I am bringing in the new year right by starting with a feminist book review. This horribly cold weather is the perfect time to cuddle up with a good book and a mug of hot tea.
I read two books in December and because one of them was given to me to review, I am going to do them separately, so that I can give it adequate attention. This book was a serious book and if you're not up for that kind of a review, then just wait for my next one, which will not be accompanied by a trigger warning. When I issue a trigger warning, it's not because I talk about the issues graphically, because I don't, but because I want to warn you about the subject at hand, in case their presence will trigger an anxiety attack.
****Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence & Alcoholism****************
The book is My Whispers of Horror: Letters Telling Women's True Tales from Ex-USSR Nations edited by Chris and Olga Brine from Brine Books Publishing. It is filled with letters from women giving first-hand accounts of how a horrible patriarchal society has worn down their soul and in many cases turned them into the feminist stereotype-bitter and hateful towards men, but with a good reason, for these women have been victims of domestic violence, the sex trade, rape, manipulation, and stigma, all with no help from the police at all.
I was worried before I read it that it would be too much to handle, but fortunately the way it is written in short letters it is very easy to manage-I would just read a few letters at a time and then put the book down and purposely do something more upbeat or self-soothing. I found myself underlining passages that caused me to think or exclaim in outrage with the women and so I think it is a very important book for privileged people like me to read. The book is obviously not for everyone-if you already have experience with domestic violence or get triggered easily, then this is probably not the book for you, but if you are more emotionally healthy and live a fairly sheltered life, then I would say it might be good to stretch yourself.
I think it is wrong for a person to always live comfortably. Once a person has achieved stability for a little while, they need to take another risk-that's how we grow and learn. We need to push ourselves to go a step farther and hear what people who are not exactly like us have to say-if enough of us do that, then we will grow as a culture, a people, collectively.
A common theme in the book was that the women were expected to do all the work and the men were just lazy alcoholics all day. It made me wonder: what would happen if all the women in these countries stopped enabling? Just stopped doing what the men told them to do. Just. Stopped. It would be monumentally hard to undo thousands of years of brainwashing, but some of the women in the stories did it, which means that other women can too. Isn't it a thrilling mental picture? Millions of women one day all at once suddenly saying, "NO, I will not do your laundry!" and "NO! I will not cook your supper!" and "NO! I will not work extra hours for you!" (I'm not saying that it's wrong for a wife to do those things, just that the partner should pull their equal weight.) What would the men do? They would be resistant at first, but eventually some of them would actually get to work or admit they have a problem with alcohol and get the help they desperately need.
Which was another thing: something that surprised me was that I actually felt a little sorry for these pathetic creatures called men. They all lived such sorry lives, just drink after drink after drink and so consumed with presenting a picture of the sexy, macho man. But what is sexy? Not being tied down to a gender binary. Being your true self. Living by lovingkindness. Unfortunately, stigma for mental health problems, including alcoholism, is huge and so the cycle continues.
The book made me thankful to live in America. We've certainly got domestic violence here in the United States, but countries like the Ukraine have got it even worse-they have less laws and protection and a higher number of cases of violence-one in three Ukrainian women have been abused by their spouse or partner and one in four murders are due to domestic violence according to this source! (I did compare - Here's America's fact sheet.)
Some people question why I might care about the state of another country, but we are all interconnected. Until all women are treated fairly, then I am not complete and my mission is not yet done. My feminism is not confined to only my own country the way some feminists' are. Besides, as one of the first letters pointed out, we cannot afford to-with the internet and mass transportation/immigration, people and ideas do not stay in one place for very long. If in one area of the world, like the ex-USSR nations, is having a problem with increased domestic violence, alcoholism and sex trafficking, you can be sure that before too long it will spread to other parts of the world too. In the last few years, we have seen an explosion of anti-choice laws, slut shaming speeches by politicians and radio personalities, and even rape insurance policies-could this be because we have failed our ex-USSR sisters and brothers?
New York’s new first lady won’t be one of those examples. When an interviewer fromEssence brought up the B word, Ms. McCray replied: “I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins.”
FlawlessTrans Women Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox Respond Flawlessly To Katie Couric’s Invasive Questions
Cox brought up the facts that trans women face absurdly high lives of homelessness, violent crime, discrimination and poverty. Then Cox hit it out of the park when she said, “by focusing on bodies we don’t focus on the lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination.”