Thursday, February 04, 2010

A year and a half ago, I was walking out of Naomi Jaffe's matchless yoga class in Brooklyn with my friend Caithlin. Cait said, "Have you heard what's happening in the Congo?" My heart was all opened up, coming from this wonderful yoga class, and when she told me about the devastating large-scale sexual violence that has been going on against women there, I cried.

On that afternoon, I could clearly connect the dots, and intuit how cause and effect hold true in all things. And as Caithlin spoke, I knew, instantly, the ways in which my own internalized misogyny had grown, from even small thoughts of anger and careless acts of desire, and was now contributing to the oppression of women everywhere. In the ugliest of ways.

Later that afternoon I read this article in the New York Times about the situation of women in the Congo. Be forewarned it is explicit.

(Don't think that only women suffer in this kind of epidemic. A later article, equally explicit, explained how the weapon of sexual violence was also being used against men there.)

Some months prior, I'd begun to aspire to change the way I related to all the women I knew--my mother, my sister, my friends, my girlfriend--and moreover to every woman I saw, be it on the street, in yoga class, on the subway, it didn't matter where or in what context. I have hardly always succeeded. But even frequently failing, I've tried my best to be intentional in every interaction. And what I've found is that those actions, loaded with intention, also took root, and then grew and grew.

And then just this afternoon, tucked away at the bottom of the Op Ed page, I saw this totally inspiring piece about Lisa Shannon, a woman about my age who had heard the same stories from the Congo, and similarly resolved to change her life. She has dedicated her entire existence to benefit these people.

Cause and effect are real. So if it's true my previous non-virtuous intentions towards women in some way participated in the oppression of those in the Congo, then it must likewise be true that my resolve to help participates in every effort to help them.


[images from the NYT web site]


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