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Bosnian woman washing clothes Discovery of how women's work and domesticate tasks clean up the war ugly remnants and pieces of their lives into an invitation of beauty & harmony.

The best kept secret….

Categorized in these topics: Bosnia Engendered Practices Female Social Justice Feminine Matrix and Female Culture Kolo Trauma Format Social Memory Women in Collaboration Women's Trauma Issues

What would you choose if you were to relive a decision to marry?

We know our world through story. Rarely do we ask older women for their story or if we do so we want specific responses. Their responses are the essential truth for sound bites or riveting documentary with the “happily ever after,” being elusive for women.

I began a cognitive interview many years before even realizing I was doing one. I noticed the feature of having intensity to learn, and to be informed not about knowledge, but wisdom that comes from life experiences. Whenever I had a burning yearning to know, I knew I was embarking on the cognitive interview. This often meant questioning out of the blue and blind sighting the females with the inquiries.

My passion for story and memory as an accurate portrayal of female reality without influencing her words and articulation or to be entwined with suggestibility or leading the witness is fraught with many inaccurate responses. Responses that are a robotic -catch all phrases- of “I am what they want me to be and what they say I am,” echoing the need to entrench “Stepford Wives” into the lives of women.

For instance, the first feature of cognitive interviewing with on the spot questioning is best offered with an experience many years ago, in the mid 1980s. I asked a married woman at the Phoenix, Arizona Orthodox Church about her life and her married life. Blonde and classically dressed, she turned to me in surprise to my inquiry. She related to me how she was never asked that even by her own daughters.

She responded to me in one word, “boring,” with a very weak smile. Only adding afterwards how no one had ever told her that it would be so.

A best kept secret? Or is it the greatest untold story as it is with the mother/daughter bond?

Second characteristic of my cognitive interviews for story involves frank observations of an event or situation. It does not mean to ask for detailed data such as how many fingers or toes. Instead, my cognitive story interviews prompt recall, or “remembering,” more about the context, the landscape of the event- remembrance.

With the contextual and landscape of the event/remembrance, the Bosnian mother of two and a husband that did not beat her and gave more freedom than most, retrieved the recent past as she told her individual storyline by declaring eloquently, “To relive that moment of my life to marry, the decision would be “never.””

She, in a few short lines, articulated a vast landscape of event/remembrance to a point that it also could be represented in my life and that of others creating validation.

She went on to say it was not that he was a bad man, more so, she said the lack of interactions, interfacing or responsiveness continues to haunt her. Her Bosnian husband was not like the other Bosnian men she said. As if to repair her breech from the status quo to say marriage is good and a religious rite/right, she went on to say how different the Bosnian culture is compared to western society. Marriage is expected in Bosnia for girls she stated.

But is that really better and different? This bring me to the third characteristic of cognitive interviewing where we can have an accurate “remembering” or recall that sometimes begins at the middle, or the end – while most often at the beginning.

As I observed in my field work in Africa, Bosnia, Europe, India and Sri Lanka, no difference was to be found, just conditions worsened with female ignorance of their plight with marriage, relationships and the male violence that comes with male privilege and right of domain.

It’s a campfire story often told woman to woman about the horror of the world, the exposure in the aftermath once the honeymoon faded from memory. Adrienne Rich’s “Born of a Woman,” talks of her anger towards her own husband and all husbands, acknowledging how women, alone, raise the children and/or social intelligence of feelings in the marriage and child rearing.

Women after years of such a prison experience called the institution of marriage that is not termed as such, seek a living design but become resigned, conforming to the institutional memory of marriage and devaluing of their sex laid down by male constructs to serve male interests. Studies and research already have shown that males live longer when married but the same research portrays the life and death dilemma for women who naturally fund relationships; women live longer alone-unmarried.

The violence stats show the catastrophic impact on females. Domestic Violence provides lethal blows to females serving their life scarring sentences incarcerated in the institution of marriage or relationship life and death dilemma. Abuse ranging from physical, sexual to emotional and verbal lace together what many women and men speak of as a good marriage or one that requires commitment, discipline and hard work.

Almost every counselor or therapist follows Dr. Phil, focusing on the wife in the relationship scenario. Giving her all the work tasks and analyzing her, leaving the husband with his hands folded in his lap covering his genitals while her hands if idle are asked to justify her life and existence, the wife is given the ownership of the relationship and all the work involved.

Accountability is not asked of the husbands, boyfriends or life partners- just like the ingrained “mother blaming and hating” especially poignant with mother-in-law acid distaste, everything is heaped upon her shoulders to make the marriage/relationship institution work. It must be her at all costs and forever after.

Meg Ryan in an interview October 2008 InStyle magazine reported how her affair fell into the “women blame and shame” norm at large. Profound insight was given by Ryan as she pointed out that if the woman has the affair in the marriage it is her fault, if he has the affair in the marriage or relationship, it is still her fault.

In Sudan, many first wives spoke of the hurt of their husbands taking on second or third wives. Often, it was their own mother or his mother that would talk to her, get her to conform and be the “good wife.” When I asked them about their marriage and life, the one word universally given was “used.” I expected the first wives to say useless but their reality expounds on how females are exploited into massive labors and tasks that cannot be mitigated and are unending.

The Congo, Uganda had mothers strapping infants on their backs and that of their daughters often as young as three with another infant swaddled on thin female backs. All her supposedly mundane tasks was done as she washed or worked a meager garden that stood between them and starvation. Her husband and their husbands were often sitting near the hut, gambling, drinking or had access to drugs, ignoring the masses around him. Partnerships were nowhere to be seen instead massive rapes in Africa, Bosnia and in other conflict zones continue to reign.

In 1999, Novi Travnik, the Dutch SFOR- UN peacekeeping rotating troops spoke of the shock at how the Bosnian men did nothing while the women were loaded like mules carrying household items or working to clean the home, their jobs while caring for the incapacitated males. The South Slavic women cleaned up after three wars in one hundred years, clean up after their husbands, fathers and sons, who easily honed their weapons of mass destruction called; lack of emotional intelligence and feeling affects at the expense of females while females martyr and mother all at their own expense.

Daughters seeing what marriage entails still dream of male Hollywood writers’ weddings in June. A recent and actually quite substantial movie “Rachel getting married,” sneaks a look into how daughters do not have their mother and daughter bond while the mother cleaves unto her man exclusively. While having a crisis such as death of a child, the mother divorces and remarries during the excruciating mourning process according to the male Hollywood writers’ edicts.

The male Hollywood scripts emulate male lions killing female’s cubs fathered by another male. The lioness lies down with the current supreme male as if the blood of her cubs never occurred.

In Japan, women are refusing to marry and have their mother’s lives. Recent studies have shown the young women are engaging in natural sex strikes. Kenyan women joined their Asian sisters’ sex strike in 2009 to the ire of the males. Many of these women do not want to relive their lives or their mother’s lives.

I do wonder what would happen if women began a cognitive interview of their mothers and female elders. The first question would be centered on “would you marry again?” with the following question being, “if you were to relive a moment in your life what would that be and why?”

Albert Einstein was asked the same cognitive questioning about the nuclear bomb. The real shame was that it was asked after the bomb was fashioned and used on Japanese civilians. Interest, curiosity was there to ask Einstein which gives the cognitive questioning dignity and weight.

When we inquire the women, let us have interest, awe and utter wonder at their existence under such burdens that begin right in the womb as a female fetus.


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