Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Woman: As a Girl, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Daughter-in-law, Mother, and Grand Mother

A Woman: As a Girl, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Daughter-in-law, Mother, and Grand Mother
I went to see my mother at her daughter’s place, where she is living. When I arrived there, she was in the kitchen, preparing a meal. What I saw at that time was not a surprise to me because that was her usual place since her childhood (as she told me) and as long as I have known her. It would be a surprise to me if she was not there. Anyway, whenever I go there she never forgets to ask, “What do you want to eat?” and she tells me all the food she has prepared and shows me the different food items. I also always eat something whenever I go there. Most of the time, I never expect or ask her to serve me because I do not want to give additional work to her. Therefore, the other day also, I got myself something to eat from which she showed me while I told her, “I wanted to talk to you about your life. Finish your work and come. I will wait until that.” Asking or hearing about her life is not a new thing for me because I always wanted to write about her life but it has not happened yet. At the same time, she also tells us about her past once in a while whenever she feels the need. Therefore, my sisters and I know a little bit here and there about her life. However, this time I talked with her more purposefully.
Her name is Vasanathadevi and she was born in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, on May 26, 1946, after the devastated world war two. She had seven siblings, who are younger than her. She studied only up to grade 10 because she said that she was not good at her studies. However, she was interested in sports like track and field, high jump and long jump. But, she married early at age nineteen and had three children within four years. Now she is taking care of her grandchildren, the children of her daughter and supporting them in many ways for a better life for her daughter. However, her life has been not as simple as I have described above.
Her childhood was hard, as usual for all other women, particularly for eldest, especially in those days when no one cared about women’s education, career and even their lives, not only in South Asian countries but in other parts of the world too. Her mother,  taught her how to cook. Therefore, in her teenage years, she learned to cook as usual in this society for every girls, so woman.
There was an incident that she could not forget is there was an ethnic riot that happened for the first time in Sri Lanka in 1958 when some racist groups of Sinhala people attacked the Tamil people. She remembers well, at that time, she ran with her siblings to pick up food parcels dropped from helicopters.
Her father was very strict with his children. He worked as military personnel and then worked in Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Railways. He also loved her very much. Whenever he was at home he used to raise, discipline and control all his children according to the Tamil Hindu culture and conditions.  She was so obedient to him and had respect for him and did whatever he asked and expected of her. However, her father decided to arrange a marriage for her because she did not study well. Therefore, she did not have a chance to be trained for a work outside the home as a professional or worker either. She also did not have that many thoughts and dreams about her education, career, and future life on her own other at that time than marrying a good person who worked in a government department and had no habits of drinking or smoking. Most of the middle class women like her in those days had no career ideas for themselves for their future other than being good daughters for their families, loving house wives for their husbands, better daughter-in-laws for their husband’s families and good mothers for her children. The lack of education made them not think or dream about their developments, independence and future lives.
Her life entered into another stage when her father arranged a person who was a far away relative for her father to marry her.  However,  she told that, she could not even tell about her desires and dreams about her future husband but had to just accept her father’s choice. Hence, she got married to that person who became her husband. He was a full time Communist Party member at that time and worked in the Party’s paper as an editor for low wages. However, after her marriage, her father passed away because of a heart attack and her relationship with her family was broken and she did not tell what the cause was for this breakup. Therefore, her life totally depended on her husband-the new man in her life. Since then, she never saw her family except two times, first after fifteen years in 1983 and second time after another twenty five years in 2008 except three brothers, two of them used to visit her until 1983 and the other one have contacts until now . However, she met her mother only in the first time with her sisters and brothers in 1983 and in the second time met only her sisters who settled for a long time in Europe. Now she has the contacts with everyone except one brother because no one knows where he is. However, she has still not met her four brothers after 1983.
Her married life had its own difficulties. After she got married to her husband, she faced a lot of new problems. Her husband was arrested by the Sri Lankan government because of political turmoil at that time between 1969 and 1971 called as “chequvera trouble” and he was in and out of jail for two and a half years. She had been left to face her life alone with her three small children - actually babies, one boy and two girls and without any income in her young age. Her husband was in jail when her third daughter was born. She did not have a relationship with her family, or any basic education or any work experience to look after her children. The only relationship left was her husband’s side but in South Asian countries it is really hard for women who have no money and education to go and live in their husband’s place and depend on them especially without their husband. On top of this, women like her face more problems because her husband’s family had a chance to blame her that because of her fate, her husband went to jail. Therefore, she decided to live alone and did some house work for neighbours and also went to the Party office to get some financial help. In those days she faced many problems as a young mother with three children, without any income and without any help. On the other hand, she tried hard to get her husband out from jail by going to jail and talking to army officers and Party leaders.  She used to tell that some army personals like to help her because of her colour which is yellowish but South Asian people call it as white colour and women with that colour has lots of demand. Most of the South Asian men are affectionate with that “white” colour woman.
