Friday, September 28, 2018

Pattabhi Jois #metoo and the Supreme Court Nomination Process

Watching Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, one could not help seeing the parallels in the Ashtanga community’s assessment of Pattabhi Jois’ guilt or innocence.

A woman with nothing to gain personally and with everything to lose, courageously speaks out about being sexually assaulted by a man held in the highest esteem by his community. The closing of ranks around the favored candidate has nothing to do with a sense for truth and everything to do with preserving and promoting power and control.

Her honesty is in question, not his. His rebuttal is the lack of corroborating witnesses. Without the support of a witness or evidence other than her memory, her testimony is doubted and her honesty and integrity are attacked.

We have seen the same distrust of testimony in the case of Pattabhi Jois but in this case we do have a lot of corroborating evidence. In the first place there is multiple witness testimony and secondly we have a lot of photographic and video evidence. Nonetheless, victims who have spoken out have been subject to attack and attempts to undermine their credibility.

When I watched Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony I was deeply moved. What courage it took, what personal cost. Many people have said this is a great day for women – it's a great day for humanity! Also an awful day – we see both truth, courage and selflessness as well as power, deceit and self interest on display.

Women are pushing back against the patriarchal system that has dominated society for so long – this is a wonderful thing - a social revolution. We sorely need a feminization of culture and society, of power structures and business models.

They need our help. These solo voices calling out the deeply ingrained male dominated control of all things – politics, law, media, business, yoga, narrative in general… stand vulnerable and alone. Their experience, although often in the presence of others, was perpetrated in a subversive, secret or hidden way – there were often no other witnesses – or witnesses who were deliberately looking the other way.

Their abusers were people of power, people who commanded high respect, people whose words were trusted, respected and even lauded as divine. It is truly a marvel to observe one woman’s vulnerable words taken in the balance against the entire history of male chauvinism as integrated into such icons of male power. What courage it takes to challenge such institutionalized power and authority!

It is only because these figures are in the public eye that their crimes attract attention and close scrutiny but this is not even the tip of the iceberg. We live in a society riddled with violence and sexual assault. It is estimated that 20-25% of girls are sexually assaulted before they reach adulthood, 35% of the perpetrators are family members and 96% are male. Such statistics should make us weep!

I can only imagine how deeply damaging and distressing being a victim of sexual assault must be – to then have the courage to speak out – not out of a personal motive but out of compassion for all those who could possibly be protected in the future takes huge courage.

Even if we have not been subject to attack, our children and our loved ones are all vulnerable. We should be highly motivated to find truth and healing. It is true that we have so much shame and discomfort and complicity in perpetuating the power structures – if we want to move forward and find healing, we have to live with our discomfort and complicity.

To all victims of abuse – we hear you! We believe you!

Please do not stop – you are changing the world – thank you for your courage!