October 30, 2016

The Prejudices Come Out At Halloween

On Halloween adults can pretend to be someone other than who they are: a splendid cover for deniability of one's true self though, if but for one night, it is on display.

"I wrote an article for Time.com on the idiocy of being offended by Halloween costumes, which we all know will inevitably happen," Jim Norton posted on his social media page. 

On a thread sharing Norton's post, Tricia Montes replied, "Let's think about this: Jim Norton says that people should be permitted to wear ill-advised costumes (and in most cases, nobody is stopping them) and learn from the embarrassment of doing so, but he says that right after chastising people precisely for calling out and embarrassing those people. How are they supposed to be embarrassed and learn from it if nobody points out that wearing blackface is some racist, hateful shit? He gives some examples--some real, some made up in his fevered imagination, of people taking things too far, but I can't even pay attention to that when he's already contradicting himself and basically said that people shouldn't even point out that someone is being an asshole, which we should all do."

Norton didn't recognize the idiocy in the impossibility of his own recommendation!

"However, there is a line," I replied on that thread containing Michael McGuire's contention that "nothing is sacred." And, importantly, I added, an individual's choice of "comedy," "satire," or choice of costume speaks to that person's personal values and beliefs. These are performative ways to voice those closely held ideas and prejudices.

Let's be clear, it is inaccurate to believe or claim such acts arise in a vacuum.

Fact is, not everyone agrees that nothing is scared in comedy and costumes. Hara Kiri magazine, e.g., was banned for mocking the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle. France didn't think it was funny. In 1970, Hara Kiri remade itself to become Charlie Hebdo.

We are all too happy to hand carte blanche free speech privileges to folk as long as we are not the butt of their "jokes." But what if that costume was of a deceased loved one of your own: you mother, wife, husband, or your child. Would you join in the fun of mocking them and making light of your huge loss?

Would it be fair that people expect survivors of the deceased to not "be too sensitive" about this, as Norton said?

McGuire stated that the Irish laugh at funerals. That may be true, but there are some things the surviving family would not find funny. Besides, Imma go out on a pretty sturdy limb and bet that the Irish tradition of laughing at funerals is not the same thing as mocking the deceased.

Besides, laughing at funerals is not peculiar to the Irish. I have attended many funerals and have heard laughter at many. But that laughter would have fallen flat if, e.g., the "comedian" mocked the deceased for giving in to their battle with cancer.

Some things are sacred. Period.

What Norton advocates is non-verbal incivility. Its verbal cousin floods televised political discourse today, much to the dismay of multitudes of American citizens, nay, the world.

The sacred exists and there is a line that should not be crossed. What is sacred varies from person to person, culture to culture, and group to group. What American society needs is greater awareness and investment in the kind of sensitivity that makes the world a safe space for everyone, not just the mocking few.

The questions asked by Michael:
How do we draw the line in comedy? What are the things we can't joke about? And who decides?

Michelle Johnson's response was apropos: "Easy. Draw your own line. Just don't bitch when somebody gets in your face about being offended [by what you said or did]. That's my only point--folks can't have it both ways. Do [sic] what they want and then scream political correctness when they get called on it. It's like the N-word. Be the white person who says the N-word. [N]obody's keeping you from doing that. Just deal with the consequences, whether it's a job loss or an ass beating."

Deal with the consequences of your actions, absolutely! If we weren't taught this by our parents at an early age there is still time to learn.

Yet, it is sad that short of economic or physical discipline we, as a society, can't figure out what is offensive and/or demeaning and choose to avoid those things.

Two strange things happened yesterday:

A psychic was the guest on a local radio show. The host asked, "what is the source of all the problems in the world today." She immediately replied, "there are too many people in the world. War is one way reduce populations." The psychic then went on to something else with nary a follow-up question by the host to that bizarre statement. I couldn't help wanting to know who she thought should be eliminated. Certainly not her or her in-group.

Right before that, I was at an event and some were talking about Halloween costumes. I was the only black person there. A young white man said the words "black face" and, I swear, my mind performed some sort of protective intervention, because I never heard his words following that phrase.

That's how traumatic such experiences can be and in most instances are for the brunts of "jokes." The whites engaged in that discussion happily skipped along the conversation for there was no problem at all for them that "black face" even arose at the expense (regardless of purpose or intent) of someone else in the room.

Lawdt, what comes out at Halloween!

