When I Hit You – Meena Kandasamy – Quotes

As a teacher, she also knows that to state the obvious is, in fact, a sure sign of stupidity.

This is how my story of Young Woman as a Runaway Daughter became, in effect, the great battle of My Mother versus the Head Lice. And because my mother won this battle, the story was told endlessly, and it soon entered the cannon of literature on domestic violence.

Marriage became a Re-education camp.

I must learn that a Communist only ever takes the bus because it is the transport of the people (unless he is late for a seminar he is giving and then he can take an auto-rickshaw); I must remember that the responsibility of the female body belongs to me, and that I must not move or walk in such a fashion that makes others feel it is an object of allurement and enjoyment (although I should respectfully tolerate the gropes, the whistles, the hissed invitations); I must learn that a Communist woman is treated equally and respectfully by comrades in public but can be slapped and called a whore behind closed doors. This is dialectics.

And how do you justify that your poems can be written, but that I cannot write poems on my marriage?
Once again, a play of words to justify the duplicity. ‘Your poems blame me. My poems blame me. There is a difference between the hatred that fuels your poems, and the self-criticism that forms the backbone of mine. Your poems label me and put me in a box, my poems struggle to move past my weaknesses.’
And that is that. In this marriage in which I’m beaten, he is a poet.

There is a linguistic theory that the structures of languages determine the mode of thought and behaviour of the cultures in which they are spoken. In an effort to understand my life at the moment, I have come up with its far-fetched corollary, a distant cousin of this theory: I think what you know in a language shows who you are in relation to that language. Not an instance of language shaping your worldview, but its obtuse inverse, where your worldview shapes what parts of the language you pick up. Not just: your language makes you, your language holds you prisoner to a particular way of looking at the world. But also: who you are determines what language you inhabit, the prison-house of your existence permits you only to access and wield some parts of a language.

When he hits me the most frightening part is not the pain and the possible scarring and the perverted sense of shame. It is not in knowing that I’m defeated, or in the realization that I am not physically strong enough to match him blow for blow, that I cannot teach him a lesson never to mess with me.
When he hits me, the terror, the terror follows from the instinct that this will go further, that this does not end easily, that today it is my arms that he is punching, but tomorrow it will be my hair that he will wind around his palm to drag me through the rooms, the next day it will be my backbone that will endure a shattering blow, the day after it will be my head on which his angry fists will descend.

The fire that made our union sacred and eternal now blazes in the parting of my thighs.
There are no moans, only screams. Screams precede my speech. Screams help me transition from silence to begging him to stop.

I never understood rape until it happened to me.

I begin to learn that there are not screams that are loud enough to make a husband stop. There are no screams that cannot be silenced by a shock of a tight slap. There is no organic defence that can protect against penetration. He covers himself with enough lubricant to slide past all my resistance. My legs go limp. I come apart.

As rapes become regular occurrence, I reach the point of no return. I play rag-doll and normalize it; I learn to normalize the violence in his words. […] Good women don’t have bad things happen to them – in order to be raped, I need to first be made into this caricature of a bad woman. […] In his ironclad logic: I am a whore, so I can be raped; I let myself be raped, so I am a whore.

That is the aim of his rapes, all this rough sex. Not just a disciplining, but disabling. He believes that after him, I will have nothing left in me to love, to make love, to give pleasure.
This is man breaking his own wife. This is a man burning down his own house.

As long as a woman cannot speak, as long as those to whom she speaks do not listen, the violence is unending.

In the eyes of the world, a woman who runs away from death is more dignified than a woman who runs away form her man.

It does not cross their mind that a woman who is being beaten is intimidated into feeling, believing, knowing that to ask for help from others will only put her at greater risk. In their questions and their responses I come to know that even those of them who have mastered the theory have not lived through the experience: they lack the insight that a woman being abused can mostly trust only one person for help. Herself.

My woman’s body, when it is written down, is rape-resistant.

My review of When I Hit You


Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @vkphotospace.com 

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