Posts tagged " women’s rights "

On When History Looks you in the Eyes

December 13th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 4 comments

So I met this woman yesterday. She is pretty cool. Some of you might know her. Her presence is daunting, but not because she is, only because of the history she carries inside. Her presence is calm, quiet, yet electrifying, because of that history, because of the endless knowledge her eyes hold the minute they look into yours, they lure you in.

A woman who fought for civil rights, women’s rights, prison reform. A woman who led the United States Communist Party. A woman who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. A woman who was wrongly imprisoned. Now a retired professor, she spoke at the Women’s March on Washington last year. And activist, and educator, an author, a wife, a lesbian, a woman whose facets are so multiple, achievements so staggering, that most of us would only hope to do one of the things she’s done. Live the life she’s lived. And I know I’m missing half her resume here.

And there I was, little me, sitting in this room, with history. As she spoke, I find myself light-headed, unable to decide what to start asking, longing for time to move slower, her words to become a slow slur of syllables, so one by one I can steal all I can manage to absorb.

And then, her eyes are watching mine.

After the international Women’s March last January, having organized our tiny one in Athens, Greece, had me tripping for a solid week. I think most of the organizers all over the globe were riding on a natural high. We had done it. We had mobilized small and large cities, communities, villages, all over the world. We had started a revolution.

Time went by. Trump went nowhere. Tweets kept rolling. Black lives continued not to matter. Women didn’t get equal pay. Muslim bans came into affect. Only when #meetoo went viral, did we begin to think again, that we must do it again.

But for what, I thought to myself. So I asked those eyes, that were watching mine, not because they’re something special, but because it was my turn to ask a question. What can we do, I said, what can we do to make this year’s marches matter more, what would you do to make them more powerful, to keep them from becoming simple annual gatherings that give us a false sense of power, a power that doesn’t reach beyond togetherness, solidarity, and roars after the day has gone?

While I’m sure my question was nowhere near as glibly voiced as above, Angela Davis got the point. She looked at me, warmly smirking, as if wanting to say, my dear child, you have so much to learn, but let me try and teach you in the minute that we have.

A demonstration is not a movement, she said. It’s not a revolution. It’s a call to a movement, a call to revolution. It takes time. Change may never happen in our lifetimes. It may not happen in our children’s lifetimes. But if we keep doing the work, the quiet, seemingly insignificant work, it will. Take Black Lives Matter. Do you think it just sprung out of the blue? We’ve been working on that for decades. Sometimes you may think that what you’re doing is nothing, but there is no such thing as an immediate result. You cannot change the world overnight.

So lets blow things up. Softly, slowly, steadily. Lets be half as brave, patient, and persistent as Angela Davis.

On Our Turn

October 12th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

There is no such thing as a powerless man. His sex, by default, gives him more power over a woman, a power, which even though is imaginary and ingrained in his righteous psyche by history and society. So I’m not quite sure why the recent allegations about “powerful men” come at such surprise to many.  And why anyone bothers to term them “allegations” to begin with. It’s obvious that even if one or two of them fail to be true, there are many more, that sit silently in the corner, constantly scarring and defining the lives of those that keep them.

I’ve been sexually harassed since I was a kid. Only then, I did not know it. I thought it was the norm. When I was 14, walking home from school in broad daylight, a middle aged man in a red beaten up car, pulled up next to me, opened his door and began to masturbate while following me for a few blocks. His car kept stalling, he kept letting go of his penis to restart, until I finally screamed and ran off in the other direction. What troubles me now, is why I didn’t scream from the second I was first exposed to the sight. Did I think that it was my fault, that I somehow encouraged him to do this? I ran to my friend’s house a few blocks away but did not tell her what had happened.  I did not call my parents to pick me up, I sat in her bedroom and drew with all the green Crayola crayons that she had, and eventually walked back home.

That walk home, and later, the same route that past school led towards the central square where teenagers met up at night, became a nightmare, one that I’d learn to live with. I began to take turns onto better lit streets, studied cars and their drivers to know what types to run from, but then the “Albanians” came. I put them in quotes because maybe half of them weren’t even from Albania, and because quite obviously not all Albanian men are sexual predators. But at that time, Greece went into a frenzy because these men were stealing their jobs, raping their women, robbing their houses, setting up gangs. I’d see these “Albanians” roaming our neighborhood’s dark streets and break out in cold sweat. Right after that, communism fell, borders of the Soviet block flew open, and thousands of women came south looking for work. Many ended up as sex workers of all levels. By then, I’d opted for taking cabs home at night, but the drivers, recognizing that something was off in my accent from the minute I told them where I was going, asked where I was from. I made the mistake of telling them Moscow more than a couple of times. One asked me which brothel I work at, another how much I cost.

It didn’t end there. There was plenty more on a much closer scale; friends of the family, boys at school, bosses, customers at a bar I later worked at. And believe me, I was not “asking for it.” My mom, my grandma, they never told me that was not how it was supposed to be. Because they did not know. Once on the subway, my grandma told me to sit straight, but not too straight, with my knees touching at all times. What did they know besides what life had taught them?

In my late 20s, I was walking to work by the National Gardens in Athens. A guy stood in between two trees, doing his thing, loudly, in the middle of rush hour in a European capital. Everyone pretended not to see. By then, I’d strapped on a pair or two, so I yelled at him. He zipped up and ran away.

Have you ever seen a woman masturbate in public? Pull her pants down behind a tree and moan? Both sexes are human, both have the same drive, it’s not about biology. It’s about that ingrained belief that they have the power. Fuck your power, and your history, and your money, that have stripped us of basic human rights, that have made us grow up believing that they are not ours to begin with, that have made us accept this as the norm, this existence which makes us something less than human. Sexual harassment may not be as bad as actual assault. But it’s an assault on the mind, because those two seconds that our boss or our cousin or our teacher had his hand on our ass or eyes on our breasts, they are assaulting, they stay with us forever, they shape the future of our every relationship. But enough.  We’re demanding what is ours. Our daughters are taking what is ours. It’s our turn.



Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.