Are Your Shackles Showing? Hyperbole, Metaphor or Shades of Reality? by Karen Tate

Note: These Comments Might Trigger You
You’ve been held in a windowless room for a long time.  So long, you can’t remember how long it’s been.  You have shackles on your ankles.  Sometimes you can see beyond your sleeping pad, sometimes not so much.  You’re instructed to perform tasks assigned to you according to the will of your captor.   Most days you work so long you feel as if you’ll drop.  Sometimes you have enough food to eat, other times not.  It’s cold and damp in this holding cell where you’ve lived most of your life.  You’ve been sick here, but you have no access to a doctor.  You’ve been beaten regularly, physically and verbally,  for infractions perceived by your captor.   You still have the bruises.  You’ve not been outside this place for so long you’ve stopped scraping the number of days you’ve been held captive onto the walls. 
But, sometimes, you can faintly hear a voice whispering to you from the outside.  It’s a voice that calls to you in quiet moments when the usual crushing noise more easily heard doesn’t drown it out.  It’s hard to understand the words the voice is speaking.  They sound so foreign to you.   The voice suggests there is something else outside this cell.  When you ask your captor about it, the reply is always the same…laughter, mocking, anger.  So you become afraid to listen.

Then one day your captor gets careless.  Or maybe you’re listening closer.  The incessant noise seems less.  Your captor forgot to lock the shackles on your ankles and bolt the door.  You hear the voice outside.  It offers you something else.  It sounds too good to be true.   You’ve heard your captor say as much.   You’d been told that the voice offers empty promises that will never become reality.   But you ask yourself how much longer you can go on here?  So, you stand up at your sleeping pad.  Your legs are shaking.  The hair is standing up on the back of your neck  and carefully, timidly, you walk toward the unbolted door.   You reach out.  Your hand is shaking as you place it on the knob.  You see the red marks from old bruises on your wrists.  Something inside you knows you no longer can tolerate this cell.  Only, it’s all you’ve ever known, or it’s all you remember.

It’s your moment of truth.  You might not get this chance again in your lifetime.  Do you turn the knob?  Do you step across the threshold and move toward the voice?  Or do you shrink back, fearfully choosing the familiar, the devil you know?  Do you choose the somewhat reliable crumbs  laced with indifference and resentment your abuser has been dishing out for years?  Can this really be all there is?  Or can you find it in yourself to take a leap of faith?  Are you going to continue a life of institutionalized abuse and exploitation or are you going to walk across the threshold into a different  life?

That’s the choice so many of us are faced with today, from the boardroom to the bedroom and voting booth.  Do we continue to normalize the abuse from our religions, our employers, our government, our social circles, our political parties and even some of our families?  Do we continue to accept, even perhaps cheer, and normalize, the exploitation of capitalism and patriarchy? I think we’ve been conditioned to accept the abuse as normal.  We say things to ourselves like:
“That’s just the way it is.”
“I put up with it, so why shouldn’t you?”
“Things will never change.”
“There aren’t any options.”

Some say this new (or revived) path many of us see as an option is folly, baloney, or magical flying ponies.  They warn it’s riddled with danger, disappointment and failure.  Some even say you’re a lazy taker if you want a better quality of life and expect income equality, fairness and a solid social safety net.  If you want your tax dollars to work for the people.  If you want equal pay or control over our own bodies.


Others, who remember, or who look at the facts, know this “new path forward” was once a well-trodden path that led to balance, fairness and equality and can be again – but, perhaps many have forgotten, because they too have become locked in the windowless room for too long – or – perhaps, they reject these ideas because they now are the ones with the power or they perpetuate the status quo.  Perhaps, they are the ones holding the key to our cell.
Some food for thought.


