The very large topic of the subjugation of women has laid heavy on my mind for two simple reasons. The first reason - I just finished reading the book by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you have plans of reading the book, stop reading this post now, as I may unravel details or the ending in a manner that might taint how you interpret the book.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, such a poetic title. So poetic, in fact, that at first glance I knew it wasn't a romance and that the title was satirical. It did, however, end up being about love. About unconditional, real love between friends and family. In relation to the subjugation of women, the story explicitly tells the tale of the Taliban and their treacherous domination over its citizens. To illustrate the topic, the book covers several forms of oppressive behavior. Physical and mental abuse, extreme poverty, near deification of natural-born sons rather than daughters, rape, murder, etc. The book was written beautifully, weaving in several historical events as well as places and classic Afghan literature.
The book left me heartbroken for Mariam, one of the key characters. In the closing chapters of the book, to defend herself and save the life of her fellow concubine, Laila, Mariam hits their abusive husband over the head until he dies. Mariam, wracked with guilt over her murderous act and wanting so very much to see that Laila's children live long lives and to see Laila be reunited with her true love, submits to the Taliban legal system. She gives herself as a sacrifice to allow the dreams of another to flourish. Triumphantly, she is put to death in the center of town, with a crowd both in awe and amazement at the courage that Mariam faced death with.
Reason #2 for this diatribe into the subjugation of women - I viewed the movie, Lilya 4-Ever. If you have plans of watching Lilya 4-Ever, stop reading this post now, as I will probably give away the entire movie here.
Lilya 4-Ever is a gem I found on Netflix. Sidebar: Netflix has a great selection of foreign films. I love love love foreign films because of the heavy topics they cover. The ones that I've selected, so far, have been gripping tales of the human condition. Anyway, Lilya 4-Ever is set in Estonia (once a part of the USSR). It is the tale of a 16-year old girl, Lilya, totally abandoned by her mother who up and moves to America. She is left to fend for herself and eventually turns to prostitution as a means of supporting herself and her little companion, Volodya - a boy abandoned by his parents. The graphic portrayal of how her life is lived, men penetrating her and grunting on top of her, broke my heart with the realization that this happens every day and has happened all throughout the history of the world.
Lilya falls prey to a handsome Russian, Sergei, who pretends to fall in love with her. He sends her to Sweden with the false promise of a better life and feigns to meet her there in two days time. With all her hopes and dreams for a better life fully intact and a newfound interest in living, Lilya leaves for Sweden. Overcome by despair and sadness because Lilya left him, Volodya ends his life. Sergei never shows and has sent Lilya directly into the hands of a small-time pimp. She is locked up in a single room and is only allowed to leave when the pimp has found her a "john". It seems she lives that way for weeks.
The apex comes when Volodya appears to Lilya as an angel and tells her that the door was left unlocked and she is free to go. She runs, without a clue on where to go, without a destination, utterly and totally WITHOUT hope. In the final moments of the film, Lilya climbs atop a highway over pass. Volodya is screaming at her not to do what he did -- to live life on her terms. Lilya, stuck in the violence called 'her life', jumps to her death.
The one unifying factor, in these two very extreme circumstances: THERE IS NO ESCAPE EXCEPT THROUGH DEATH. Bittersweet! Tragic! Triumphant, almost.
After experiencing the book then the movie, in succession, I realize how the world is in need of the healing powers of love. Women are charged with the task of being compassionate and forgiving and of teaching the world those special qualities. Though we are abused, though we are run into the ground with difficult choices, though we are subjected to burdensome loads; even through the drama of life, women will always triumph over the oppressor.
**Photo Credit for Thousand Splendid Suns
**Photo Credit for Lilya 4-Ever