October 29, 2016

The High Cost of Masculine "Peace"

First, women need to cease being silent about the range, type, and frequency of assaults* upon them by men. We, women around the world, have been conditioned to remain quiet about these intrusions.

Second, men must stop pretending that their inappropriate speech and behaviors do no harm to women. Men must begin to be honest, "tell it like it is," about how they are socialized and how they socialize young men to interact with women as if we are toys for male sexual pleasure.

Men must begin to be honest about their physical violence toward women (from inappropriate touching to beating) being rooted in their emotional, social, and psychological violent toward women--in the family, romantic relationships, the workplace, even religious circles. These are among the spheres where women are stripped of their dignity (that's woman's work, that's a woman's instrument, my wife belongs to my other room) and in many cases terrorized by the men who claim to love them, leaving women emotionally naked.

Oppressors never want to be held accountable. The slightest push back from the target of their tyranny disturbs their peace.

The "peace" of oppressive males exists at dangerous and high costs to females.

Men have built, continue to participate in, and perpetuate the emotional, social, and physical abuse of women that is the foundation of patriarchy. Men must dismantle it.

"If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you liked it." ~Zora Neale Hurston

Women, disturb the peace. Disturb *their* peace!

*My earliest memory of being assaulted was when I was nearly abducted from Marshall Fields Department Store in Chicago when I was around 7-years-old. When I was in graduate school I was cornered by two men in a laundry mat. A third man intervened, drawing their attention, allowing me to escape. Just last week, a man followed me from the building as I left my gym (most creepy, he yelled to me, "have a blessed day!"); after stalling 10-minutes waiting for me to leave the facility parking lot, he proceeded to follow me by car. Miles away from my destination and 30-minutes later, I was able to shake his tail. It is clear: He intended to follow me to find out where I live so he could "visit" me any time he wanted. I was scared to death. I am still frightened. The micro and macro aggressions, from strangers and the men in my life, have been continuous since I was seven. No human being should have to live like this.

October 25, 2016

The Order of Things

Across Abrahamic and indigenous religious traditions, it is widely held that man's God-given right to dominate women is inherent in the order of creation of Adam and Eve. 'Every Woman' invited me to engage in a follow-up conversation about black women being "over protective of black men," which was raised based on interactions between a guest and co-hosts during the radio show's broadcast one week earlier.

My approach on the topic is from the perspective of mass incarceration, the historic threat to black life and break-up of the black family in America, and that female servitude/protection is not a notion peculiar to the black woman. Listen in [26:43]

The 10/15/2016 podcast with Melvin Merritt was posted following the broadcast of our 10/22/2016 show. The Every Woman hosts referenced that podcast during our segment.

Click if you'd like to listen [57:59]

Black Twitter

October 19, 2016


Artist: Tayo Abiola
Yemoja reclines
Braced against
Tramplin' her

They know
Snuff out

Their own

She is energy
Without her
Muscle shrinks
Flakes blown
In southerly winds

Needs be they
Consume not
What makes
Life itself

Her peace
Stolen in
By the hour
In the name of

Teach them


Cannot float

Broken waters
Buoy no

They must

Secrets of
Yin and Yang

Letter of universal law


Lest we all perish.

Z.Hall, 10/17/2016

October 15, 2016

She Is A Woman

 She Is A Woman
Batili Ashabi

They live in the past ... they still do
Clutching their decrepit notions and views
Rigid in mindsets
Myopic in thought process
Stuck in their pasts
Unchanging in their stance
We need to knock them really hard
We need to throw their asses out in the yard

Image Credit: Artist Unknown
In the kitchen and the other room?
What's that all about?
For food and rumping no doubt
And that's all a woman's good?
I ask these oafs
These geriatric fools
Who see no better use
For womanhood
Other than trivialities
Other than frivolities
Is there no iota of substance
Nothing remotely significant
In the one who carries the womb
That births the entire manhood?

She is "trump groped"
Smeared and thumb poked
Muffled, subdued
Subjected to ridicule
Whipped by your ego
Silenced by your veto
For how long O man
Will you trample on your woman?
For what length of time
Will her sufferings suffice?

Enough already!
Not a day longer!

Enough Trumphari!
Your vituperating days are over!

She will not be denigrated
No she won't be derided
She is more than a pussy
Certainly not your snack cookie
She is not confined to your kitchen
She is not your pet dog or kitten

She's dared to soar
And rise beyond the Stars
Where the galaxies spread
There she dwells
Amongst the best
And she is a Woman!
She is not a Man!

