Shhhhh… good women are quiet.
My mother was a beautiful woman, she never complained.
Denial is a silent violence that aims to make invisible a trauma maybe evident or not, to make it acceptable as normal and allow the victims of this trauma to be exploited from a system of oppression or people in power. Denial is that voice sugarcoated with correctness that asks us to shut up and sit down on our own pain so as to not disturb anyone. Is a silence that yells loudly, because sooner or later it will speak through the different ways we hurt ourselves and others.
It is not a mystery that women all over the world are subjected to a variety of violence and oppression. Women and girls are hijacked, raped, assaulted, murdered, their experiences mocked or banalized and their bodies thrown around like trash. People get outraged asking how this is possible? Well, this is possible because when a girl is born, she is “bestowed” the foundational denial that will allow the normalization of this violence and belittling during all her life: The denial that she is a human being.
Women in patriarchal societies are not people: we are bodies, objects, “pussies” but not individuals. The society not only allows this, endorses it and benefits from, by keeping women in the denial of our personhood and humanity making sure we accept this situation through the process of socialization. Women have been taught to live in denial to support a narrative that oppresses us. We learn to accept the denial of our humanity and to sustain the denial of the humanity of other women. A woman who doesn’t embrace herself and other women with empathy can’t be free and the system is everyday at work to prevent women from loving ourselves and each other. We are the result of centuries of pedagogy that creates mistrust between women, and the validation and reproduction of our oppression and conditioning towards mutual competition.
All the violence a female will live along her life, both in the personal and public sphere are expressions of the denial of her humanhood as a political mechanism of control on her, because all oppressed bodies, as women bodies are oppressed, are social spaces. The denial of human-hood for women and how this expresses through our bodies get a broader dimension for the trauma inflicted by denial if we consider that nothing we experience is foreigner to the body: All happens in our bodies: ideas, tastes, sensations, laugh and sorrow, reproduction, pleasure, feelings and spirituality…. Who controls women´s bodies, controls society. The violence that terrorizes us today is the projection of an accumulative process that can be tracked centuries ago. The system we live in is designed to produce this violence against women, but it’s in denial of its own participation as enabler and this makes it very difficult to achieve the very needed changes to stop it, because denial can only perpetuate abuse.
Talking about intergenerational trauma I had to link that phenomena to women’s lives as oppressed group. Women are receptors and transmitters of trauma and denial. Assuming that my history is similar to the history of other women, both at existential and biological level, I wonder: What of the traumas that my body expresses belong to my life story and which ones mirror other women’s pain – my mom´s pain, my grand mother´s pain and my female ancestors? Which of my sufferings will my daughter express? How much of what has been written on my body and what of what has been denied will people read in the eyes of my granddaughter, if I have one, someday?
I have a tattoo on my right shoulder. It’s the simple drawing of a butterfly with open wings. It makes me remember everyday that no matter how hard and ugly experiences you might live through, you always can become something beautiful and shiny by yourself. 10 years ago I was raped by a man I was dating. What happened to me from the day after was a journey through denial: The denial of the police that what I had lived was rape. The denial of justice, since my perpetrator was never prosecuted. The denial of people around me who didn’t give me space to talk about. The denial of my humanity from other women who said that, in a way, I deserved it.
Dismantling a system of oppression starts from doing it within each of us from what we have all been shaped at its convenience and resemblance. For women this means to break the glass wall of denial, to demand our and other women’s human-hood, to develop empathy among women in the context of oppression, which allows us to see ourselves as people and see ourselves in other women, to build a sense of community to resist the violence that means to survive in misogynist societies. Any idea of social equality that aims to be serious must be based in the radical notion that women are people. This notion, deliberately absent or suppressed so far, has power to transform our lives, our relationship with other women and society from the very basis.
My butterfly, ready to fly is a reminder that I have survived sexual violence and the violence of denial, to claim my fundamental act of justice every day: Stand up every new morning, face up before the world with my story, with a voice that clearly speaks up its truth, embracing my personhood to walk wrapped in authenticity on my way through, leaving a trace of courage, resilience, and love.
Here is to women who challenge denial to rise from the ashes of trauma and gather their courage to survive, to release, to heal, to thrive, to break free; who won’t be silenced, rather awake and loudly thriving.
Those women deserve what they dream.
Wings and Power to you.
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a specialist in training and community outreach in Gender, Communication and Interculturality. She’s also a learning and social projects designer and a qualitative researcher; an awarded activist for women’s rights who too does independent scholarship in Religion, Gender and Social Discourses. Nomadic writer. A woman with stories and geographies, lover of books, cats and spicy Chai.
11 thoughts on “The Wings of the Butterfly by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”
Powerfully and beautifully written. I honor your story. I thank you for writing and I’ve shared your words so the world might keep redeeming all the pain.
We believe you, Vanessa, and hold you and your experience in this supportive community. Keep flying!
Wings and Power to you too, Vanessa.
We have a homeless camp in town calling itself “DisconTent City. It has formed a community – leadership, organization, and a Women’s Council in governance. The WC is in recognition that women are often overlooked, abused, etc. and has a “say” in the governance. There are about 80 people – supported by many- persecuted by some in business and politics. Homeless people, like women, “should be quiet, obedient, hidden.” The businesses that support DisconTent City seem to be small stores operated by women. The future is in community.
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“Denial is a silent violence that aims to make invisible a trauma maybe evident or not, to make it acceptable as normal and allow the victims of this trauma to be exploited from a system of oppression or people in power. Denial is that voice sugarcoated with correctness that asks us to shut up and sit down on our own pain so as to not disturb anyone. Is a silence that yells loudly, because sooner or later it will speak through the different ways we hurt ourselves and others.”
Vanessa when I read this first paragraph I was stunned. You nailed it.
The entire essay is so powerful that I will need time to absorb it – too many truths unspoken for so long… the radical notion that women are people…
With your permission i will re – blog this essay on my site.
Thank you for your great courage…
Using our voices allows us to become visible to ourselves – and that is a beginning.
I love the ink drawing — at first it resembles a beautiful leafy plant, and then again, maybe it looks more like a butterfly. Thanks Vanessa.
Thank you for sharing your pain and your strength, Vanessa. Women must stand together in truth. You are a model for all of us.
You wrote so eloquently about your concerns that the trauma you’ve experienced may be passed on to your daughter and granddaughter. I would offer also that the open wings of power you’ve had inscribed on your body–the truth you’ve spoken of your own experience–will now be written in their stories as well.
I was equally stunned at the forthright way in which you talked about Silence as Violence. There was a time I thought about this and among eight women with whom I had contact with on a regular basis all experienced this. That sufferers are often told to keep quiet by women is evidence of what can happen to a woman when she speaks out – the abuse is doubled. It has happened to me.
A follower of my blog (I reblogged this) mentioned she wished what you said wasn’t true. I don’t think she realised it was a reblog.
Thank you very much for the support a post like this lends to all of us women who had, does and will deal with a situation like this.
Thank you for this clarion call. I’m proud to reblog.
Reblogged this on NANMYKEL.COM and commented:
Excellent in so many different ways…A re-blog