I am not “Westernized”, I’m Just Breaking the Patriarchy
by Imasha Costa
Imasha Costa is a published poet and is a 2nd year Arts student, studying English and French. Presently, Imasha is the Arts and Literature Editor for the UCC Express.
Imasha writes to break the taboos that she has experienced while growing up in the South Asian community.
I guess you are not unaware of the idea where women tear down other women. Well, neither is the South Asian culture, where it is one of the main “goals” within the community. Growing up under a traditionalistic Sri Lankan community, you are more or less submerged into a claustrophobic patriarchal environment, where women were objectified and meant to look and act a certain way. We could not address out our own opinions, as women are not allowed to share their own opinions. If I did have one, I had to keep my mouth shut as I might change the minds of other girls my age, and we did not want to have that did we? Questions were not to be asked, answers were not given.
I had to dress a certain way where it was not too revealing but still not too conservative, otherwise how am I going to get the boys to like me, but you can’t have a boyfriend. I could wear makeup, maybe a bit of lipstick, but if I do wear a lot of makeup I might be called a whore by other women. So I stuck around, followed the rules, got name called, got called names but I kept on going. But it was the same for myself, I would do the same to the girl who dressed up so provocatively, or if she had several tattoos and piercings. However, I could not stand that I was saying the same things that the other girls were telling me, it just was not right.
I knew my ideologies did not fit with the society’s ideologies, and I knew I was not going to fit in no matter how hard I tried to please everyone.
A question that resonated throughout the Sri Lankan communities was that of ‘what other people think?’ I would argue however, that this question was more of not what other people will think of you, but how much shame you would bring to your family’s name. I, on the other hand, decided to silence the thoughts about what other people would care about and started to listen to what I would care about. We, as women within the community, think that is okay to go around and pull other women down, burn them like a witch for retaliating and going against the patriarchal traditions that have constantly held the community up, but it is not okay.
Women should not have to hate on other women, instead respect their decisions, respect the choices that they make. From what I have gathered whilst living in this community is that the patriarchy has constantly been the one who has been influencing women to tear other women down.
Women in the Sri Lankan community should not have to wait five to ten years to wait for society to adapt into the changes that are being “invited” into their community. Its not too hard to change, to take a step and open their eyes into what is happening now. We, women, are not being “westernized” but we are indeed opening our eyes to the dominance that is consuming us on the daily basis.
Sri Lankan women need to be able to live freely without having to look over their shoulder anytime they are heading home from a night out and are all dressed up because they want to! Other women should not judge those that get dressed up the way they want to, and then state that those women were “asking for it.” Our body, our choice.
We need a change in the eyes of the community now, we need people to talk gently but be strong, make them realise that the more they allow themselves to be consumed the patriarchy, it can result in more harm to the women who are living in it. My Sinhalese women, we are growing, our minds our changing, and with that change your judgement towards other women, and be kind.
Originally published on Good Day Cork on 24/02/2021.
by Pratibha Patil
With feelings comes poetry from Pratibha Patil. Cork-based Pratibha moved here over four years ago. Pratibha is a blogger and also a poet. Pratibha has a degree in Law and is also a qualified teacher.
She penned the poem below in support of #DalitLivesMatter movement.
‘She’ & ‘He’ are two sides of humanity,
But ‘She’ always is subordinate to him and his individuality.
God sent ‘He’ or ‘She’ as an individual being,
But on the planet, we make them ‘female’ or ‘male’ by dividing.
Why the question arises whether he or she?
Why is it more valuable to be born a ‘he’?
Why can’t we see both as individual souls with same feelings and emotions?
They both form humanity,
But by denying rights to ‘She’ we forego equality.
She is mother, sister, daughter, wife and best pal,
At the same time ‘you are weak’ is said by all.
‘She’ has to prove herself all the time,
In 2020 her role yet to be reimagined.
‘She’ is a teacher, doctor or lawyer leading in every sector.
Yet suffers physical and emotional strife
And justice doesn’t transpire.
‘She’ doesn’t expect to be worshipped,
While she’s a Goddess.
To be treated as equal with ‘he’,
Is the only expectation.
Is the way to equality.