She had gone through another level of life experience after her husband got out from the jail because he was expelled from the Party since it had internal political conflicts. As a result, he was without a job but became addicted to alcohol and smoking. How he became like this is a question because, it was reported that he used to be a joint secretary for youth organization of communist party (Chinese wing) with Rogana Vijaweera who was the leader of JVP and led the 70’s uprising against Sri Lankan government but he? This is another story to write about. However, she had a terrible time in those days without money, proper food and housing. Since then most of the time she lived in a very small place, actually one room which can accommodate only five people that is her family members and also moved place to place and had food one or two times day because of lack of food and money and never had a house of her own. Even though, she did her best to feed her children and keep her family alive. However, later, after 1990, at least for some time, her life recovered from these day to day life problems.  But it never lasted for a long time because in 1994, her husband was killed by an unknown person in front of her and children when they prepared to have their dinner. This incident happened because of another political conflict and conflict political situation. This might be a small incident compare to what happened in Northern Sri Lanka between April and May 2009. Because of this she got a chance to migrate to Canada in 1996. Therefore, she decided to adopt her husband’s sister’s daughter who has been with her since she (husband’s sister’s daughter) has born and then she left the country with her children. Since then she has been taking care of her adopted daughter and her daughter’s three kids. Now, she is sixty five but still has more energy and is still working hard like young girl/women. She is still young in her mind and she can take better care of any child up to five years of age. After that she does not know how to handle this new generation of kids because of her traditional mind and lack of knowledge about child rearing in this developed country. She likes to cook and eat different food items especially hot and sweet foods and after long time it is available in her life but having lot of health problems, she has been prohibited to eat them. However, her only expectation is to see that her children are living happy with their family and if there is a chance, she would like to meet all her sisters and brothers in her parent’s home where she grow up some time in Sri Lanka, before she dies.
 I said good bye while I began preparing myself to leave. She went back to the kitchen to finish the rest of the work for the day. This is what she has been doing all her life. Born as a girl and has been grown up as a female, she cooked as a daughter for her parent’s family. Same time, as an elder sister helped her siblings, as a obedient daughter listened to her father to marry someone whom he arranged, then, had been a lovely wife and served for her husband, had been a good daughter-in-law by respecting her husband’s family. After that, has been a caring mother by taking care of her children, actually husband’s children because that is how it is defined in this andocentric society and mother’s duty is to take care and raise his children for his heritage. That is why they prefer children as boys than girls. Finally, being a caring grandmother looking after her grandchildren and also serving as a mother-in-law. Since her childhood, her duties and social and gender roles has been changing according to others needs, expectations and situations but no one ever asked her what she likes and her needs and expects. No one cares about those matters as long as she follows whatever she has been assigned to as a duty as a social role that was/is fine with everyone because she fulfills her responsibilities/ duties. However, she never stops as a working woman as a cook which is an unpaid and under-valued or “not counted” as a job until now. She has been living like this because she has no basic education at least to do a basic level job. The same situations have been faced by many women in many countries even in developed countries but particularly in developing countries.
Women have been discriminated against like this by this andocentric society, by restricting or not giving an opportunity and encouraging for a basic education and not showing or guiding them to be an independent individual human being for themselves in the society. Even she as a woman and human being not only never questioned her life and status, but also had no ideas or dreams about her future life like what she likes to become.  Other than being a good daughter, marrying a person and being a wife, having children and being a mother and being totally an unpaid house worker because of her lack of education. However, she always likes to share her experience with others, therefore, she felt happy when I asked for an interview and wholeheartedly participated.  May be your mother too. Why do not you try?
Here is some sample questions you can asked your mother, unfortunately, if she is not alive, you can ask her relatives. We can publish a book about our mothers’ stories for our future the generations.
Here is some sample questions you can asked your mother, unfortunately, if she is not alive, you can ask her relatives.
It is not enough to provide a transcript of your interview, you must also think analytically and reflectively about the questions.

Questions you ask her:

1.                  When and where were you born?
2.                  What were your parents like? (e.g., ethnic, religious, and economic background).
3.                  What were the important influences on you as a child?
4.                  What was your relationship like with your mother? Your father?
5.                  Did you work outside the home?
6.                  What are your main interests?
7.                  Are there some things that you have always wanted to do but never had the opportunity?
8.                  Add questions of your own.

Questions answered by you:

1.      What have you learned from doing this interview? Are there areas of your mother's/mentor/wise woman’s life experience that you have learned about for the first time? Do you have any new understandings about your mother/mentor/wise woman now?
