I spent some time mentally reviewing my week and thinking about all of the things that I had seen and experienced. This has been a long time practice I do to check in with myself and evaluate the state of affairs in my life, process what I have experienced, and what I think about those new adventures. It occurred to me that there was definitely a theme this past week in the area of women’s rights and the state of women in the world that had come to my attention in an interesting way.
There is a new channel on cable TV that a friend of mine introduced me to; it’s called Viceland, and I’m totally addicted to it. It’s very edgy and has great shows that have an urban vibe to them or a controversial spin. There are a number of what I call, food journalism shows which incorporate food experiences and education with political commentary about the state of the country or area that they are in; Anthony Bourdain in a good example of this, although he is not currently on this channel. There is a show called the State of Undress that discusses clothing and its politics in various countries, and Gloria Steinem has a new documentary series called Woman. All of the shows have been amazing so far. There are many others, but these in particular have grabbed my attention.
My friend and I were watching the State of Undress which was discussing the state of the economy in Brazil, specifically in the Rio de Janiero area. The government has regulated so many basic products and driven up the prices with inflation to something like a 700% increase. People are waiting in lines outside of grocery stores and pharmacies to buy everyday products like toothpaste but there was nothing on the shelves. It was saddening and unbelievable to me, making me appreciate that in the US we are not experiencing anything like this. The most shocking though was the experience of the female journalist of the show who ended up getting her menstrual cycle while she was there. She went to something like five different stores to purchase feminine hygiene products only to discover that they had become regulated and controlled products in the country and that there weren’t any available. She ended up breaking Brazil’s laws by purchasing products from the black market. She was trying to get tampons, but was only able to get a very small package of thin sanitary napkins which took 3 days and cost her $45.00. I was appalled. The control of feminine hygiene products is ridiculous and is putting women back 50-100 years, forcing them to return to using rags and washing them out by hand. This is equivalent to targeted oppression of women by their government. There is no reason for this or for the kind of supplies deficiencies the entire country is experiencing other than political greed. This was one of the first stories during the week that really hit me in the gut in terms of women’s rights, their continued oppression, and the state of the world for women.
The second story that grabbed my attention was really an advertisement for Gloria Steinem’s new documentary series on Viceland called Women. There were three short snippets of different episodes, one discussing the disappearance of over 200 Native women in Canadian providences, another was what looked like a group session of all women in which the female facilitator asked how many of the women had experienced sexual violence; every woman raised their hand. The third and final snippet was advertising a story on child brides. This one grabbed me the most, but I want to come back to that as there was an American tabloid news story that connected to this and really struck me this week.
First, I want to go back to the stories about sexual violence and women missing on Native lands. I live in Arizona and am surrounded by Reservations and Native lands. I have worked with teenage Native populations in school districts and know first hand the huge rates of sexual violence as well as the disappearance of women, these things are absolutely connected. However, the rates of sexual violence is not just Native women, or women of color in general, it is most women. I personally have experienced sexual violence more than once. I have experienced violence as a woman directed at me because I was a woman and men have thought that they could get away with it. This continued shared experience of women and the acceptability of it in modern culture is what is continues to keep women oppressed and the human species as a whole broken and sick. The fact that so many women are able to disappear with little to no news coverage is appalling. The message is that they don’t matter. It’s okay to kidnap or kill women, very little will be done about it. These kinds of stories are just further evidence that statements like this are true. When will the lives of women matter? We often talk of the tragedy of oppression in various groups of race or nationalities through history, but the one group which is half the population of the human world is practically, silently, continually being oppressed without much global concern, and that is women. Women have been oppressed by every culture, every race, there are very few places where there is not oppressed women. This is a sad state of things. It is destructive on so many levels.
Going back to the issue of child brides, many think that this is a form of female oppression that occurs in other countries like Africa or India, and it does, but it is rampant as well right here in the US. Of course, Arizona is famous for its town of polygamist run by Warren Jefferies who is currently serving jail time for polygamy and child bride situations, but there are many other places in the US where selling or giving away a young daughter to a much older man for marriage is a common practice. There is one very publicized case of this that popped up again on the tabloid media channels. It’s the story of the Hollywood actor, Doug Hutchison, age 51, who married his highly sexualized bride of 16, Courtney Stodden with the permission of her mother. Hutchinson is most widely known in his role as a guard in the hit, Tom Hanks film, The Green Mile, adapted from the story by horror author, Stephen King. However, the couple have been making their appearances on the reality TV circuits on shows like Couples Therapy and Big Brother. They are promoting her sexuality as a way to increase her fame. This in itself is a common way many young starlets are getting famous for being infamous. The Kardashiam family is probably the most well known for this practice, however they are not engaging in child bride customs. This week the Hutchison-Stodden couple made news again, announcing that Stodden, just barely 18, is now pregnant with their first child. Why this is news worthy is unknown, but it shines the spotlight on them and their ill-balanced marriage yet again. The media attention directed at them highlights her over-sexualized persona, rather than being outraged that she was so clearly a child bride and that this situation is in alignment with other child marriage customs is saddening and shows how out of balance out cultures still is.
Well, what does all of this have to do with Game of Thrones you ask? I’ll tell you. It occurred to me while watching Game of Thrones, that the character of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Kahleesi Mhysa of the Hoard, the Dothraki, as a woman, she has experienced many of these issues and they have been greatly highlighted in the show. As a younger woman, at the beginning of the show, she was given to the Khal Drogo by her brother to gain an army. She was basically chattel for sale to further her brother’s standing. Khal Drogo was considered a rough and violent barbarian who inevitable often “took” her from behind with little care or concern until she began to show him another way, somehow conquering the terrible situation she was in and actually finding a deep love with her husband until his death. During her marriage to him, she was often challenged as not being strong enough or good enough. She was put into situation after situation testing her mettle and proving her strength and power. She endured everything from eating a raw horse heart to emerging from the fires in an attempt to burn her alive; each time miraculously surviving and conquering the situation. She is time and time again threatened with sexual violence and oppression by the men in the various kingdoms as she continues freeing slaves throughout the Game of Thrones landscape.
I was finally struck with her awesome power last Sunday as she was being threatened by the next generation of Dothraki Khals to pass her around to every Khal and even to the horses when they were done. Dany was able to keep her calm and with a steady gaze, an even tone and a firm grip, toss the braziers of burning oil at the barbaric Khals, burning them alive, emerging nude from the fiery hogan as some Goddess like the birth of Venus emerged from the sea. Dany in this one act, controlled her destiny, showed the barbarian Hoard who was fit to lead, not their burly Khals, but the Khaleesi that she was, Queen, Mother of Dragons, and as far as I was concerned a wonder woman, providing hope for all oppressed. I was amazed as this character was able to turn the tables on her fortune and use her own abilities and skills, her gathered knowledge and experience, her confidence and once again rise above conquering the situation.
Now I know that it is a fantasy show with tons of violence and sex, horrible situations and what not, but for me, in that one instance, the week’s stories came together and suddenly what had felt hopeless and deplorable, suddenly seemed brighter, perhaps those were the flames of her fire, but I felt like there must be things that we, as women can do in any situation, to help shift our situations from victims of oppression to in someway find our strength and dignity, and rise above. We may not be able to conquer our situations like Daenerys Targaryen, but rather find a place within ourselves that cannot be touched by oppression; a place that can be a sanctuary for the soul to live as freely as this Fire Goddess emerging from the sea of burning oppressors.
2016 Copyright by Katie Pifer http://www.witchpetals.wordpress.com