Originally published on Good Day Cork on 25/11/2020.
by Deborah Oniah
I used to know a girl called Ode. When she was 7yrs old her parents offered no explanation to her and her sisters and wanted an a-list performance act. This performance expected Ode to move on from a sudden loss and live with her Aunty. Ode was 9yrs then and had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after her younger sister. This implied Ode had to grow up swiftly to fit into that role. Again with no words or explanation, she put on an a-list performance and plough on with no time to acknowledge the loss.
Not long after that, Ode’s mum passed away. Now, Ode did block memories about her and her childhood as a way to cope.
Ode was forced to learn to live with loss, shame, pain, and all the hardships she faced growing up. “You have to be grateful!” The society also said to Ode, “You are alive – Thank God for it!” She put on an a-list performance that did not stop the loneliness, the sadness, the depression, the anxiety, and panic attacks.
These feelings consumed her. Ode’s past influenced her decisions, leaving her exposed to poor relationships and friendships.
Ode is now a mum and will continue to stay in unhealthy relationships because she does not want anyone to leave her or would hold on and try to fix it even though it hurts. Ode’s children are now growing up in an unhealthy environment and she recognises the patterns. She can’t protect them, how can she when she can’t even protect or heal herself. But Ode always thought of what life will look and feel like without the pain: “If only I can just feel ease in my body, my mind, my being, is it even possible?”
Ode aspires to be the mum she never had to her children.
Ode hopes to protect her children, to stand up for them, to never ever leave.
Ode wants more than anything to truly be fine instead of acting fine.
Ode knows she needs to find a way out for herself and her children though she grew up in a culture and society that expects a woman to keep it together, to depict that all is well on the outside. This a-list performance will now take its curtain call.
I am Ode, I am resilient. I made it to the other side.
“I can talk about mental health because I am no longer ashamed of my past, my losses. I decided that my anxiety and panic attacks needed to stop for me to be the best mum for my children and the best version of me. I allowed my inner child to heal.”
As I begin to heal, I’d like to share that to recover, one needs to feel safe. If a person with mental health issues never gets to that safeplaceit will only get worse and the end is drugs, addiction or maybe suicide. I have sought out help since the past year – be it counselling, engrossed in group work, signed up for further education and training. My morning starts with spiritual practice be it prayers, meditation, a walk in nature or journaling. Earlier, I failed to have my own back and now I affirm myself – “I am doing the best I can, I am a great mum.”
Healing takes courage and we all have courage even if we have to dig a little (or a deep) to find it. The body is not designed to retain pain so as to function in its full capacity. When you start the journey to recovery, it is important to surround oneself with the right people who believe in you, really see you and people who help you feel safe. It also helps people if they are in a similar growth journey.
I highly recommend therapy and counselling. It’s important to live this life happy to be at ease within yourself, you deserve that gift to yourself – to truly live life fully.
Counseling has saved me.
I have learned that as life goes on, most of the pain we carry is not for us to carry. Of course, it takes time to truly understand the significance of this insight and feel its power. It has taken me a good while to feel empowered to let go of my loss, anxiety, pain, the panic attacks.
I am in a better place now physically and mentally and that’s why I am very passionate about mental health.
The truth is healing is possible – if it is possible for a Nigerian girl, who decided to turn her life around at age 37, who moved to Ireland 4 years ago, then rest assured much more is available and possible for everybody.
It’s possible only if you make the decision to heal and only you can take that first step. When you do, there are many people along the way to hold your hands, to cheer you up because you are not alone, you are never alone, you are never the only one going through even if the voices in your head tell you otherwise.
I read Padraig O’Morain’s ‘Daily Bell’ to help me grow everyday. I am pursuing courses at UCC and College of Commerce to keep my head occupied..nourished even. I listen to Joe Dispenza a lot during the week. I highly recommend the SHEP courses because the SHEP personal development course helped move the needle for me. I have also recently finished ‘Pathways’ in Mallow offered by National Learning Network (NLN). NLN has offered me effective support in my learning journey.
In my experience, Ireland has offered me great support and helped me feel safe. Please make that appointment and do something for yourself today. I have been on both sides and I know it’s possible for you too.
Originally published on Good Day Cork on 18/11/2020.