The Shamed
© 1993 Michele Toomey, PhD
Information on purchasing The Shamed as a tape

They said not a word, yet their deafening silence blocked out any sound. They did not stir, but their immobility stopped all movement.

They were invisible, but in their view, nothing could be seen.

They were the shamed. Piled each on top of each. They lay there face to face. A fitting way for shamed and shame to meet.

Across the continents they reached. They covered all the earth. Their suffocating presence sucking out all the air.

No one could breathe. No one could move. Life stopped and time stood still. Only their mind's eye could look. Only their inner voice could speak.

But what to see or what to say? Better to stay asleep.

For years they slept and never moved, frozen in time and space. For years their blank forgetfulness hid them from the shame. Exposure could not catch them as long as they weren't awake. Who would desire to know such shame? Better to stay asleep.

Years passed and buried them in time. A whole world population lay crumbling in decay. These women of the world were rotting in their shame. They'd not been killed in body, but shame had killed their soul. The brutal acts of violence that physically destroy, were not the only villains that should have caused them fear. Obvious brutality had masked the silent crime. Without a sound it did its job 'til they died from hidden shame.

No one gave a second thought to how this shame was spread. They hardly took a note. Shame was a woman's dread disease passed on by being born. Perhaps if she pretended, it wouldn't get to her. So she would keep her silence, pretending she didn't know. But, hidden in her silence, only one thing was safe. The secret of the curse, buried with all the living dead.

So women kept silent. Generation upon generation of women came and went, each building on the shame. Their silence grew more sophisticated. Their shamed spirits more complex. But nothing ever changed. Nothing could change one very simple truth. The toxic fumes that shame creates, the silence that lets them spread, destroys the air and suffocates. It kills, then leaves its dead.

Disintegrating bodies formed soil that brought forth fruit. The young girls ate and so it went, year after year after year. The evolutionary cycle of silence feeding shame had ever been imprinted on every woman's genes. She had no choice, she had no idea, she just passed it on by rote. The years went by. The curse prevailed. There seemed to be no hope.

A woman's genes, the story went, were dangerous and to be feared. Each woman had to deal with it. Each woman had her part. To be born a woman was to be born to shame. In time self-loathing filled her heart. She'd learned her lesson well. Her shame had turned to loathing. She'd learned what she was taught. In fear and shame she hid from herself. She hid from others, too. Trapped within and trapped without, she felt she had no choice. She wondered about her fate. No answer satisfied her but in time her loathing turned to hate.

Hate gave her a sense of power. With it she felt less trapped. The anger it brought forth released her pent up soul. The burning rage exploded and gave her great relief. In time, the power that she'd gained was too big to contain. She turned and saw her daughters, reminders of her shame. "Aha!" she thought. "Now, here's my chance to get this thing off me. If I hate them and give them the blame, somehow I may get free."

So loathing them became their lot. It added to their shame. A daughter's curse was multiplied by her mother's blaming acts. So shame and loathing turned to hate brought women to their knees. Now to their mother's great dismay, instead of feeling free they were at a greater risk. What once was theirs to carry, was now theirs to create. The irony of ironies, they were their own worst enemy once shame had turned to hate.

The cycle got more vicious. It tightened in her grip. In escalating torment, with eyes bulging wide, the battle cry of women grew into a fierce but silent chant:

"If I am hated, I'll hate back!
My daughters bring me shame.
If I have girls I'll murder them!
They are the ones I'll blame!"

"Kill girls!", became her motto. "Kill girls and save the boys. To save myself I must have sons. They are my only hope. If I have girls I'll murder them. Their existence brings me shame. If I have girls I'll murder them. They are the ones to blame!"

The shame of it escaped them. The change was for the worse. Instead of being freed from shame they'd added their hatred to the curse. In an attempt to take their power and bring about a change, they'd made a grave mistake, these women who took their power from their shame.

As time went on and centuries passed, the shame and hatred grew. And then one day out of nowhere, a young daughter did take note. She was so ordinary, so plain and common, too. Yet, suddenly without any warning, she looked up and faced her crime. Turning to her mother, she asked in a pained voice, "What have I done to merit this? Whatever did I do? What is the reason for my shame? Mother, why am I hated, too?"

Startled, her mother looked back at her, and slapped her face in rage. "You are a woman. That's enough. Shut up and ask no more. You are a woman. Foolish one. Shut up and clean the floor!" Another blow across the face, just to emphasize the point. And then, as quickly as it had begun, the harsh encounter ceased.