© Batili Ashabi 2016

October 5, 2016

No. You Can't Touch My Hair.

On September 15, 2016 the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had this to say about dreadlocks (a black hair style): “We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn ... [and] There have been some calls for courts to interpret Title VII more expansively by eliminating the biological conception of ‘race’ and encompassing cultural characteristics associated with race,” but that he wasn’t prepared to lead that inquiry regarding discrimination." ~U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, Huffington Post

Jordan shrinked back from stetting precedent in that case, but I can tell you that legal fictions have no bearing on reality.

My hair grows from my head and is not separate from me--I am a whole person. There is no either-or representation.
My hair is not a "mutable" medium. A wig is not one's hair. That is a medium. My hair is part of me--just like my eyes, skin and lips. How I style my hair has everything to do with the nature of my hair and my Afro-Latina culture.

Channel 4 News, South Africa

The politics of skin and hair are fundamental to racism and white supremacy. This effects how black persons move through this world. It is the reason the issue of black hair reached the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This court, instead of setting precedent, followed numerous other courts that handed down negative rulings which limit the life prospects of black persons whose hair does not conform to white culture.

Solange, 'Don't Touch My Hair'

October 4, 2016

Disposable Lives

On Saturday, September 24 I delivered a public address entitled 'Disposable Lives' through which I reached out to audience members relating the traumatic effect of police killings on individuals and communities of color. I asked attendees, "how safe is a society where large populations of people live in fear of "public safety" authorities?"

Z. Hall, 'Epidemic': fiber, acrylic, ink, 2016

Between January 2014 and July 2016, 2,996 unarmed black people were shot and killed by police in America. Twelve names in ‘Epidemic’ represent 12 months in each year. The distressed fabric and stitching symbolizes oppression experienced at the hand of the state. The frayed threads express the lives and families torn apart and communities of survivors in anguish. Black dots are symbolic of bullets shattering lives. Their names rise above the sea of blue that should protect and serve. We say their names.

Common Threads: Anatomy of the Wound' curated by Sonie Joi Ruffin and Arzie Umali, is on exhibition at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, KCMO; August 2, 2016 – October 29, 2016.

The Murder of Alfred Olango

“He did not do anything; he had no gun; he was not mental,” explained Pamela Benge, the mother of Alfred Olango ... My son is a good, loving young man
She said the police shooting of her son has forced her to feel pain similar to what she felt in the midst of war
[As refugees from Uganda, she] came to America with her children seeking safety and a better life for them. Coming from a place of war, she said she did not expect this ending for her son." ~NBC San Diego

October 3, 2016

Female Nude and the Male Artist

Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai; clay and fiberglass on wood which is evolved using traditional Benin methods.

This is an absolutely gorgeous piece!*

The unclothed human form, male and female, is beautiful. I am comfortable with it as an art form, in many instances enjoy the works. I'm not even bothered too much by the ones that border on porn, except when the artist tries to pretend it is high art rather than a titillation piece. In those cases, artistic dishonesty is a turn-off more than the artwork itself.

Personally, I don't question expression of the body and actually believe that the unclothed form is more natural than covered, just as pre-colonial societies demonstrate.

That said, we live in different times. And as much as I respect the nude form, I am, many times, torn between appreciating a particular artist's nude female work and struggling with his entrenched, patriarchal stance as expressed by the artist. When engaging the work of male artists that are new to me the question is in the back of my mind: "Sure, he states how much he appreciates the nude female form, but who is he really?"

How does the artist's patriarchy inform his work and selection of subject matter? At the foundation of patriarchy is objectification and silencing of females.

To me the question is: Can a patriarchal male inhabit another dimension in his work with the female nude such that she, in that instance alone (no other areas of his life), becomes a full human equal to him in intelligence, maturity, creativity, sexual choice, and spirituality?

The male artist-female nude is a complex domain.

*NOTE: This discussion of patriarchy and art has no reference to artist Nzekwe Phillips Lexie Okai or his masterful art. The image of his piece is shared solely because it is exquisite and exhibits tasteful representation of the nude female form.


October 2, 2016

Vulva Art

The sacred orifice.

It only makes sense that God created woman first. 

If you believe in the miracle of Jesus' birth (and she will bring forth a son, Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31), why can't you accept the creation of woman and her miracle birth of the first man. 