2.      How do you feel about your mother/mentor/wise woman now?
3.      What was your mother's/mentor/wise woman’s reaction to being interviewed?
4.      Other comments.

Source: Howe, Karen G. (1989). Telling our mother's story: Changing daughters'   perceptions of their mothers in a women's studies course. In R. K. Unger            (Ed.), Representations: Social constructions of gender (pp. 45-60).     Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.

Friday, May 27, 2011


There is much difference between awareness and witnessing. Witnessing is still an act; you are doing it, the ego is there. So the phenomenon of witnessing is divided between the subject and the object.

Witnessing is a relationship between subject and object.
Awareness is absolutely devoid of any subjectivity or objectivity. There is no one who is witnessing in awareness;
there is no one who is being witnessed.
Awareness is a total act, integrated;
the subject and the object are not related in it; they are dissolved. So awareness doesn't mean that anyone is aware, nor does it mean that anything is being attended to.
Awareness is total -- total subjectivity and total objectivity as a single phenomenon -- while in witnessing a duality exists between subject and object. Awareness is non-doing; witnessing implies a doer. But through witnessing awareness is possible, because witnessing means that it is a conscious act; it is an act, but conscious. You can do something and be unconscious --
our ordinary activity is unconscious activity -- but if you become conscious in it, it becomes witnessing. So from ordinary unconscious activity to awareness there is a gap that can be filled by witnessing.
Witnessing is a technique, a method toward awareness. It is not awareness, but, as compared to ordinary activity, unconscious activity, it is a higher step

Something has changed: activity has become conscious, unconsciousness has been replaced by consciousness.
 But something more still has to be changed.
That is, the activity has to be replaced by inactivity.
That will be the second step.
It is difficult to jump from ordinary, unconscious action into awareness. It is possible but arduous, so a step in between is helpful. If one begins by witnessing conscious activity, then the jump becomes easier -- the jump into awareness without any conscious object, without any conscious subject, without any conscious activity at all. This doesn't mean that awareness isn't consciousness; it is pure consciousness, but no one is conscious about it.
There is still a difference between consciousness and awareness. Consciousness is a quality of your mind, but it is not your total mind. Your mind can be both conscious and unconscious, but when you transcend your mind, there is no unconsciousness and no corresponding consciousness. There is awareness.
Awareness means that the total mind has become aware. Now the old mind is not there, but there is the quality of being conscious. Awareness has become the totality; the mind itself is now part of the awareness. We cannot say that the mind is aware; we can only meaningfully say that the mind is conscious. Awareness means transcendence of the mind, so it is not the mind that is aware.
It is only through transcendence of the mind, through going beyond mind, that awareness becomes possible.
Consciousness is a quality of the mind, awareness is the transcendence; it is going beyond the mind. Mind, as such, is the medium of duality, so consciousness can never transcend duality. It is always conscious of something, and there is always someone who is conscious. So consciousness is part and parcel of the mind, and mind, as such, is the source of all duality, of all divisions, whether they are between subject and object, activity or inactivity, consciousness or unconsciousness. Every type of duality is mental. Awareness is nondual, so awareness means the state of no mind.
Then what is the relationship between consciousness and witnessing? Witnessing is a state, and consciousness is a means toward witnessing. If you begin to be conscious, you achieve witnessing. If you begin to be conscious of your acts, conscious of your day-to-day happenings, conscious of everything that surrounds you, then you begin to witness.
Witnessing comes as a consequence of consciousness. You cannot practice witnessing; you can only practice consciousness. Witnessing comes as a consequence, as a shadow, as a result, as a byproduct. The more you become conscious, the more you go into witnessing, the more you come to be a witness. So consciousness is a method to achieve witnessing.
And the second step is that witnessing will become a method to achieve awareness.
So these are the three steps: consciousness, witnessing, awareness. But where we exist is the lowest rank: that is, in unconscious activity. Unconscious activity is the state of our minds.
Through consciousness you can achieve witnessing, and through witnessing you can achieve awareness, and through awareness you can achieve "no achievement." Through awareness you can achieve all that is already achieved. After awareness there is nothing; awareness is the end.
Awareness is the end of spiritual progress; unawareness is the beginning. Unawareness means a state of material existence. So unawareness and unconsciousness are not both the same. Unawareness means matter. Matter is not unconscious; it is unaware.
