted, and you will know who holds the string of the group.
  • A single woman disagreeing in a group is likely to be ignored. A single man disagreeing in a group is likely to be convinced.
  • Women are cannon-fodder. In a high risk situation, a woman are likely to be the leaders, till more is known, and men takes over with "expertise".
  • When members of the group are speaking to a group, check their eyes to know who they are speaking to. Likely male.

You can tell the group you are observing them for these five things, and you will STILL be able to see them. Unconscious processes are, d'uh, not conscious. Can't be changed, only accepted, and they evolve if thinking changes. They can't be "acted out" - they are too spontaneous and all pervading. Once you see it, you'll see it everywhere, including yourself.

See who interrupts whom, who overrules whom, who may judge others without causing offense, and the map of power in any group of people is clear.

You can have an organization with the most women and with the most women speaking that is led by a man or a few men who have the last word. A notorious example to come to mind is the women's group Femen - that does nude or topless protests to draw attention to women's rights. Inspired and controlled by a man, femen does not accept protesters that don't fit their target body "look".

Countless political parties - even led by women at times fail to challenge problems faced by women when it comes to challenging male behavior. Sonia Gandhi had infamously responded with what seemed to be genuine anger when women workers of the Congress complained about sexual harassment within the party by leaders. From declaring that she would remove anyone found guilty to vanishing into the depths of everyone's memory has been a telling statement of how much power a woman can wield when it comes to wielding it against the male privilege.

Women are increasingly taking on more power in the world, and its a large scale observation you can make - becoming professional, influential, powerful, etc invariably accompanies many male influences - be it power suits, or coarser language. Increasingly, women are smoking - something that used to be a male thing. Short hair often coincides with increased "professionalism". Show me the liberated man who exercises his right to wear a skirt to work.

Quick Quiz: For a man to wear feminine clothing is an undermining of his mascilinity, so, for a woman to wear masculine clothing is.... what? Speak louder, I can't hear you!

I venture to say here, that somewhere in our minds, we associate the male with power and influence. Our so called liberation is also another subjugation by deeming the feminine not good enough in terms of betterment in life.

Think of all the women of power that you admire. Imagine them. What do you notice? Is it anything feminine? Or is it the successful integration of masculine traits?

Many women are deeply disturbed when I say this. They are the ones still fighting a failing struggle for their femininity. They still haven't pushed their instinctive responses far enough back in their mind to forget them altogether. Words like this make them feel a sense of helpless loss.

[From an email]

"All this struggle to become equals.... its false, isn't it? We are only struggling among ourselves to become better than other women at aping men."

Our gold standard is men. Ambitions of women empowerment begin and end with measuring them against men. Same rights, same privileges, same freedoms, etc etc. As though there is something to be envied about the largely insecure and increasingly incompetent male population these days.

I don't hate men. Love them in fact, but I don't believe they are paragons, and I am not blind to the emotional challenge to the whole masculine identity that "development" brings. They are as insecure as we are, because of these same facades. What we get overruled for, they get overburdened with. Everyone in over their heads. Low honesty. Lots of defensive judgments of others, particularly for being different. The problems happen when this inherent bias gets exploited to harm women because the odds then really get stacked against the women. Which is why, even when we are all humans, have emotions, feelings, etc the list of injustices against women for being women far outdistances injustices against men for being men.

A mistaken war of genders starts, where men oppose attempts to create space for justice by magnifying their own experienced suffering. this is as much an attempt to relate as feeling ignored, but it serves to sabotage the well being of women, because these objections too come with the bias heavily supporting the man's word. Hurt men feel victimized, and abusers enjoy the screen.

Other times, people mistakenly attempt to create justice by setting "equal" standards. This is of course trying to create for women, the "gold" standard of men.

In the times of my life when I was able to set my own standards of what would be good and right in my life, I achieved exceptional things. I led a nomadic life, I had affairs, I lived in the high Himalaya, bred horses, trekked in exotic lands, healed animals, I did all kinds of things men wouldn't have dreamed of. If my ambition was to arrive at that gold standard, I'd have missed out on a lot.

When our goals are our own, there is no insecurity, because they are real, meaningful, and look doable from where we stand, because they are measured in effort, not result. Our relationships prosper. No longer is another woman quietly measured in a race for power. No longer is a man someone to win the approval of.

Someone today called me a feminist. It is as appropriate as calling me an atheist. As a compliment, both are equally irrelevant, because they talk of things I'm not interested in. If it comes to being on the side of an issue, that is where I am. Normally? No.

A kind of enemy's enemy is my friend? No! I'm not against either God or Man. Let them do what they will. My purpose emerges from within me. I'm free.

By free, I don't mean that I never fall into this unconscious subjugation. Of course I do, like every other person, unless they grew on some island alone. By free, I mean that by acknowledging it, by accepting it, I free myself to unhesitatingly accept when I do it, and if it is dysfunctional, I am able to move on without feeling "wrong".

I find that men are often much more tuned to femininity than women are. Possibly because they are interested in women, and not men. In many ways men suffer this progress more, because they are the gold standard, but their world is increasingly cracked in many places. The overt, spectacular privilige of being a man, of receiving unquestioning service and nurture is eroding, but they are privileged still - only in ways that don't feel enough. They don't FEEL privileged. I have lost count of the number of men who speak less than happily about modern trends in thought for women, which is a caveman thought on a superficial level, but on an experiential level, there is little of the feminine self to gravitate to. In their words, I hear deprivation and abandonment under those sarcastic, defensive layers of protection of their vulnerability. What does it mean to be a man, if no woman with awareness of her womanhood is around?

And men are going through challenging times. Not only do the women do whatever they want, they wear whatever they want, get maternal leave without scolding, earn and contribute to household incomes as much if not more, are fine managing their kitchens, and can speak their needs easily. Their traditional role is changed, but the measures of self-worth remain and are increasingly taken to higher standards.

So here's the deal.

I am hoping for more freedom for women.. After being overtly suppressed for centuries, it is natural, but not necessary to spend another while quietly imitating in order to feel empowered.

Its like the Elephant, who as a calf was tied with a string and as an adult was perfectly capable of breaking the string, but believed that it was his limit.

Please note before you argue that village women suffer a lot, etc. This article is specifically speaking of women in a certain "development hit" environment, where their potential to celebrate the opportunities available to them is vastly undermined by the assumptions still caging them in. But the circumstances are certainly there.