The daughter felt the finger prints implanted on both cheeks. She looked into the mirror, and shocked, she looked again. The beet red welts were staring back and spreading across her face. They crept across without a sound, swelling as they moved. With deliberate speed they grew into one raw piece of flesh. Distorting all her features and covering both her eyes, they left only a tiny nostril hole and little slits of lids. She tried to speak, she tried to scream, but her mouth was swollen shut.

Stunned and shocked, she writhed in pain and fell in a crumpled heap. With muffled sobs she lay there, crying with no sound. For days she cried and never moved. The days turned into years. For centuries she never stirred, just silently cried on. But then one day it happened. One day she'd had enough. Her sadness turned to burning rage. She'd shed the final tears.

She stood upright and stretched her arms, reaching for the sky. Her blood surged through her body, charging it with life. She looked into the mirror and what she saw she liked. The woman that she saw there was such a wondrous sight. Her jaw was square, her skin was smooth, her eyes shone deep and bright.

She saw her face, she saw her strength. The vision sparked her soul. It generated an energy more vibrant than she had ever known. With courage and conviction she raised her voice and spoke: "My body has survived the curse. My spirit has been freed. There is not one shame that I will take. I'll not tolerate one single shameful deed."

With that she strode with confidence to face her mother's face. It had grown old and she was gray. Yet she had never moved. Not one thing had changed. So as they faced each other, the daughter had the edge. Her mother in stunned disbelief was no match as she began, "Mother, I am not dead! The shame you passed on to me must stop from this day on. Stop giving me your violence, your loathing born of blame. Stop hating us as women. Stop taking on the shame. If you must take it, take it. But can't you begin to see, if you give in and take the curse, you pass it on to me.

"The time has come to stop this curse, to stop it in its tracks.
We must no longer bear the shame. It's breaking all our backs.
The hate it spawns is deadly. It kills us one by one.
We must stand up and face it down. We can't just hide or run.
If you won't stand up to it, then I'll stand up to you.
Your hatred will not kill me. I'll do what I need to do."

"So, Mother, listen carefully. Protect myself I must.
If killing you will save my life, then that's what I must do.
If there's a choice, I choose my life. Your choice is up to you."

Wide-eyed and horrified, her mother bounded down the stairs. She ran for days and never stopped. She ran for months, then years. The awful shame of what she'd done weighed heavily on her mind. The awful shame was hers to carry now and for all time. Her feet were numb, her legs afire, but still she ran and ran. But then one day she stopped dead still. Her blame was running out. "Why is this all mine?" she thought. "What is this all about? Where does my mother fit in here? She first passed it on to me."

Perhaps it wasn't all her fault. Perhaps her mother could bear some of the blame. She turned around and headed back, to the home from whence she came. With tired body and aching soul she arrived at her mother's door. She cried, she sobbed, she ranted too, and then began to roar, "You evil witch! You wicked bitch! What have you done to me? You taught me shame. You taught me blame. You taught me hatred, too. And now my daughter's turned on me, so I must turn on you."

What happened next she's not too sure. She'll never really know. But flattened in the ground, it seemed her mother's rage had won. The cycle now had stopped for her. Death had brought her to the end. Now the deed was done.

She hid in death for many years, afraid to even think. The relief she felt was far beyond any she'd ever known. No longer was she caught in shame. The loathing now had ceased. And so the blame and hatred, too. She embraced her peace and dared not move. She'd not risk a single sound. The best escape she'd ever had was hiding underground.

Time passed, and as she hid she lay numb and never stirred. But one day out of nowhere she heard a calling from outside. The quiet stillness of her death was interrupted by a voice, "Mother, I've come back for you. Mother, please come forth. Your mother did what I thought I might have to do. But I have questions now to ask. I need to talk to you."

Her mother's eyes blinked open and then blinked shut again. She wanted none of this. What's more, she could hardly fathom what she'd heard. This talking from the grave. Her daughter must not get to her and get her all upset. She didn't want to talk to her and get herself disturbed. She kept her silence and lay very still, hoping her daughter would go away.

"Mother, wake up and pay attention. I'll never, never leave. I won't give up. I'll stay and beg. I'll cry and rant and rave. You'll have no peace 'til we have talked, you and me together to and from the grave. This evil cycle has to stop. I'm caught here in it yet. The shame of it still lingers on. We women are still split.