Animal existence is an unconscious existence; human existence is a mind phenomenon -- ninety-nine percent unconscious and one percent conscious. This one percent consciousness means you are one percent conscious of your ninety-nine percent unconsciousness. But if you become conscious of your own consciousness, then the one percent will go on increasing, and the ninety-nine percent unconsciousness will go on decreasing.
If you become one hundred percent conscious, you become a witness, a sakshi. If you become a sakshi, you have come to the jumping point from where the jump into awareness becomes possible.
In awareness you lose the witness and only witnessing remains: you lose the doer, you lose the subjectivity, you lose the egocentric consciousness. Then consciousness remains, without the ego. The circumference remains without the center.
This circumference without the center is awareness. Consciousness without any center, without any source, without any motivation, without any source from which it comes -- a "no source" consciousness -- is awareness.
So you move from the unaware existence that is matter, prakriti, towards awareness. You may call it the divine, the godly, or whatever you choose to call it. Between matter and the divine, the difference is always of consciousness.
osho-Path of meditation

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Nationalisms: Women Bodies are Caught up In-between

Two Nationalisms (Oppress and Being Oppressed):
Women Bodies are Caught up In-between
The recent war in Sri Lanka illustrates how human bodies particularly women's bodies are turned into objects. On the one hand, the Sri Lankan military tortured and killed the Tamils and raped many women to invade the land where Tamil speaking humans are majority. On the other hand, the raped and dead bodies of Tamil women were used by the Tamil diaspora in their online media to further their nationalist propaganda. Both of them used women’s bodies as sexual objects and as a representation of Tamil nation.  This shows that even though Sri Lankan and Tamil nationalist movements differ in their nationalist perspectives, their entire gaze is based on a patriarchal, heterosexist and racist standpoint which dominate these nationalist movements. The hegemonic power of these ideas constructs women as objects, secondary human beings and sexualized bodies. Following this argument, my paper shows how Tamil women have been reduced to and used as objects, in particular as sexualized objects, by both nationalist movements.
The motivation for this essay was an uncensored YouTube clip ( and other war pictures which show the killing of Tamils by the Sri Lankan military. This clip and the pictures urge the discussion of how women’s bodies are gazed and used. In the book, Imperial Leather, Ann McLintock ( ) argues that white women are “ambiguously complicit,” in a complex social status as both oppressors and oppressed, privileged and restricted, and acted upon and acting (6). As a South Asian diasporic brown man, I also exist in a similar complex and conflict situation much like white women in their societies. The exception for me is that I am not a colonizer; rather I am colonized as a patriarchal heteronormative man. This is what Kimberle Crenshaw ( ) defines as intersectional identity (202) which is the multiple identities of a person who is privileged, underprivileged, oppressor and being oppressed. For example, I have many identities based on sex, gender, class and sexual and racial identity which are imposed by the society. I also have my own identity which I define for myself. However, in general, on one hand, as a man, I am privileged, particularly in the Tamil societies. But on the other hand, as a Tamil in Sri Lanka or as a brown diasporic human being in a North American white society , I am underprivileged.
With my intersectional identity, as a human, man, Tamil and feminist, I have some questions: does the person who was taking the video, and do I, as an observer, have the same gaze when looking at the dead and nude body of the female? Arguably, the person who took this video was a Sri Lankan military personnel and certainly the person was a man who gaze at this woman’s body from a patriarchal and racist standpoint. Then I looked at within myself and asked how am I looking at this woman’s body and is there any difference from the army person’s? I understood that, as both of us as men, we have a similar patriarchal standpoint of viewing a nude woman’s body, even though it was a dead body. However, both of us as different races or ethnic group have different feelings about the woman. Having been born and growing up in Tamil society, I identified myself with her race and her ethnic group and therefore, felt that she was part of the Tamil society. Hopefully, Sri Lankan army personal felt differently since he was a Sinhalese with a domination of Sinhala racist nationalist hegemonic ideology. In addition, as a feminist, I should question how Tamil nationalists are using these dead bodies, unconsciously from a patriarchal point of view, against the Sri Lankan government (GOSL) for the crimes they committed during the war. Why we as men gaze at women like this or as invaders rape and kill them, or as nationalist use them?
Patriarchy and nationalism, in general, represent and reduce “other” bodies, particularly women’s bodies, as matters and objects and also use them to represent a nation and its culture. Social scientists and feminists argue that human bodies and their sex, gender and sexual identities have been socially constructed as binary oppositions as a result of patriarchal heterosexual ideology (King, 275; Vance, 30).   In public spaces, for example, in a war situation or in a factory, all the human bodies including men’s and women’s are used and reduced to objects by the people who have power over them .  However, in both public and private spaces women are typically used and reduced to objects. The reason for this is that the hegemonic power of patriarchal heteronormative male gaze is common all over the world. However, it does not matter whether they are the oppressors or being oppressed, men (and women) see human bodies, particularly women’s bodies,   as “other”, and as objects that they can also used.  These men’s gazes and attitudes can be seen in the recent war which ended without any solution in Sri Lanka two years back.