It makes much more sense than some first abdominal surgery story! I mean, with that story we're talking anesthesia, ICU, pain meds, months of recovery, post-surgery abnormalities, etc., etc.

Woman created first: Miracle conception and we're good to go! 

Every pattern in the universe is efficient. Every single one.  Creating man first would have been inefficient. Period!

There is no other instance in the Bible of miraculous surgery. However, Eve giving birth to Adam would set precedent for Mary's miraculous conception of Jesus. 

 If you are on Facebook you can read my original 'Vulva Art' post dated September 27, 2016.

Listen to my appearance on 10/22/2016 radio program Every Woman.

July 29, 2016


You know, I believe many of us are in a great deal of pain. Not for the same reasons or stemming from the same causes, to be sure. But the connections among us means we affect each others' vibration. The soul-level groaning evident in our disparate frustrations, impatience with each other, judgment of those we hardly know, insistence that "they" are the problem, the inability and unwillingness to dialogue together on a solution speaks to a restlessness.

These observations may seem a negative outlook, but I see these symptoms as a sign of humanity's intuitive move toward redemption.

July 16, 2016

Sketches of (S)Pain

Moyo's use of negative space and line detail are masterfully in conversation with Davis' 1959 album.
Sketches of Pain, Moyo Okediji (2016)
Miles Davis did an album in 1959 titled 'Sketches of Spain.' I think it is located inside the slaves ships from Spain, sailing to the Americas. ~Moyo Okediji

June 23, 2016

Enjoy the Ride

When my sons were small they frequently expressed the desire to be grown-up. I would gently encourage them to enjoy the freedom of their youth.

Of course, they didn't comprehend what carefree was--it was all they knew, and one cannot know what they do not know.

Early in their manhood they began to know and would sometimes lament not completely appreciating, thereby not fully living out, their youthful unencumbrance.

I have since overheard them counseling their nephews not to rush to the finish line of youth.

I suggest the same for Generation Xers and Millennials in a hurry to "dethrone" (by various means) their adjacent previous generation, and their elders who have paid dues and have the scars, pains, and tribulation in witness thereof.

When you arrive here, when it's your turn, you will be unable to return to now. Enjoy the ride.

And now, the poem that inspired these thoughts.

Two Little Boys

Two little boys sit on the porch
Swinging their legs in tune with the wind
Happily chatting away and laughing
I can not hear what amuses them
But I am most certain it is not tomorrow.

There was a time when I too laughed thus:
It was either the kite in the sky,
A plane flying past,
A flower dancing with the wind,
Or the moon surrounded by it luminous children,
All evicted a smile from me.

Little boys, do not grow up please
Hardship and trouble await you
Life would never return that which it takes from you
It will sap your youth and still come for your breath.

Look upon nature little boys and smile
The unexplored world is a terrible one
Be content with innocence.
Childhood only comes once in a lifetime
Let not tomorrow bother you young ones
Be content with today and look upon it with a smile.

(C) Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2016

Image: Vivian Maier, New York, Two Boys With Hand On Shoulder, 1955.

Z.: Little boys, what are your names? How old are you? What's your favorite color?

For a long time, I have been troubled by the pace at which the system prods our children to grow up faster than the bodies, and emotional and intellectual development can support. Why, even the hormones in modern food causes girls to develop breasts much sooner than they used to decades ago.

None of us are going to get out of here alive. Why are we rushing to the grave?!

May 28, 2016

Artiquette: 7 Things Not To Do on a Studio Visit

Wangechi Mutu in her studio. Courtesy of YouTube.
Artiquette is an ArtNet series that explores etiquette in the art world.

Whatever your position is in the art world, you'll probably agree that visiting an artist in their studio is a time-honored tradition. Artist studio's [and open studios] offer an intimate look into the artist's work and art practice. You will be able to understand the artist's process better, and get to see art in it its natural habitat, the studio. But there's also plenty that can go wrong. In an effort to help you avoid these pitfalls, ArtNet News spoke to a couple of New York-based artists to share some of their advice on how to do it right.

1. Don't challenge the artist or ask overly personal questions
An artist we interviewed said she was once told to "freeze her eggs." Don't be that guy. We suggest that on your studio visit, you avoid making such personal comments. A studio is a creative and personal space. But it's also a professional one, so professional and social etiquette rules apply. Remember the reasons why you decided to visit in the first place and try to stick to questions and comments about the work. While the egg-freezing comment was probably intended as some kind of compliment of the desirability of the artist's genetic make-up, it's way too weird and personal.