Karen Tate, speaker, author, workshop presenter, and social justice activist is the radio show hostess of the long-running internet podcast, Voices of the Sacred Feminine on Blog Talk Radio. She has been invited to speak at prestigious institutions such as the Council for the Parliament of World Religions, Glastonbury Goddess Festival, American Academy of Religion, Joseph Campbell RoundTables, conferences, theosophical societies, colleges, churches and many private organizations. She can be seen in the influential docu-film, Femme: Women Healing the World produced by Wonderland Entertainment and actress, Sharon Stone. She is an associate with the Joseph Campbell Foundation and organizes the Joseph Campbell Roundtables held at the Museum of Woman in Irvine.  Karen is the author of three books and she’s curated three anthologies, referred to as the “manifesting a new normal” trilogy.  The most recent, Awaken the Feminine, is just out in early 2019. Karen is a certified Caring Economy Conversation Leader and Power of Partnership Practitioner with Riane Eisler’s Center for Partnership Studies.  She has a certification from Smith College in the Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World and she’s been named one of the Thirteen Most Influential Women in Goddess Spirituality and a Wisdom Keeper of the Goddess Spirituality Movement.  She lives in her mountain sanctuary with feline daughter, Lilly, and Roy, her husband and partner of more than thirty years. 

Categories: Consent, fear, Feminist Awakenings

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5 replies

  1. Thank you Karen, Definitely some food for thought. I have often thought about how our institutions are abusive. My son was especially hurt by going to school. He was an engrossed learner (he could get engrossed in a subject for days) but school demanded that he compartmentalize and learn in 45 min. increments and when he struggled, it was his fault and they punished him. (I homeschooled him for a while.) Our credit scores are determined by an industry that does not have anyone’s best interest at heart (except for their own) and we are all trapped in their paradigms and if we don’t conform – punishment. Our legal system clearly benefits the wealthy over the poor – all about punishment. All our systems are all racist, sexist and genderist.

    I think we have to be the people who remember, we have to hold our own keys. Thanks for reminding me.


    • Thank you for your reply, Janet. Growing up a Catholic, turned Goddess Advocate, I started realizing the brainwashing begins early…..Jesus on the cross, dying for our sins, makes suffering and sacrifice noble and good. No one ever asks us “how’s your quality of life?” for instance. Over the years, I’ve seen how the workforce has, drip by drip, taken benefits away from workers until we’re a gig economy with no benefits. Researchers who find new discoveries are ostracized from Academia. Myself, I had to sign a NDA – and paraphrasing Elizabeth Warren, these are to protect people who do bad things. We’re seeing everyday how the media misinforms which I also believe is a form of abuse to manufacture consent. Government officials abuse their power everyday.

      I could go on and on – but my point was, we cannot continue to normalize all this. I believe we have to look at all phases of life, not with a “that’s how it is” attitude, but with an attitude of “this can no longer stand” and make choices that lead us away from the abuse and exploitation. We have to consciously see the abuse and exploitation of patriarchy and predator capitalism for a start, particularly with this election coming up…..and I think the corporatist Democrats have been nearly as bad as the GOP when it comes to funneling all the benefits to corporations, abandoning workers.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If ever there was an urgent message that those who would be free must heed, it is perhaps this one.

    Are we brave enough to transcend the construct we’re told is reality? Are we brave enough to search within to learn what our long suppressed and invalidated memories hold? Are we strong enough to be honest with ourselves and admit we have settled for “the devil we think we know?'” Honest enough to admit we have trusted the wrong people? Invested into the wrong ground (and far from firm ground at that, it’s a house of cards) and to realize we would know it, if we just looked? Really look.

    We can never learn the truth, if we are unwilling to let go of our idea of what the truth should be. The truth can set us free, but it’s exploration is not a journey for the fainthearted. Thank you for this very timely message. Plato would be proud indeed, that there are those who do remember.


    • Thank you Dharma. I take heart in the fact Bernie Sanders has awakened the nation and we will never go back. And perhaps this pandemic will encourage further thinking among people as they have time to reflect and check in with themselves and watch the abuse inflicted upon society by patriarchy and capitalism unfold on the television screen. This didn’t have to happen, not the way it’s unfolding. Life does not have to be structured the way it is. We have to have the strength to lead with our pink-handled machetes instead of being obedient sheep or have the security of being a part of a herd.



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