Sri Lankan societies are divided by nationality, ethnicity, race, language, culture, caste and religion. In addition, it is also divided by sex and gender. The main conflict is that Sinhalese and Tamil societies (f.n.1) are divided as two nations in a single country, Sri Lanka. As Cynthia Enloe argues, they “have been shaped by a common past and destined to share a common future…and nurtured by a common language…and nationalism fostering those beliefs…” (222).  Nira Yuval-Davis  (2006)  extends this argument by stating that this “hegemonic national collectivity” constructs a particular ethnic group that is different and distinguishable from the “other.” (217). However, as she argues, some communities are not part of the “hegemonic national community” (Yuval-Davis, 1997, 7). Similarly, Tamil communities have been not recognized as a part of Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic national community. Even Tamil communities do not want to identify themselves under the Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic national identity. This created ethnic conflict in the country. Therefore, Tamils have been fighting for their self determination right, political aspirations, and dignity and respect for their race and ethnical identity.
In Sri Lanka, as Enloe argues, both groups are victims of colonization. The country had many kingdoms but after the colonization, it was united and ruled under one administration. It led to construct Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic ideology in the country after colonizers had left. Symbolically the name of the country was changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka. The result of this, as she argues, one of them [Sinhala Nationalists] have been the perpetrator of [Sinhala] racism while others [Tamils] have been its victims (Enloe, 222).  Since then, Tamil speaking human beings have been discriminated against and affected by this Sinhala racist state and its government. On the other hand, this does not mean Tamils do not exhibit racism. Even though Tamils are minorities and have less power within the supremacy of Sinhala nation, Tamil nationalists not only have racist attitudes against Sinhala people, but they also discriminate against other minorities such as Muslims within the Tamil communities. However, these difference does not give the right to anyone to oppress or carryout a war against Tamil-speaking human beings. 
The differences between these two nations, cultures, or ethnic groups have nonetheless been used to legitimize the ethnic conflict and war against Tamil societies. Therefore, the ethnic conflict between the Sinhala and Tamil societies became predominant. Sri Lankan governments have perpetuated this conflict through acts of racial discrimination, oppression, violence and war against Tamil-speaking societies in Sri Lanka. This discrimination and oppression led the Tamil youth or “boys” to begin an armed struggle against the Sri Lankan military in the late 1970s (Ismail, 1678). As a witness to the uprising of Tamil struggle, I knew, it included many Tamil armed groups, mostly men, from the middle and lower classes and also from various castes with different ideological backgrounds, at least in their political manifestos. Therefore, it is difficult to agree with Qadri Ismail’s claim that the Tamil boys were only from the upper class and upper caste which is a contradiction to my own experience (1677). However, in the struggle, as Enloe points out that, “When a nationalist movement becomes militarized… male privilege in the community usually becomes more entrenched” (225). This was no exception for the Tamil national liberation struggle also because Tamil people believed in the beginning that “our boys” or “movement’s boys” were going to fight and get freedom for them. Even though, there were few girls in the liberation movements but no one referred them as “our girls” or “movement girls”
Some of the rebel groups were not only conscious about caste and class struggle, but also about women’s struggle and they had their own women’s wings in their groups. It was reported by EPRLF that first female (child) combatant (Shobha alias Mathivathani ) was killed when attacking the Sri Lankan navy camp in Karainagar in 1985. However, in the beginning, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE/Tigers) were reluctant to recruit girls and women since they were dominated by patriarchal ideas and respected its cultural values more than other Tamil groups. However, there was a need of human power for the movement and the availability of women led them to recruit many girls and women into their armed groups. The Tigers group was one of the last groups to recruit them. There were many reasons for the recruitment, but it was not necessarily out of concern for women’s liberation or because of a feminist standpoint. Moreover, LTTE was neither a terrorists nor a Marxist group, as some intellectuals such as Georegina Nieves assert (9).
One of the reasons that the LTTE recruited women could be similar to what happened during the First and Second World War in the West: there were many men who went to fight, which led to a shortage of laborers to work and produce goods for use in the war, and women were used to fill that vacuum. In the same way, the Tigers also lacked men, but were aware of many women who were there with an urge to fight and an awareness of women’s freedom (Ismail 1768). Feizal Samath, Qadri Ismail, Georgina Nieves reported that the reason women participated in the movement might be because they believed that the rebels would give them freedom and respect their equality (, 2010; 1678; 12). Therefore, women were willing to participate in the struggle as combatants.   As a result, Samath writes, “females were welcomed into the Tiger fold; young, shy village girls turned into spirited young women, dressed in trousers and shirts, and carrying guns with authority” (, 2010).
