Tuesday, 10 November 2015

32. History got erased first at home

The silence and invisibility of women affects us all. When history is not told in full, shame and secrecy leave us wordless, unable to name what happens to us, we cannot free ourselves from our past and feel powerless.

Unveiling the hidden history

Dr. Amanda Foreman is working to unveil a part of History that hasn't been told: the history of women. She was behind the four-part series on BBC called “The Ascent of Woman,” telling the story of women in civilization and is about to launch a book , The World Made By Women: A History of Women From the Apple to the Pill, is the story of humanity from the perspective of the female half. And this work to remove the invisibility cape women in History seem to be wearing is amazing.

From an initial herd social structure, a pyramidal, hierarchical structure appears to manage the new found abundance. In this structure the concept of private property emerges and the family structure follows as the pattern to pass on wealth to the next generations. For this, women sexual power needed to be put under control so men would not be raising or passing wealth to children that were not theirs. With shame governing women's sexuality, their voices got silenced. 

In "Women: invisibility or blindness", I've touched upon the issue of how women get erased from History: history of science, art, literature, etc. but suggesting that it is not down to their invisibility but our blindness (all of us, women and men), and this being down to the relationship we establish with our mothers. In our early childhood, she is the narrator, that voice over putting words to events, describing the context. But this story is imperfect, it leaves a lot out. These women, shamed by their own sexual power, made bad historians. Secrets became a survival tactic. History got erased first here. At home. Women invisibility starts with her silence. How many secrets have we discovered in our family tree? How many abortions, extra marital children, pregnancies kept in secret, false birth dates? Without the modern day birth control methods every single family of the world is full with these stories. Have we discovered them yet? 
And if these quite harmless secrets were kept secret, what about the not so harmless ones such as cases of abuse?
This issue goes far beyond a "feminist" problem. When we are not dealing with reality, we cannot affect it.

Experiences lost in time

In this 7-min video from Big Think (please watch it) Dr. Vincent Felitti speaks about his work with childhood trauma, involving 17500 middle-class adults. He found that traumatic life experiences in childhood that are lost in time and further protected by feelings of shame, secrecy and taboo play out powerfully in adulthood and is behind many diseases, emotional states and shortening life expectancy. He found that 1 in 11 (!) in a middle class population have experienced 6 or more of 10 categories of trauma in their childhood. These individuals are 4600% more likely to become drug addicts, and similar increases to the likelihood of attempting suicide. I cannot even imagine what the numbers would look like for deprived populations. The prevalence is incredibly high. 1 in 11 is a number worth pondering on. How many of the kids we went to school with could've been going through these terrible experiences? 

Acknowledging suffering is so important that our bodies and our lives can be hijacked by traumas left unnamed. People may feel that not speaking about something makes it disappear or makes it less real, our silence can sustain a perfect version of our story, time will erase the memory, but in the unconscious there is no time and these feelings are stored in a state of ever-lasting-present. And if regaining the power of our lives is not attractive enough, we have to know that our traumatic experiences can be passed somehow to the next generations, who by copying our behaviour, our coping mechanisms or having to believe a history -that they sense- does not quite add up, they will carry the weight of the trauma without ever understanding where it is coming from. Without transmitting our real story, we are stopping the next generation from learning to see and accept reality.  

I don't think there will be real changes in our lives, or in the world we are living now, without opening Pandora's box. I speak about it in all its different meanings: the box as the uterus (and the feminine voice) and as the container of the things we fear, because there is nothing more toxic than secrets and nothing more healing that letting things breathe.


PS: watch what research says about children that know more about their family history: