Dealing with cultures
CHAINS THAT BIND:
SHAME AND HONOR
An email came into my inbox, announcing that Aruna Papp, someone I'd never heard of, would be speaking about her book, An Unworthy Creature. It was about being born into a culture of shame and honor, learning she was so unworthy that her family could drop her into the well, and no one would care.
I hadn't been planning to interview anyone directly on shame and honor. But I know that honor-based violence is huge within many cultures - Islam very much among them. We've all heard of honor killings. These are the tiniest tip of a massive iceberg.
I decided to go and listen to Aruna speak. I'm glad I did. The next morning I woke up convinced I wanted to interview her.
What she says relates not only to cultures that endorse honor-based violence. Shame and honor have been - and among many, still are - powerful in the West. In the West, just 2 generations ago, most women who became pregnant outside marriage gave their babies up for adoption because it was shameful to have a child outside marriage. It would be a blow to family honor, to have people know.
I know that when I left home and was living with my boyfriend, my parents were ashamed of having this known by their friends - so I agreed to say, around their friends, that I was living with a girlfriend.
My sister was not a great student. My parents, I knew, would feel ashamed if she should fail a grade. (She didn't.)
Menstruation was something else to be ashamed of. My mother hid menstrual products so well that, as a child, I had no idea menstruation existed.
Shame and honor. Very powerful forces. Honor - the enforcing, through whatever means necessary, that we do not need to feel shame.
Back to Aruna Papp. She speaks powerfully of the hold of such a culture on those within it, both men and women, but especially the women. The entire culture works to keep women in line, and every woman is aware of the eyes upon her, if she steps outside the line.
It's only with a huge amount of support, after several years in Canada, that Aruna managed to escape.
Afterwards, she came to work with women from such cultures -
and has found out, in 27 years of working with abused women from such cultures, how rare it is for someone to be able to find a way out, no matter what support is offered.
Many women prefer suicide to leaving - there is such pain in violating the internalized honor code. Women from such cultures have among the highest suicide rates.
Aruna Papp also tells her own story - starting with being the first of 6 daughters born into a society where having even one daughter was a shame.
Over and over, Aruna has found that a barrier to recognizing honor based violence is a vision of multiculturalism and diversity that denies facts.
I wonder, in terms of the resistance of many Muslims to acknowledging the violent content in their religious texts, if this relates to shame. If you don't support violence, it's certainly not something to be proud of, having (according to the Sira) a prophet who murdered men (an entire Jewish tribe) who had surrendered, who had sex with the widow of a man he had just murdered, who had slaves, who gave captured women to his men as slaves who could be used sexually. Even in the Qu'ran there is rampant anti-Semitism. There are calls to kill so-called infidels and people who leave the religion. My guess is that it's much easier to deny this than to face the feelings such passages bring up within people who do not want to do violence, just want to live peacefully.
Anyway, when I heard Aruna Papp speak, I decided: this is a good person to interview, on the power of a culture of shame, shaming, and so-called honor.
Click here for more on Aruna Papp, her book and site
Click here for the interview with Aruna Papp
top of page
Aruna Papp. Author of Unworthy Creature.
Activist for women caught in
shame based cultures, honor based violence.
Shame and honor: powerful inner blocks.
To go to the home page of this project on
more than honor based cultures,
more than the truth about multiculturalism,
To go to more resources supporting
Western values like the right to
and freedom of speech,
To discover the first 5 of 20
WORLD TRUTH SUMMIT
Personal Journeys Toward Difficult Truths:
Understanding Islam, Understanding the West
possibly including ...
Eric Allen Bell
Majed El Shafie