However, Feizal Samath supports this by providing the example of Adele Balasingham, who was a British white woman married to Anton Balasingham, who was the spokesperson for the Tigers. She was seen seated along with her husband speaking as an equal. Samath also adds that this kind of scene could not be seen in Tamil society and therefore, Tamil women were attracted by this and believed in it (, 2010). However, Samath’s argument is patronizing and he forgets two things. First, he was not aware of Tamil women’s own awareness of their liberation and participation in the struggle, even before Adele Balasingham came onto the scene. Second, he lacks critical scrutiny and sees her only as a woman but forgets to see as a representative of whiteness and has privilege in these colonized societies. However, this criticism of Samath does not negate his insight that she made a contribution for the struggle. As Ruth Frankenberg points out, whiteness has a particular place in the social structure and has its own privileges even though location varies (2-3). Because of this representation of whiteness, Adele Balasingham has some kind of respect and power compared to not only Tamil women but Tamil men as well. This is because of the unconscious mind of Tamil society which is still being colonized and therefore respecting their former masters. This is similar to Fanon’s arguments about whether a black man or a white woman enjoys more power in a colonized society. However, Samath agrees that what Tamil women were imagining or expecting was an illusion within Tamil national liberation (, 2010).
Nimmi Gowrinathan points out that it is difficult to say what motivates women to participate in the rebel movements even though the increase of their participation globally is from 20% to 40% in the last decade. Women participants cannot easily be reached directly to confirm the reasons for their participation (37). However, Alisa Stack-O'Connor says that there were many reasons influenced the Tigers’ decision to recruit women into the group such as “tactical advantage against the GOSL, demographics, completion with other groups, and women’s demand for more active involvement in the group” (47-49 ). More important than all of these, the Sri Lankan government and their military’s brutality also intensified and, as Stack-O'Connor (49) points out, women became fearful of rape and sexual assault (49). Rape, torture and sexual assault against women have been sexualized tools regularly used in patriarchal wars. For these reasons, women were ready to participate in the struggle as combatants, even though, as Enloe argues, “most women’s past experiences and strategies for the future are not made on the basis of the nationalism, they are urged to support…” (222). It means that women’s liberation is not part of the nationalist struggle and which is not strategized based on feminism or women’s issues. As a result, Enloe’s argument was supported since women have been facing many problems during the Tamil national struggle: before the war, during the war, at end of the war, and in the war’s aftermath.
 Mclintock argues that race and gender have an intimate relationship (4). She continues that there are five major ways in which women have been implicated in nationalism: “as biological reproducers; as protectors of the boundaries of the nation; as active transmitters and producers of the national culture; as symbols of national difference and as active participants in the national struggle” (355). Inaddition, Nira Yuval-Davis argues that nationalism constructs “us” and “them” and uses women as symbolic “border guards” (219). In a war against another country or nation, women are one of the important targets, even before the land is occupied, they were raped and killed and this shows that oppressors have taken the control of “others” property. In addition, the nationalists also call their land as motherland which shows, as Edward Said argued, that “land is feminized” (Mclintock 14).  Moreover, “women” are as the boundary markers of ethnic/ racial community in the “host” of a nation (Mclintock 70; Gopinath 18). Furthermore, “women are…threshold figures. They facilitate the male plot… but they are not the agents of change. Nor are they conceivable heirs to political power” (Mclintock 70). This is how heteronormative patriarchal society not only constructs sex, gender and sexuality in a society with the hierarchal order and power but also women as objects by comparing to their land; as a representation of the nation and their responsibilities and status in a society.
  In general, the patriarchal gaze makes men to see women in a sexualized and objectified way. Therefore, men fantasize about women in terms of these men’s needs or wants.  In addition, Audre Lorde  says that because of the domination of sexist ideology,  men, think that they can dominate women (115). That is why, on the one hand, as Yuval-Davis   argues, “women … symbolize the national collectivity, its roots, its sprit, its national project. Moreover, … collective “honour” … [and they] can also signify ethnic and cultural boundaries” (219).  On the other hand, as Stuart Hall argues how Saatijt (Sarah) Baartman’s body was reduced to an object and her sexual body parts were used in exhibitions by colonizers in early 1800s (42-43). Still, even 200 year later, (Tamil) women’s bodies have been similarly sexualized, objectified and exhibited as mentioned earlier in the YouTube video and other picture depictions. That is why not only when women are alive but even after death, they are gazed upon, used, and treated as (sexualized) objects in patriarchal societies. In addition, McClinntock argues that women in general are reduced as reproducing machines because of hegemony of bio-power over women’s bodies (4). This shows that these women’s bodies are considered second class which is lower to men and they are also racialized. This encourages violence against women and makes it socially acceptable.