"I have no one to share with me the insight that I've gained. The shame keeps on as does the blame. The loathing still breeds hate. Mother, please wake up and talk to me before it's all too late."

Still no response. The years went by. She sat in silence, leaning on the mound. And when she finally gained more strength she spoke with a loud commanding sound,
"Mother, do wake up and talk to me this day. Death is not the answer, nor the fitting end. You gave me life, now choose your own, so you and I can mend.

"I'll never leave. I won't give up. I'll stay until you respond. Without your help I'm still caught in it, the curse continues in a new form. I never wanted you to die, and certainly not be killed. Your mother's rage got out of hand. Without her we won't be free. Go get your mother, and hers too and come and talk with me.

"There's something so terribly wrong with this. I go over and over it in my mind. What have we done? And what's been done to us? I am bewildered, and in a fog. I cannot fathom these shameful acts. Who is at fault? What is our crime? O Mother, what are the facts?"

It took awhile. It took some time, but gradually they came. Her mother and her mother's mother and mother's mothers more. The endless line of women kept on and on and on. For generations they rose up, these women born to shame. From every land, from every age, the daughters and mothers came. They were the old, they were the young, the living and the dead.

They covered every inch of space, these daughters of the world. They stood and wept together. They held each others hands. Their tears flowed freely round the earth. A giant sea spread over all the lands. And then in one joint chorus their weeping turned to song. The energy it created electrified the air. The stars came out, the sun shone bright, the moon rose in the sky. The wind was hushed, there was not a sound, except for the women's cry:

"We women are the messengers," they proclaimed.
"We women hold the key.
We are the mothers of the world
But daughters all are we.

"We are the mothers of the world
But we are daughters first.
It's time to stop the legacy
We must refuse to take the curse.

"Come stand with us
Come sing with us
Come change the cruel tone
If we must die, let's die as one
Never again to die alone.

"Let's break our silence, once and for all
Let's shout the truth we know
Let's pledge to trust each other
Let's hold hands and promise never to let go.

"We women are the messengers.
We women are the key.
The shameful deeds that have been done to us
Are ours to hate, not take
We must cry out
We must expose
We must dare to be outraged.
Our lives are all at stake

"The curse we took, we'll take no more
Nor will we pass it on.
With joy we join our voices
And hold each others hands
Together we reject the shame
Together we are free.
The silent curse on women
Is now exposed for all to see.

"We women are the messengers
We women are the key.
Together we are sisters
Together we are free."

This unity of spirit made sisterhood come true. Now women's hope for being free was known to one and all. The shame of womanhood need not have power if women refused to bow and take the fall.

The women's hearts were throbbing and pounding in their chest. They turned in wonder to each other and then looked each other in the face. And what they saw inspired them so they hugged and then they cried.

"We women are the messengers
We women are the key.
Come stand with us
Come sing with us
Come join in arm and song
We women of the world as one
Can right this woman's wrong.

"We will be safe
We will be free
We will love our little girls.
We will be proud
We will be one
We women, you and me.

"We women are the messengers
We women are the key
By coming forth and joining hands
We've changed our legacy.

"Come stand with us
Come sing with us
Come join in arm and song
We women of the world as one
Can right this woman's wrong."


This was the most difficult tale to write. I struggled, agonized and cried over it. At times I felt I hated writing it. Eventually, I came to love it. But the horrific truth of women's shame haunts me as I hope it will haunt you. We are "the shamed," but "the shame of women need not have power if we refuse to bow and take the fall."

If we do not "take the fall" we can, indeed, be the messengers who "right this woman's wrong." Only reading and re-reading, listening and re-listening, discussing and re-discussing this tale will provide enough depth and breadth to the power of this shameful message to carry the profoundness of its meaning.

It had to be that a daughter confronted her mother, and then her mother, as daughter, was killed by her mother when she confronted her. The legacy of shame comes down to us from the older generations, passed by them to the younger generation, to the daughters, so it is for daughters to call forth their mothers, for "daughters all are we."

Fearful mothers, however, may and do refuse to be called forth. But the greatest possibility of liberating ourselves from this most basic violation comes from mothers and daughters joining hands in sisterhood, as daughters who do not hate ourselves or each other.

Only by coming forth and joining hands can we unite in arm and song. "Women of the world as one, can right this woman's wrong."

It is my passionate plea that we do just that. It is for us to change our legacy.

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