Diary of A Loose Woman

I’ve always been fascinated by society’s obsession with a woman’s so-called promiscuity, how many men she has slept with, her purity, chastity, virginity, etc. There is a stigma associated with so many things when it comes to a woman’s sexuality – if she has had sex outside of marriage, has chosen a lifestyle that others disapprove of, or is a victim of rape or sexual assault. From ancient times to modern day, this theme continues. I have a great interest in the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in particular, but really everything from the Shiva Purana to the Vedas to the Bhagavata Purana. In the Ramayana (Rama’s journey), Rama’s wife Sita is asked to walk through the fire to prove her purity, which she does, emerging unscathed and untouched and yet it is not enough to appease the doubters, because the doubts in people’s mind cannot be assuaged if they choose to remain doubtful, corrupted, always unsatisfied, thinking that unless every last doubt is erased from their minds, then it must be the woman’s fault.

The word ‘loose’ normally has negative connotations, but really what could be better than being a loose woman? A woman that is free, unbridled, uninhibited, wild, one who roams this earth, rides into the wind, spends time with her soul, moves to her own rhythm.

One such woman is Radha, the lover of Krishna. She was the ultimate loose woman. She didn’t care that society shunned her, that she was breaking her marriage vows, she didn’t care about anything but pure unconstrained love. She had wild eyes and thick eyebrows and only had eyes for Krishna. He drove her mad, as she did him. Yet they found ultimate liberation with one another that carried through even during their separation. Krishna, Radha, and the gopis would dance frenetically in a dance called the Rasleela, losing all sense of themselves, and joining in the wild dance of life, becoming one with the universe and all of existence. Some would call it madness; others call it enlightenment. Either way it was an awakening.

One of the herbs that I take is called Shatavari. In Sanskrit it can be translated to “She Who Has One Hundred Husbands.” Should I be so lucky?! This herb is critical for libido and longevity. As most people know, in many societies around the world it is common for a man to take multiple wives, but a woman with multiple husbands is unheard of. But then there is Draupadi, the heroine in the ancient story the Mahabharata. This tale is haunting and gruesome, enlightening and majestic, and reading it will take you to the centre of your soul. She enters into an arrangement to marry the five Pandava brothers, mostly because of a technicality. She initially marries only Arjuna, but when he brings her home, he says to his mother, “I have brought something home that I would like for you to see” and his mother responds “Well whatever it is, make sure you share it with your brothers”.  Uh oh!  Of course, in those times, you must take your mother’s instructions literally, and so they decide to share Draupadi among the five brothers. Initally she is outraged, but eventually comes to rather like the arrangement. She spends a year with each brother, and during that time none of the other brothers can look at her or think of her impurely. And there is a special arrangement by which she magically becomes a virgin between the hand-offs. So you can only imagine the way Draupadi is regarded by society – she is called everything from a whore to a prostitute, and of course, a loose woman. Yet she is the most powerful woman of them all, and her actions and indomitable spirit change the course of history.

In Afghanistan, a woman can be considered loose and impure for many reasons – even just looking at a boy could brand her this label. In The Underground Girls of Kabul, Jenny Nordberg uncovers the stigma that girls face when they verge on inappropriate behaviour.

A teenage girl should not be anywhere near teenage boys, even in disguise. She could mistakenly touch them or rather be touched by them, and be seen as a loose or impure girl by those who know her secret. It could ruin her chances of getting married, and she would be seen as a tarnished offering. The entire family’s reputation could be sullied.

She talks to a woman named Nahid, who chooses to leave an abusive relationship and is supported by her father who gives the husband all the family money so that she can keep custody of their three children. “As a divorcee, Nahid was seen as a loose, available woman, risking threats and violent approaches by men, as well as plenty of direct and indirect condemnation by other women. As a woman with two sons, however, she is considered a slightly more respectable creature.”

Well after reading all of this (or should I say writing it) I am inspired to be even more loose than before. I stand with all the so-called loose women of the world, and I think we should loosen all the way!



The Bandit Queen

This morning I met my friend Melinda at Lavazza near my place and we talked about boys (our favourite topic of conversation). There is a thing with women that no matter what situation they find themselves in, whether in poverty or in a refugee camp (or sitting in a café on Queens Quay), the conversation always tends to gravitate towards love. Does he like me? Does he think about me? Sigh. Age old questions that are so simple yet seem so torturous and cause never-ending speculation.

Following our chat, I started my 10 KM walk. It was -40 or somewhere around there, and I had to stop every few minutes to warm up in a pharmacy or coffee shop. I stopped at SickKids for a bit and talked to my Mom on the phone about fears and remembering past lives. She said that she didn’t think it was useful to remember because it just distracts you from your purpose and causes you pain. I thought that it is actually a blessing if you are lucky enough to be given insight into your karmic path, to know that there is something beyond this physical existence. There is a quote by Rumi that I love: “Know then that the body is merely a garment. Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.”

I got to the reference library and almost gave up and took the subway home, but something told me to keep going so I did. I went to Balzac’s and finished reading Count Me In by Emily White. She goes on a quest to understand human connection, our need to belong and live a fulfilling life. She is extremely sensitive to rejection, as am I, even though I throw myself in the fire over and over again. Perhaps one day I’ll throw myself in and won’t feel so burned. There was a scale at the back of the book that assesses your sensitivity level and I scored pretty high! Perhaps it’s like a muscle and you get better at it. Or perhaps no one is really rejecting you and it’s all in your head.

It was funny that I had considered going home and ended up having a very serendipitous meeting. I ran into Gillian, a woman who I’d met through my friend Gosia. She is making a documentary about the life of Phoolan Devi. I went to an auction last year where the director spoke about Phoolan’s story. She is almost mythical figure in India – a woman who was brutalized by life yet managed to find the light. I can’t actualy believe this story is real. This woman lived nine lives in her one short life. Gillian wants me to be more involved with the documentary, and perhaps reach out to women’s rights organizations in India to form partnerships.

Then I walked to Chapters where I felt bored with my life in general, thinking that this blog is the most exciting thing I have going for me right now. Lately I’ve been scared to come home because it reminds me of how I almost lost my place, and triggers a lot of anxiety. It will take time for me to trust again, to release this knot in my stomach that doesn’t seem to go away. I walked home through Victoria College, and then onto Nathan Philips square, watching the skaters and listening to Neyo’s Miss Independent playing in the background. Finally came home to my messy place!