The depictions of dead bodies show that human bodies are used as objects and representations of a nation. It does not matter whether they, who kill the people, are Sinhalese or American, or Taliban or even Tamil militants, all have similar view and attitude towards the human body. As Stuart Hall argues, visual images and popular representation have been and continue to be deeply political. They do not simply reflect reality (428, 259). The video clip and pictures show that they are not just human bodies but they are racialzed as Tamil bodies, sexualized as women’s bodies and depicted as representation of the Tamil nation. That is why they were humiliated by Sri Lankan military. In addition, it also shows Tamil men’s patriarchal view about women’s bodies when they used it for their political propaganda.
The Sri Lankan military and Tamil (diasporas) media both see women and their bodies from a patriarchal stand point, but from different perspectives.  Both of them see these women as representatives of the Tamil nation. In addition, both gaze at and represent (Tamil) women as objects and also reduce them to soulless matter and use them. Nevertheless, they use them in different ways for their specific patriarchal and nationalist purposes. Therefore, Tamil women continue to be used as objects by both sides in the name of nationalism. As a result, women become the literal and figurative battleground on which ethnic nationalist ideologies play out (Gopinath 175).
The Sri Lankan military tortured, raped and killed Tamil women to show that they had occupied Tamil land, the motherland, by controlling their women. In addition, they represent Tamil women as sexualized and racialized bodies. Therefore, they also have used Tamil women to be gazed upon, killed, tortured, and raped as sexual objects and as representatives of the Tamil nation. For example, one of the Sri Lankan military personnel says pointing to the vagina of the dead woman’s body that “it is a good stuff” and another one says “shoot on the breast” (see the youtube) and another one says, the dead body “is still warm”.  This show how Sri Lankan military men gaze at Tamil women as racialized and sexualized body during the war.
On the other hand, what the Tamil nationalists did was not much better (f.n.2).  They also used these nude pictures and YouTube without censoring them when they were released first time to propagandize for their own course of punishing the Sri Lankan government for their war crimes ( (However, later everyone censored them). Tamil societies, particularly Tamil nationalist men, have the control of Tamil media and used and treated these women and their dead bodies as objects to represent their Tamil nation in their media. This shows as Gayatri Gopinath point outs that the diasporic nationalism is predicated on the notion of women’s bodies as communal property (163). However, it is not limited to diasporic nationalism even though they have more concern about their cultural values but in their country of origin too. During the Tamil nationalist struggle and war time, the dead bodies whether they were Tamils or Sinhalese were used to represent their nation and humiliated or respected according to their space and nation.
Tamil nationalists who are fighting for their freedom have a double standard when it comes to women’s issues. On the one hand, they have to fight for their freedom and use these images to punish the people who are responsible for this genocide. On the other hand, they are also using these images at least unconsciously from a patriarchal gaze and reducing women to objects. Therefore women particularly oppressed women suffer more by wedged between two men and their hegemonic patriarchal nationalistic standpoints.
In addition to being racist, both Sinhala and Tamil societies are typically traditional, patriarchal, heteronormative, and sexually repressive societies and have a conservative standpoint, particularly with regard to sex, gender and sexuality issues. Therefore, they are characterized by sex, gender and sexual discrimination and assign gender roles based on each sex like other societies (De Alwis, 676). As Edward Said (Eng, 2001, 190) figured out, one hand, women are agents of biological reproduction to cultural reproduction.  On the other hand, women are expected to be reproductive because of their cultural values which they must follow and respect. It is as if they are in a recycle system. In addition, in a South Asian society, male children are preferred over female; girls must be virgins before they marry; chastity is only required for women, but not for men. Brides’ families have to give dowries if their daughter wants to marry a man. However, the values of dowry depend on the man’s status in the societies. Furthermore, women who cannot conceive or who are widows are not respected and also not given important place in most social and family functions.

Therefore, in a national liberation struggle, women are stuck between both men oppressors and the oppressed (Ismail 1677). In the oppressed nationalistic standpoints, women are responsible for producing children, particularly male, to continue the national struggle and they are also responsible for representing their nation in the name of tradition and culture which are mostly based on patriarchal standpoints. Therefore, in the gaze of oppressors who have hegemonic nationalistic racist standpoints, women are the main and first targets when they invade the other nation. That is why, Enloe argues that for women “living as a nationalist feminist is one of the most difficult political projects in today’s world” (223).