2. Don't show up empty-minded
Don't show up to a studio knowing nothing about the work of the artist. If you're taking time to visit the artist you should spend some time getting to know the artist and their art practice. Walking in with some background information will help the studio visit flow naturally and successfully rather than the artist having to completely introduce themselves and their art. A part of a successful studio visit is discovery, however it is difficult for the artist to make sure that you're up to speed about their work and resume while trying to explain their current work. 

3. Don't ask about the work facing the wall
If you're a studio visit beginner, the artist will have a lot more experience than you on how to make the most of the visit. More importantly, the artist will have something planned to talk about. Let them take the lead and allow them to set the tone of the visit. One artist we spoke to said that people on studio visits are immediately drawn to work that is stacked and facing the wall. You should know that these are kind of off limits. If the artist wants to show them to you, she will.

4. If you don't know, then ask.
Even after researching the artist, there will still be background knowledge you may not have. It may be terms the artist uses, influences in the art work, or historical context. If you don't know simply ask the artist to explain. It will help your understanding, and help both you and the artist get the most out of your visit.

5. Be honest, but try not to be un-constructive
If something isn't working in your opinion you can offer constructive criticism. However, be tactful about it. Artists appreciate opinions that may help advance their practice as long as it's constructive.

6. Don't rush 
Usually, a successful studio visit lasts over an hour. Giving the artist time to show you around their studio, asking any questions you have and getting to know their  art practice better it will take some time. If you're pressed for time the visit will feel rushed and may not progress as naturally as it should. Keep in mind there will always be something more to discuss or another question to ask. 

7. Don't post to social media without asking
Posting to social media accounts is almost second nature, however it is always important to ask the artist if you can take pictures and post to your social media pages. If the artist allows for pictures to be taken and posted make sure to give credit where credit is due.

Reposted from ArtNet News

May 6, 2016

Straight Up & Down Series

Straight Up #1
Straight Up #2
Straight Up #3
Straight Up #4
Straight Up #5
Straight Up #6
Straight Up #7
Brick Road #1
Brick Road #2
'Straight Up & Down' is from my photography collection that is a close-up on perspectives immediately above and below at any one geographic location; sometimes involving brief passages of time.

April 25, 2016

Prince: Art Activist

Preeminent multi-instrumentalist, other-worldly lyricist, consummate composer, master recording artist, incredible vocalist, maestro on the stage, and astute businessman.

I have come to terms with the fact that nothing, no news or theory purporting to explain his death is going to satisfy me. I am okay with this.

2005 Vanguard Award Video  Photo: NAACP Image Awards
What I am certain of, tho, is this: If Prince had lived, let's say, another 5-10 years he would have moved beyond changing the direction of music, he would have changed the business of music.

His successful stance against predatory music streaming practices supports this.

Prince was not the first black artist to own all of his masters, Ray Charles did too. Perhaps there were/are others. But this kind of power in the hands of a revolutionary and activist committed to securing not only his creative liberation but guiding others toward theirs is extremely dangerous from an industry perspective.

Setting precedent that other artists would have tried to follow could have brought the record  industry, as we know it, to its knees.

So there's that.

April 21, 2016

Harriet Tubman: Icon of Resistance

I got joy; I got reluctance; I got questions.

Having been denied full rights to too much for much too long there is the tendency to celebrate any and every recognition whether it genuinely validates my beloved people or not. Resisting requires my deliberate energy.

Photo: Getty Images

I will agree representation matters sometimes. I agree entirely that accurate representation matters every time.

Would abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who "would have saved even more" from slavery's auction block, want her image on an instrument used for said purpose? Would she consider being in slave-owning Andrew Jackson's stead a dethrowning, a victory? Is this decision a response to national push-back against anti-blackness? Is it pandering to our unrest? Giving that blacks have little economic power in America, could the move be read as an insult? Won't Jackson's image, to be move to the back of the $20 dollar bill, suggest  an equivalency, a shared worldview between the two for those unfamiliar with Tubman's uncompromising activism? In effect, does the system's positioning our beloved heroine in this way reflect meaningful change?

I got joy; I got reluctance; I got questions.

Such is the nature of the pathology of white supremacy and anti-blackness.

