I was asked in a workshop on women’s rights, agency and delivery how I responded to and placate frustrated men.
I said at least by experience I understand that men work stronger in packs. Within packs, the collective consciousness of women’s rights, role, agency (whether believed individually, or not) become the mainstay in their thought processes. Collective consciousness is like fashion – a trend that has no reason for being apart from it being itself, i.e. it permeates for the very fact of its prevalence. It is like Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ – the literature is nothing too spectacular or profound but we use the adjective awesome or splendid to describe it simply because every else does. So in mediation, I attempt to speak and convert thinking on an individual basis, away from the grip of the collective defense. It takes much longer time (and time is not something one has in diplomacy in urgent decisions, perhaps). My other tactic (not planned, comes naturally) is to probe through questions, without giving answers or debating against. Some questions seem too simple, I ask anyway. Why ask? – a) immediately gives authority and a sense of respect to the person asked b) when questions are digested, they are internalized, thought through probably logically, coherently, (sometimes not) and answers attain credibility not through collective agreement BUT through sensitive analysis. Sometimes, I hardly speak. I only ask questions. Answers are given. I do not draw any conclusion, and avoid tainting the discussion with my ‘narrow’, ‘feminist’ analysis, as may be perceived on the receiving end. He may not admit publicly, but he takes the discussion back home. He is changed, perhaps. Much like in Gibran’s tale, the atheist and the believer who debates the existence of God will not admit publicly how their positions have shifted after the debate. But both return home and burn their books. They are actually convinced. Avoid arguments – arguments are often not arguments of content. Arguments fuel the need to retain pride, to remain right.
What I also find important is to speak to men, and behave with them without assuming the worst of them. I always find my narrow assumptions about men wrong. They can surprise you – ability to listen, ability to accept without necessarily approving, ability to change, open-ness to new ideas.
What in situations of arguments?
I try to refrain from this – my young oblivion during teenage years cost me some threats to my security. I know better now, not always, but most of the time.
I spend more time training like-minded people, working with researchers/students/activists/aspiring academics – to utilize academic literature for activist purposes. If we have to choose how to use our time wisely, then I choose to empower the moderate and willing than to argue with fundamentalists.
In Afghanistan, what is it like to interact with men? I get mixed responses. Individual mental anatomy is varied across the board – wealth, status, situation, education will all affect different responses. Some responses, I do not agree with, but I accept – not every one has come from the same background, had the same opportunities, same education. I, for the most part, always remember to be compassionate.
Compromising situations? Yes, I am too oblivious and sometimes count on my charm and youth to get away, dodge the bullet. Have I angered, yes I have. But I have been angry too. But I know my content well. And there are certain positions I will not budge from.
How do you behave in Afghanistan? I am normally myself. And I am accepted the way I am. In public, I am a little more cautious.
Murderers? Wife -batterers?
I have met all. And even those who batter their wives can be good men too. What people do, should not essentialize who they are, or who they can be.
Is God important?
He/She/It only is if it effects a practical benefit to a situation.
How do you reconcile differences?
Some differences have to be accepted and loved – they evolve naturally and organically with time. We all have our own paths. Other differences, painful ones – they can escape judgment by being ignored. That I accept and love does not mean I do not attempt to change – but the change happens between both parties (me and the other) – we both change together. Learning takes place both ways, through an exchange. In a relationship where true connection/interaction happens, you can hardly tell who is the teacher and who is the student. First world children/agents should exercise some humility at that.
What would you really like?
I would really like to dine at the Mezzanine at Hyatt Hotel – I haven’t eaten good food in a sparkling restaurant for a long time now — last was……4 years ago for my birthday.