Tag Archives: Looking for Esperanza

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please. by Adriana Paramo

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please.

by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserI don’t know what disturbs me more: that India would consider fighting sexual violence against women by weaponizing their underwear or that the brains behind this device are not social scientists but three automobile engineering students who named this nugget SHE, Society Harnessing Equipment.

The three young undergraduates devised, and are about to commercially launch, a line of lingerie equipped with GPS, GSM capabilities and pressure sensors designed to deliver 3,800kV- shocks upon activation. The attacker gets up to 82 shocks and the GPS and GSM systems alert the police as well as the girl’s parents.

The concept, as innovative as it might be, saddens me beyond words. The SHE represents to me a declaration of surrender; it says that men are hopeless brutes incapable of learning the basics of mutual respect and common sense and because their feral lust and insatiable hunger for power over women wreak havoc in buses and public spaces alike, it is necessary to lace one’s panties with modules, wires and stun generators. Conversely, I believe the SHE is also a declaration of war against women’s sexuality. The designers of the anti-rape device haven’t been able to find a suitable material in which to pack their rather bulky invention. I cringe at the thought of these three kids working in a lab, stuffing their gadget into panties made of parachute material one day, and spacesuit stuff the next. A woman’s underwear is not a weapon or a shield, and definitely it’s nobody’s business; we like it soft and comfy; and whether it’s made of cotton, nylon, satin, silk or a concoction of synthetic fibers, how I cover my crotch is a decision devoid of social malaises, technological innovations and political agendas.

SHE is a technological response to a social crisis of global proportions. Sexual violence against women is rampant in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, Botswana, Brazil, Peru, and sadly, many other countries. Rape is not a malfunctioning machine, it’s not a glitch in the system, or a Trojan malware threatening to steal my credit card details. SHE can’t be nor should it be used as a technological response to a social issue, just as bulletproof backpacks for schoolchildren are not a solution to the problem of the proliferation of weapons in the street.

For the record, I have never been raped, but this does not keep me from hurting when I read or hear about women being raped. That I haven’t been a victim of any form of sexual assault doesn’t make me less sympathetic, less worried about women’s safety, less keen on severely punishing those already found guilty of sexual assault; on the contrary, it makes me more determined to find viable solutions to this social calamity and I know that a gadget is not one of them.

I also know that opposing the weaponization of underwear, with calculated words and from the safety and comfort of my office, may seem trivial and worlds apart from the quotidian fear of the young women recently gang-raped in the United States, Brazil and India (New Delhi is the current rape capital of the world). Writing about “it” is not the same as living through “it.” Yet, as a writer of women’s issues, words are my only weapons and so I use them now to object to the placing of gizmos in women’s underwear as a deterrent to rape.

SHE is not a desperate measure or the last resort after an endless list of tried-and-failed solutions to India’s endemic sexual violence. Little has been done so far to identify the source, treat and uproot the problem. President Pranab Mukherjee has recently given his assent to the Anti-rape Bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape. That’s a start but it’s not enough. The ultimate goal should not be to punish the attacker but to reduce the number of and eventually eradicate all sexual assaults; a task that can only be accomplished through radical changes in the mindsets of both men and women.

  • Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes to female police officers and medical examiners. The recruitment of women in those two areas seems paramount.
  • In response to the recent gang-rapes in India, a legislator suggested to forbid skirts as a way to curtail sexual crimes. This notion that women bring rape on themselves by wearing provocative clothing is widespread and sadly not exclusive to Indian mentality. A woman deserves respect whether she walks down the street in a miniskirt and cowboy boots or under a black robe.
  • Hatred, like love, starts at home. Children raised in violent homes where wife-beating is the norm, are likely to perpetuate the cycle as adults. The acceptance of domestic violence, so rampant in many cultures and subcultures, emphasizes the roles of men and women as victimizer and victim.
  • A raped woman is perceived by some as “damaged goods,” and in India this translates into unmarriageable material. A girl’s prospects of marriage are more important than bringing her rapist to justice and for this very reason, she might be forced to compromise and either marry her rapist or drop the charges altogether; a conundrum that is increasingly leading rape victims in India to commit suicide.
  • The widespread belief that rape is about power and control desexualizes the assault. If the only motivation for a rape is the desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade the victims through the use of physical violence and intimidation, sexual gratification would not be a part of the equation, but it is, because without the sexual element the assault is not rape.

My main concern with this SHE gadget is that it changes the rules of the dialogue. It moves into the technical field that which belongs in the social realm. All of us, not just Indians, need to educate our boys and girls, re-educate our teenagers, campaign for violence-free homes, instill respect for women’s sexuality, and enforce a zero-tolerance law to punish sexual transgressors. My guess is that if a society channels its resources towards education, therefore, prevention, fewer shelters, support groups, crisis centers, hotlines and other social band-aids will be needed.

The other problem with gadgets is our tendency to refine and extrapolate their function. What comes after the weaponization of women’s panties? Bullet-firing bras à la Fembot? Pedophile-proof diapers? Tear-gas spitting mobile phones for our daughters? The sky is the limit.

