By Lauren Herman
Like many researchers and authors, Amy Logan’s life work resulted from a life changing experience –- surviving domestic violence.
On the TEDxSacramento stage, Amy shared her journey of escaping a violent relationship that inspired her role as a researcher of gender-based violence, focusing on the origins of honor killing. It took her a decade of research before her personal journey of self-reflection and the stories of others were transformed into her book – The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice.
Amy is not the first to speak about this subject. She joins several TED speakers, including Meera Vijayann and Jackson Katz, who shed light on gender-based violence. TEDxSacramento was pleased to welcome Amy to bring her own story of hope and self-discovery to add to the TEDx library.
Like many victims, Amy did not report or seek help for the abuse she experienced. What is unique about her story is that Amy transcended into what she called a “spiritual quest” researching the gender-based violence -- honor killing.
Amy describes honor killing as “the murder of a female, usually by a male relative, for immoral behavior that brings shame to the family... killing the women is what restores the family honor.”
It was during her time as a journalist in the Middle East that she first learned about honor killing. From there, Amy began researching honor killing “like [her] life depended on it.” She felt a connection to the women she met and read about through the shared experiences of physical and mental abuse -- commonalities among women across borders, languages, nationalities, and ethnicities. Amy estimates that 20,000 honor killings occur every year worldwide, including North America.
Without knowing it, her research evolved into a healing process allowing her to understand, spread knowledge, and find the roots of how gender-based violence in the form of honor killing became normalized worldwide.
The Origins of Honor Violence and the Conspiracy of Silence
Amy discovered that researching honor violence was more difficult than she thought. She found many barriers to discovering its origins – something she describes as a “conspiracy of silence.”
She explained to the TEDxSacramento audience that, “what I didn’t expect to find was that honor killing appears to be one of the lingering legacies of a pivotal time of transformation in human history that has largely been swept under the rug.”
This “transformation” was the extinction of the “divine feminine” in religious worship throughout the world. Over the last 200,000 years of Homo sapiens, god-worship dominated only in the last 5,000-7,000 years. Before that, goddess worship was the primary form of religion worldwide, even in parts of the world where honor killing is most prevalent.
Many scholars believe cultures that worship goddesses are more likely to hold the status of women in high regard, thus with the loss of the reverence toward goddesses, the role of women forever changed. The loss of women in spiritual positions of power subsequently led to the loss of power of women in other political and social affairs as well. Amy argues that honor killing became socially acceptable following these shifts in perceptions of the value of women.
It Has Not Always Been a Man’s World – Challenging Patriarchal Systems of Today and Yesterday
Amy estimates that nearly 800 million women are affected by honor violence, even more are affected by other forms of gender-based violence. It is Amy’s wish that everyone learn of the revered role of women worldwide that was once lost, but is now realized. It’s in this discovery that our ancestors inspire us to think beyond the world we know today and demand a world we know we deserve.
Expressions of patriarchy do not only come in the form of physical violence. May we look beyond our own assumed histories to find patterns and origins of patriarchy, whether physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional violence, in our own society. Patriarchy seeps from both personal relationships and institutions worldwide; the Untied States is no exception, where women (compared to men) are less often in positions of influence and decision-making.
Whether it’s hanging out with my girlfriends talking about wanting nose jobs to improve our physical appearance or smiling at a sexist remark made by a male co-worker rather than speaking my mind, I unknowingly subscribe to and enforce patriarchy in my society.
Being more conscious about how we interact and live in systems that put women at odds against their potential, simplifying them to subdued creatures of existence, is a start. Take a note from Amy; subscribe to your own form of civil disobedience against patriarchal systems that we assume have always and will always exist. Asking these questions will challenge us and prove that our present does not have to be our future.