April 11, 2016

The Girls of Chibok, Nigeria: Never Forget

Remembering the girls of Chibok, Nigeria who, two years ago, were abducted by terrorists Boko Haram.  

Aisha, Dele Jegede

“Aisha is a haunting voyage, a kind of omen, a dark, brutal omen that leads without hesitation to the damaged psyche of Nigeria’s decaying collective humanity – the Chibok girls. Aisha exists fearfully in a range of bestialities. The bestialities of rape, slavery and misogyny wrought by fanatical men who descended upon whole schools of girls in Nigeria’s current history. jegede weaves the terror into a ruthlessly direct symphony of self-assessment that Nigeria badly needs.

There are no celestial possibilities in Aisha’s hollowed stare. Her demeanor is of foreboding intensity, her eyes a bewildered pair of deeply internalized terror. She gazes across and beyond the canvas, her broad forehead wrapped in red burqa as if hiding a bleeding hole at the centre of her cranium. Her mouth is clenched as if trapped in the middle of a prolonged hiss at an adult world that forsake her. In waves of green, white and of course red,

Aisha harbors a horror now squelched in the harrowed passage of her throat. In her dark visage, one could almost hear her terrorized scream from here to eternity. This is the one that haunts.” ~Excerpt from Prof. Segun Ojewuyi's essay on Dele Jegede's exhibition 'Transitions' at Terra Kulture, Lagos, Nigeria, starting January 10, 2016.

April 6, 2016

Unseen Scars

Black person: This process, program, policy is racist.

White person: I'd like to think that what is happening and what they are doing is not intentional.

Translation: I am quite comfortable with the way things are. I'd like for you to believe and behave like it is unintentional too. The only change needed is your attitude adjustment.

Note: There is nothing sweet, cute, endearing, or lovable about racism, patriarchy, or any form of oppression.

Let me say that again: There is nothing sweet, cute, endearing, or lovable about racism, patriarchy, or any form of oppression.

The expectation that responses to any of the above should be "respectable," "politically correct," sweet, or palatable produces the unseen scars of emotional and psychological violence.

April 2, 2016

To Be Human

Women are the bearers of culture. Patriarchy will be strangled when we refuse to perpetuate that shit. We are not the cause of it but can assume a major role in its demise.

No. I am no longer interested in patiently awaiting the end of patriarchy, racism, colorism, ageism, classism, divisiveness within and among "minority/ethic/tribal" groups. What it looks like to walk this gauntlet is what you perceive of my lived experience. Imagine being exposed to trauma from all of these domains. In which domains are you traumatized: none, fewer, more?

To find the beauty, locate peace, search for and find joy, give and experience love is what it is to be human.

Let's not traumatize each other in our quest to be.

March 26, 2016

Speaking Truth in Our Communities

"If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it." ~Zora Neale Hurston

Silence has never unfucked anything! And is it a coincidence that those who prefer your silence are those who inflict your pain and/or, no matter how tangentially, benefit from it? It is no surprise that some of those benefiting from your torment also look like you (a verifiable fact as old as slavery and all other forms of injustice themselves) and join the chorus for your silence?

Make no mistake, speaking truth to power and speaking truth in our communities carry the same risks.

As if that is not enough ...

they have no problem muzzling our agony as we fight to breathe, all the while the squeal of their discomfort pierces the drum of even the deaf ear.

March 9, 2016

International Women's Day

Yesterday, International Women's Day, I sat with how female bodies are claimed, controlled, and brutalized by those intent on subjecting them to servitude.

'A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness' produced and directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy speaks to the matrix of society, violence against women, forgiveness, and the absence of female agency. It points our attention toward the terror of surviving a murder attempt and the struggle of continuing to survive in one's community after that trauma.

This 2016 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short tells the extraordinary story of a young Pakistani woman who narrowly escaped an "honor" killing by her father and uncle. Told through the lens of a true love story, the film is a scathing examination of the contradictions and gaslighting that is part of everyday life for women in Pakistani society.

Forgiveness as a tool of reconciliation and social cohesion, functions to isolate the survivor from her mate, family, and the broader community if she does not acquiesce. Under Pakistani law, the female victim's forgiveness relieves her assailant of all criminal wrongdoing and punishment. Imagine this added trauma to an experience of terror. Imagine.

'Saving Face,' another short by Obaid-Chinoy, brings into focus the horrific act of dousing women with acid, permanently disfiguring and killing some.

We need to do better. Humanity, we need to do better.

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