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in dialogue and respect. Call me a dreamer, but I have infinite faith in my male counterparts and their universal potential to be good men. Call me oblivious, but I refuse to weaponize my panties. So here’s my answer to the three Indian students: I know you have women’s best interests at heart. Thank you. However, I think your invention is misguided and rather than to uproot the problem, it deepens it. I think you are young and have the time and passion required to come up with viable solutions, but for the time being, leave our crotches alone. Please.

 About Adriana Paramo

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo is a Colombian writer, born in cold Bogotá but raised in Medellín, The City of Eternal Spring. She is the author of “Looking for Esperanza,” published by Benu Press, winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction, and listed in the Top 10 Latino Books of 2012.

Learn more about Adriana Paramo and her work here.

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2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.


DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

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DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo,  Gobi Desert

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart

by Adriana Paramo

Sixty million years ago, this part of the Gobi desert called  Bayanzag was the bottom of an Ancient Sea. The place is known as Flaming Cliffs and if anyone has ever heard of them it is because of the dinosaur skeletons and eggs that have been discovered there.

The Flaming Cliffs are not the Grand Canyon or the Badlands. They are quite unimpressive. Really. And if it wasn’t because the sunlight reflecting off the cliff walls makes the formations look more spectacular than they really are, you could drive by and miss them.

Yet, I love these two tiny words: Flame and Cliff.
Both so inherently dangerous.

Flame conjures up images of things set ablaze, things that burst into strident blasts of angry red and hues of passionate orange.

The word flame makes me think of my middle school years when girls used to remove the hair on their arms by passing a candle rapidly over them.  They burned the hair off their arms to make them caressable, to offer them naked and soft to boys with clumsy hands and sticky fingers.  They singed the fuzz on their arms out of love. So that they were welcomed and accepted and kept.

But only little girls do such silly things. When they grow up so does their pain, the caliber of their offerings, and their boldness. Some of them favor self-immolation over singeing. They offer themselves in sacrifice by setting their whole bodies ablaze.  They do it as a form of protest, of martyrdom, out of scorn. They sacrifice their flesh and bones in the name of love. Afghan women wishing to escape abusive marriages, Tibetan nuns protesting Chinese rule, Indian widows seeking eternal love throw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres.

Think heat, your skin peeling off, first crispy then waxy like a candle left out in the sun. Think pain, the fat of your body coloring the flames with traces of bleeding green and tender yellow, turning your midriff into a volcanic blow torch.

Flames. Kisses. Passion. That short-of-breathness, the giddiness of a torrid affair, the first love, the first kiss, the first time. Consuming flames that devour and destroy, leaving nothing behind but a mound of smoldering twigs.


I once loved a boy who loved alcohol more than he loved me.
“Why do you drink so much?” I asked him one day.
“Because I like how it burns my throat,” he said. “It’s like a flame rushing down my windpipe all the way to my belly. You wouldn’t understand.”

I didn’t.

Cliff.  That’s the word that comes to my mind when I think of roller coasters, paragliding, bungee-jumping, sky-diving and gravity-defying stunts, a list that comprises my worst fears. I’m afraid of free-falls, of losing control, of letting myself go. I imagine how splendidly irrevocable the pull of gravity must be as one goes off a cliff.  The word cliff evokes memories of that last scene in the movie Thelma and Louise when the women are cornered by police only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. They weigh out their options and rather than to be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail they decide to keep going. Thelma steps on the accelerator and drives the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible over the cliff.

I once loved a boy who loved his mother very much. On one Mother’s Day, after a weekend out in the country with pals and cheap booze, he drove to his mother’s house. He was too drunk and drove too fast. He missed a bend and his car flew off a cliff. It was a difficult rescue, the firefighters later said. The boy was tall and skinny; he wasn’t wearing a seat belt; the car catapulted his body into the air first, and later into the belly of the cliff.
The casket was sealed.
No one was allowed to see his mangled body.
A gaping abyss swallowed him whole.


“The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart” was reprinted with permission from Adriana Paramo’s blog, TWL. Travel, Write, Live.


Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Adriana Paramo

Adviser Adriana Paramo is a Colombian writer and cultural anthropologist who, following research in Kuwait and the United States, advocates for immigrant women’s rights. She designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps, reflected in her CNF manuscript, “Desert Butterflies.” Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, will soon be published by CavanKerry Press.  Learn more about Adriana Paramo here.

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo wrote about her extensive work with Florida’s immigrant farming community in her book, “Looking for Esperanza,” the winner of the 2011 Benu Press Social Justice Award in Creative Nonfiction.

Looking for Esperanza: The Story of a Mother, a Child Lost, and Why They Matter to Us chronicles Paramo’s fieldwork and the anonymous voices of the women she encounters while looking for the mother in the story. It also yields the heartbreaking reality of life for these unvalued women who are treated, in Paramo’s words, “like meat scraps on the cutting board.”

Across Florida, in vegetable fields, citrus groves, ferneries, and packing houses, Paramo finds what she describes as “an underground subculture of hungry undocumented women, a hidden world of wage slaves, a microcosm of false names, false Social Security numbers, and false hopes.”

The book concludes with a collage of thoughts from various undocumented women, including one that captures the hopes that compel these women to make the choices they make: “I pray that my children remember me; I ask God they don’t forget that I left Mexico for their own good, so they could have a better life.”

Purchase the book on Amazon.com here.


Writing for Peace News:

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Participation certificates will begin going out this month. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine


Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.