Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

This is one terrific book.

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Amazon recommended this book to me, and as a person who loves just about everything Sue Monk Kidd writes, I bought it immediately. AdventureMan had also read a review and said it might be a good book for our book club, so he gets it next. Most of my friends have it on Kindle to read soon.

The book is written in two voices, that of Sarah Gremke’, white, and Charlestonian, of Charleston society families, and the other voice of Hetty/Handful, the slave given to Sarah for her 11th birthday. First Sarah tries to refuse the ‘gift,’ then, using her father’s law books, she writes a letter of emancipation for Hetty, and neither effort works. Sarah and Hetty are stuck with each other, stuck with the times, stuck with their situation, and stuck with the institutions that determine and limit what they will accomplish.

Or are they?

There were times, as I read the book, that I felt like I was going to suffocate. First, the heat and humidity of Charleston, South Carolina, are bad enough without the kinds of close-fitting clothing women were required to wear in that day; the thought of wearing those clothes makes me choke.

The limited expectations for women would stunt and damage the strongest female character in that society where those who thrived were those who were pretty, good at getting married, and good at bearing children, dressing appropriately and socializing endlessly at the same stale events.

Slavery damages everyone. No one should have that kind of power over another human being; studies show that when human beings are given power over another their very worst instincts come to the forefront. Why do we need studies? We have the real world to show us what that kind of power does, how it corrupts the one who holds the power so thoroughly that they don’t even know they are corrupted.

These are stories from my time living in countries where people from poorer countries came to work:

My maid had worked for a family where the men pestered her because she was full time and live-in. They assumed she was sexually available to them and made life very difficult for her. Her mistress saw a beautiful silk blouse she wore, a blouse she had saved for and only wore on her day off, and her mistress borrowed it, stained it, returned it and didn’t take any responsibility for ruining her one really nice blouse. It was never mentioned again. Only when the men complained about this woman was she allowed to leave; her mistress didn’t want the men tempted, she got her passport back and come to work for me. Her previous mistress wanted an ugly maid, and the men were hoping for someone more compliant.

The woman who bought my car had saved and saved, and was working under deplorable conditions in a day care. I told her that she had skills, get another job, and she told me that she hadn’t been paid for three months, and if she left she would never get that pay, and also her employer would never give her her passport or allow her to leave. She was, in effect, a slave.

Most of my friends are very good employers, taking good care of the people who come to work for them, but I have seen those (not my friends) who are violent and abusive. Being a slave is being trapped in an existence with no control over your own life.

Monk makes an interesting comparison of white women’s lives with their limitations being not unlike a variant of slavery. Maybe the conditions were a little better, but the un-free-ness was similar.

Sarah Grimke’ and her sister Angelina, against all odds, break free of family expectations and societal constraints. They forge their own way, with Angelina’s gift for rhetoric and Sarah’s keep legal writing. I had never heard of these women before, and I am so glad Sue Monk Kidd wrote this book to raise their visibility both as abolitionists and as some of the very first proponents for women’s rights to full equality.

As a quilter, I also loved in this book that Handfull’s mother is a quilter, and while she can neither read nor write, she puts down her history in an applique quilt which clearly spells out significant events in her life, and is a tool for passing family history from one generation to another.

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January 18, 2014 Posted by | Biography, Books, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Heritage, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: Such Laws Give Women Ideas . . .

Law Protecting Afghanistan Women Blocked By Conservatives

By KAY JOHNSON 05/18/13 08:03 AM ET EDT AP

 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked a law on Saturday that aims to protect women’s freedoms, with some arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles or encourage women to have sex outside of marriage.

The failure highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.

Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of fierce opposition from religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.

“Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.

The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has actually been in effect since 2009 by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.

Among the law’s provisions are criminalizing child marriage and banning “baad,” the traditional practice of selling and buying women to settle disputes. It also criminalizes domestic violence and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.

“We want to change this decree as a law and get the vote of parliamentarian for this law,” said Kofi, who is herself running for president in next year’s elections. “Unfortunately, there were some conservative elements who are opposing this law. What I am disappointed at is because there were also women who were opposing this law.”

Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women.

The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative lawmaker from Daykundi province.

Neli suggested that removing the custom – common in Afghanistan – of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to social chaos, with women freely engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.

Lawmaker Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage promiscuity among girls and women, saying it reflected Western values not applicable in Afghanistan.

“Even now in Afghanistan, women are running from their husbands. Girls are running from home,” Shaheedzada said. “Such laws give them these ideas.”

Freedoms for women are one of the most visible – and symbolic – changes in Afghanistan since 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime. Aside from their support for al-Qaida leaders, the Taliban are probably most notorious for their harsh treatment of women under their severe interpretation of Islamic law.

For five years, the regime banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced wear a head-to-toe burqa veil, which covers even the face with a mesh panel. Violators were publicly flogged or executed. Freeing women from such draconian laws lent a moral air to the Afghan war.

Since then, women’s freedoms have improved vastly, but Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative culture, especially in rural areas.

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Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed in Kabul.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Women's Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment