“I deny the doctrine the right to justify the crimes happening in its name. And I deny this right the wo/man of the present, who has forgotten how sordid and poor wo/man is in comparison to what s/he could be, I deny this right to the wo/man of the present: to measure past and future by his/her proportion.”
c milosz, verführtes denken, bericht über mich selbst, p 15, inpoor translation and with important addition
So last night
I sat with a heavy and happy heart in the midst of activists from the local ‘Frauenhaus’, a massively important institution in this society that calls itself beautiful names and smiles in front of its mirrors. Free, happy, glooming. Has learned from ‘the past’. And says – Oh, shame, I didn’t see that one. Why didn’t you tell me? – when suddenly it becomes visible that there’s this big number of people ‘with migrant background’ getting killed by brutal and brutally simple parts of its very self, this society. Shrugs shoulders and blushes a bit, like when you are on special mission to leave your marks on that to-be-loved one’s body, and your realize you’ve forgotten his name already. Again. So society raises one eyebrow, with stiff fingers trying to wipe away the spot away. But it remains. Quite resilient, this one. So let’s put something on top; camouflage; rhetoric of togetherness and reflection, and that ‘now we have to stand as one against the others’. And all nod. As we nod when one calls the other names, when one feels convinced and secure: he can break the other’s personal freedom, break into the spheres of my body, my thoughts, my soul. Can touch me because I like wearing a skirt, and I like it short. Can talk to me like to a dog because my family looks somewhat more tanned than his. Can comment on my ‘kissable’ mouth when I’m talking about art. As these are minors. Because it has been worse in this country. And now it’s quite alright.
Yesterday night I felt a massive trust in civil society, something I don’t feel often; and the warmth of stories shared made us a group for these two hours of shared listening and telling. The ‘Frauenhaus’-activists had turned stories from encounters with women full of fear, women with experiences of massive violence, mostly domestic, with rape, torture, psychological punishments and corporal disenfranchisement, into little scripts which they performed as a scenic reading. They warned the audience before: these ones are not pleasant. As they are true. So we sat with neglected cups of coffee in hand in the beautiful Café Samocca in this town’s library, RW21, and listen to stories from the hood: How the blood runs down the legs of the farmers’ wife, when he forces her to feed the cows in spite of her labour pain, how the order of this world forces women into marriages that feed on their uncertainty and are built on dependency and reproduce the conditions of its existence, how drinking ruins a life imagined as paradise. How dreams crash with bloody knees.
And they are about the step beyond the suffering. They are about what women in South Africa called Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo! Touch a woman; and you will see what will come out for you. She’s not alone. To conceptualise oneself as strong is a mental achievement in a situation of violence; and the women whose lives gave the blueprint for the stories that were told last night deserve gratitude and admiration for being examples. As do the helping hands by the ladies who are there, wait at the spot to step into a new life, walk to the relevant admin people; make that cup of coffee, listen, listen, listen, run a bath, feed a hungry stomach and live a welcome.
These stories are from next doors, they are happening on my street and in my suburb; they are not from a country far away. It was a massive achievement of the women presenting the edited biographic bits from real life to work against the notion that violence does not happen in the streets of this town. They did by no means shy away from the responsibility that all of us have to face; living in a societies that tolerates acts of violence against (wo)men on an everyday scale. They did not push the question of responsibility for guaranteeing the freedom of others away to another sphere, may it be political or geographical. They invited us all to feel this responsibility and live up to it. Let’s see how it blossoms.
The somewhat melancholic lines by an elder woman that intervened the stories poetically didn’t exactly satisfy my hunger for edgy language; thus they framed the picture in a sense. And after all, for some of us this was an act of walking towards healing spaces.
In this sense the speaker who came after the performance, a lady whose name I immediately forgot for the better, was the most horrible afterword imaginable: Talking about the bad situation of women in Turkey and how far ‘we’ are. I resist forming any kind of plural with people like that. She seems to not have understood that this was exactly about this plural. Hello, Oberfranken. There might be crimes in Anatolia, sure thing, but certainly there are some just around the corner.
I’m grateful for the strong women I have encountered, last night, and on other days, in other cities and countries; and I salute my elder (only a bit elder, not that much, I am sure you will slap me if you read this) Turkish sisters in Tübingen, who in their patience and love allow me to call them ‘habla’, a beautiful concept of being an older sister to one another. I learned a lot from you about this world we live in. I rely on guys like you.