Over the past few years I’ve seen and heard discussions/interviews claiming that some women from, or connected to, “oppressed countries,” like their oppression and wouldn’t change their circumstances, even if possible. These exchanges have been passionately defensive and at the same time, eerily timid.
I admit that I can’t tell you when or where I’ve seen these interviews (and occasionally, something similar in print), but they generally revolve around religion and “wearing a veil.” We can argue over what “living freely” means, but I don’t think it has anything to do with wearing a veil.
I don’t believe these women’s assertions. I don’t think even one was being honest, and with good reason; they’d pay for it later. The interviews have lingered with me, though, not because of their expected words, but because of the questions we cannot ask and the circumstances we accept.
Here’s a probable scenario of one of these women, followed by a fantasy, that in its root, is an undeniable truth:
There’s a woman living somewhere in oppression, with her husband, children, and maybe parents and in-laws. Her husband’s political affiliations have no power. She cannot vote and have her vote count.
She cannot send her children to school: there are no schools, she cannot afford to send her children to school, the schools do not accept females, and if they do, the girls may serve as someone’s personal gratification. Perhaps she is forced to send her male children to be schooled in dangerous ways, ways that teach him to be cruel, to kill others, to kill himself…ways she cannot bear to think about.
She, her family and friends, may live in tremendous fear. Perhaps her religious beliefs are not compatible with her Government; perhaps they’re not compatible with her husband or father-in-law. Neighbors have disappeared on the way to the market, or walking to work. Gangs aren’t the problem – the Government “disappears you” on a whim, and you can’t go to the press because there isn’t one that is free.
She has an unmarried daughter who has brought great shame on the family. The daughter was raped by a neighborhood store owner when she stopped-in to buy bread. The family can’t live with the dishonor. Every single way to punish the girl is extreme, and putting her to death is an option that’s definitely on the table.
She endures because she must. If her husband is a good man, they take solace in one another – there’s no other choice.
Now imagine this fantasy: it’s possible to snap your fingers and get this woman to a meeting of powerful people from somewhere, where people live freely. The powerful people convince her that she can choose how to live (wealth, or the lack of it isn’t in this scenario) – it will be like magic. Whatever decision she makes, her husband, children – all those dear to her, will accept her decision as though it is nothing new or strange. They will move into a new life, somewhere of her choice, where people live freely – or not. If she doesn’t know of places where people live freely, all the world’s choices will be given to her, in complete honesty, and once she makes her choice, no one can ever harm her or her family.
The undeniable truth is this: her decision is always to live freely. No matter how many women you slip into this scenario, every one of them will choose freedom, whatever freedom means to her, wherever freedom is, for her. Without unbearable consequences, every one chooses freedom – and that’s what liberation is all about.