In addition, Nira Yuval-Davis argues that gender roles play an important role in cultural
representation and mostly women are implicated with patriarchal nationalistic standpoints (218). Even though most nationalist liberation struggles are not class struggles, they are democratic struggles. However, (at least for Tamil liberationists) the struggles have been led mostly by patriarchs. Therefore, women are used as combatants and for other services, but have been limited in their power and space and cultural values which are mostly patriarchal and fundamentalist.   Because of this conflict and the lack of proper empowerment about women’s issues in the Tamil society, former women rebels face many problems when they come back to normal life. Like all other societies which struggled for a national liberation, Tamil society also did not welcome and accept former Tamil women rebels after the end of the war. The evidence for the patriarchal standpoints of the Tamil Nation over women fighters can be seen through the ways in which these women have been treated by Tamil society since the so called end of the war. One of the UN reports says that it is difficult for them to get a job or adapted to society again, even when they are willing to do so, because of the patriarchal social stigma against them (2011). The reason is, Tamil societies and their culture function as a barrier for the former women rebels to come back to normal life.
The societies follow traditional customs according to which women are not equal to men in every ways. These rebel women are considered as undisciplined and disobedient women who are not suitable for family life. In addition as Nira Yuval-Davis argues that it is also related to their sexual behavior (220) because these women are not going to be obedient and always be in passive and listen to their men as they were before or like their mothers or the way society expect them to live. Therefore, these former rebels, once up on a time rebel hero’s of liberation struggle, are degraded to lower level than other Tamil women in the society.                                           To wrap up, the construction of a human body as a matter without soul and the social construction of the “other,” make it easy for people to kill. In addition, the construction of “other” makes it easier for people not only kill but also torture and rape the “other”.  Judith Butler argues that ‘sex’ is an ideal construct which is forcibly materialized through time… [and]…achieve this materialization through a forcible reiteration of those norms” (1,2)  She continues that “as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter” (9). In the picture, we can see a person with a weapon in his hands ready to kill the person. In the video they repeatedly killed many people without any hesitation. The people in both video and picture belong to a particular group, race or ethnicity or nationality who can be an American, Taliban, Indian, or Sri Lankan or even Tamils. In these ways, the video and photos might represent what has been happening until now around the world.  For example, if it is viewed in a global context as, it can be, before 1950s the person who has the weapon might be a colonizer from Europe and the “other” might be a colonized person somewhere in Africa or Asia, or since the 1960s, an American or NATO soldier in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Soviet soldier in Eastern European countries, or after 1983 Sri Lankan soldier and a Tamil rebel, or Tamil militant and a Tamil civilian or a rebel from a different rebel groups and so on. Why is this happening? Just a simple reason is that the construction of “other” by the people who have the power. This construction of “other” has been rooted deeper within ourselves in different forms such as civilized and uncivilized or primitive, white and black,  Tamils and Sinhalese, men and women and heterosexuality and homosexuality and so on.
In conclusion, we fight for our freedom and on the other hand we also deny or oppress at least unconsciously “others.” This particular essay may be relevant to the Tamils and Sinhalese and their men and women, but can be read by white men and women, black men and women and so on. Every one of them who read it, are on the one hand oppressed on many levels for many reason in many spaces and a time. On the other hand, they are also oppressors in many spaces and levels in their societies. Most of us are concerned only about the oppression which we are facing, but are not aware or care about the oppression we are responsible for. For example, as Tamil men, we blame the Sri Lankan government for their oppression, but we “forget” or are not aware of what we are doing to the women in the Tamil societies or so called lower caste people. These same behaviors we can see in Sinhala people, white people even in Black people, and so on too. What we are not aware of is our intersectional identity of being oppressors and oppressed.   Therefore, developing more awareness is one of the ways to get rid of these conflicts. To end, Rajini Thiranagama once argued that, “if nationalism is a type of aggressive patriotism, then a concept of women’s liberation would be working against the inner core of such a struggle” (Ismail 1678). In addition, Cynthia Enloe points out that “if… [women are critical of patriarchal practices and attitudes and] a gendered tension will develop within the national community. This could produce a radically new definition of “the nation” (Ismail 1678). Therefore, this essay is not to blame who are responsible for the negative actions in the struggle or war but to interrogate our past actions and thoughts for the future struggle in better, developed and progressive standpoints.

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f.n:      1- Not considering Sinhala and Tamil people are one society but as many societies.
           2. even there was a Sri Lankan soldier covered the nude bodies.