Ode to consent

*Written in response to Nandini Varma (Airplane Poetry Movement)’s prompt “Shall I compare thee…”*

Shall I compare you
To a cup of tea?
And wait for his reply,
“But I only drink whiskey”
Or shall I liken you
To a monosyllable “No”
To be called arrogant or
Plain old boring, just so.

Shall I signal with my frantic eyes
Until he blindfolds himself between tries?
Or shall I scream, and shout, and claw my way,
Losing a familiar ally in an unlikely fray?

Shall I tell you
What you have sometimes meant?
I lie against his body bent,
And after a while, he does relent.
Then I get up to make a cup of tea,
And pen down clever thoughts of consent.

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Shirin Ebadi

Women are the victims of this patriarchal culture, but they are also its carriers. Let us keep in mind that every oppressive man was raised in the confines of his mother’s home.

– Shirin Ebadi

To those who say that in today’s world, patriarchal oppression is the exception rather than the rule, I would only point out the recent events in the Indian city of Bangalore and the responses that followed from some of the people in positions of power. This is one of many such incidents, and now, more than ever, one of the things we need the most is for women to stand up for women. 

One such iconic champion for the rights of women, children and refugees, Dr. Shirin Ebadi was the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Born in Iran, Ebadi studied law and had to face significant opposition for her choice of career, especially from religious leaders and clerics. In 1975 she became the first woman president of the Tehran City court and also the first woman judge in Iran. She has been known to take up cases of those people who have displeased the ruling administration. The Nobel Committee lauded her as “as a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist,” who “has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond”. Unfortunately, in a rather shameful turn of events, the government is said to have confiscated her Nobel, a first for any awardee. Since 2009, she has been in exile in the UK owing to her criticism of the existing regime. 

My aim is to show that those governments that violate the rights of people by invoking the name of Islam have been misusing Islam.

– Shirin Ebadi

Shirin has been subjected to significant ostracism and personal trauma for daring to raise her voice against the oppressive diktats of the government. In an op-ed written for the New York Times, she narrates how her husband’s infidelity was used as an excuse to persecute their family, in an attempt to show her her place. (Read the account here.) In a day and age where sometimes one leader and ideology seems just as flawed as another, Shirin Ebadi’s seemingly simple advice is perhaps the most useful rule of thumb-

When you vote, vote for those who are not warmongers, and vote for those who respect human rights. When you see a president who doesn’t respect human rights, don’t vote for that person.

– Shirin Ebadi

Watch Dr. Shirin Ebadi talk about the work that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize here.