They raise her to take a knee before man. To accept defeat as a natural born state. But she has never known war. She was born into conflict. A conflict so unfair. A conflict so deceptive.
They keep her in hell whilst promising her heaven. They leave her poisoned and starving, whilst eating from the bread of life. And the karma shows. It shows.
When was it okay to kill her in the name of God. Who made it okay to chastise her for the sake of Heaven.
It is within her that humanity takes its first breath. She gives them life and this is how they have repaid her. They declare her a second class citizen…a second class being…They instruct that her voice needs permission to be heard. They change her regal script of sovereignty and strength and declare her weak, a pinnacle of temptation, a fortress of sexual deceit and manipulation. They create the idea of submission and obedience, as a way to control her progress; to stamp out her beauty; to keep her as a glorified slave in her own home. But there is no glory in being a slave. Show me the glory in being stripped of your rightful place. Your rightful honour.
How can she support something that tells her she is responsible for a world of temptation and sin. Surely, her history has been plagiarised and rewritten. The secrets of her origins are held within the soils of the Earth, and it grieves the truth of her. And in turn, she grieves in a way that man will never know.
Samson would never be the same because of her. She is only deemed the all powerful, when blame needs to be shifted. God forbid that the walls of patriarchy would ever take account for being tainted by the very thing that it has used to rule and abuse her. But all hail Samson; the personification of a mans world paying the price through karma. Whilst you write stories of lies, we remember who instructed Delilah.
She is programmed to believe that her elevation has no place in this universe. She is taught that her value can only come through another.
So it’s no wonder she has a pent up anger inside. And it lingers. Perhaps because these injustices are still so evident all around her. It has followed her around like an invisible friend for as long as she can remember. And I say friend, because I guess it was the only thing besides herself, that saw what she saw, in the way that she saw it. They shared a problem, figuratively speaking.
You see, I was just a girl, who was born into a family with both man and woman present. An ideal and immediate dynamic to protect and nurture my growth – they claim. But the things to come were not pretty. The things to come were not normal at all. In fact, they were very much dominated by a “man’s world” way of life; where women were still asking for permission to be and to do.
Surprisingly, it was the suffragette era that birthed me but I wonder whether this was just a sick manipulative game to keep the oppression of “her” in place. Because this was a time where the UK saw it’s First female elected to run a political party…to lead a country…There was a Queen on the throne of the British empire…All symbols of equality, but the story behind a woman’s closed doors was a very different one. And I was just a girl, behind a closed door.
My first lesson: Turning a blind eye
I learned very quickly, at a tender age, the gender dynamics that were in play in our world. From the beginning right up to 10 years old, the lessons would be harsh. Practically married to a man whose father believed that women should be seen and not heard; who also believed that women should be silenced with a backhand or a belt, if they failed to honour and obey the “man of the house” – was the life of the woman I call mum.
You see, love is taught to a woman very differently to how it is taught to a man. I watched from the cracks of my bedroom door what love was supposedly made up of. A woman loving and supporting a man who was raised on hateful, abusive and condescending ways. All flowing through to his own life and his own family.
I remember the visit to my grandparents house one weekend. She had conjured up the courage to speak out on his abusive ways. She was at her wits end. And I was probably way ahead of her, to be honest. The elders were consulted for advice, for guidance, for some sort of support. Most importantly, this was a moment of exposure for the unspoken struggles and pain of a woman. She was on her knees. Pleading for help.
As a young girl eager and hopeful that this would be a life saving moment for all of us, I listened in to what became a heart crushing turn of events. The worry quickly turned away from the bravery of a woman exposing her unpleasant truth, to what would happen when we got home. For this truth, this gut wrenching truth, had fallen on deaf ears and cold hearts. Shockingly but perhaps predictable for the time, she was greeted with the sounds of patriarchal rule, instead of being met with compassion and complete distain for stories of such controlling and violent behaviour.
Whatever hope I had in justice at that point in my premature journey, was snuffed out. There was little hope for a woman – was the message being pumped through my veins. I was a helpless addict being fed a drug of patriarchy’s choice.
The elders reaffirmed that the only way for her to achieve peace in her household, was to “listen and obey her man”. Their son.
The maternal elder in this conversation (my grandma), was in complete shock. But I’m not sure it was from the right perspective. She seemed more challenged as a parent who had somehow failed to do her job properly. It seemed like a foreign language to her to learn that her son was the perpetrator of such wrongs. But I barely remember her being able to express much of this. The beauty of young children is that they can read people on different frequencies. I learnt to pay attention to the right things. Her body language was one of disgust but verbally, she was a united force. Her obligation, I mean “her place”, was to show solidarity and agreement towards her husband’s views.
I’ve heard that she went through similar abusive trials, which was difficult to comprehend amidst the perfect family pictures that were put on display (mainly at church each Sunday service). All of this submission, just to preserve the privileges brought to one gender. A gender esteemed by itself. I just couldn’t understand it. Were I to allow men to have their way with me too then? Did I not fight my perpetrators hard enough when I was sexually abused in high school? And whose fault was that? As I grew older, I grew with a fear that there was really no shelter or protection for the “her” that was me. I had a distinct battle to choose; the love of myself and a lifelong struggle untold or the love of a man and perhaps a somewhat quiet life.
The worst thing about exposing a really bad situation is when it is met with disbelief, a lack of support, compassion and empathy. If the receivers of this information are blind to what you are sharing or are just too privileged or powerless to help, it is a huge injustice to the one sharing. What is interesting is that my mum was seeking permission to disagree with the abuse she was being subjected to. Daily. Just think about that for a minute.
What a cold world to exist in as a woman.
When we got home that night after visiting my grandparents, it was clear that this exposure was not collectively agreed beforehand. She ended up paying for what my father described as an attempt to “embarrass him” in front of his parents. No remorse. No reflection. Just embarrassment. In his mind, she had made him look like he had lost control of “his woman” and “his family”. So, although my mum had taken a risk to “disobey” this authoritarian rule, it seemed that we were all unable to escape. Her back was truly back against the wall, with no place to go. Because now people knew her struggle, but it had been written off like a bad debt by the “mans world” code of conduct.
In my eyes this was not the rise of equality, this was the “turning a blind eye” era.
Do not be labelled by your oppression: My second lesson
I believe a feminist was born in me during this era of my life. Such a premature mind with no idea the fight that she had entered into, just by being a girl.
But I’m not sure if I can call myself a feminist. I’m not sure if I want to. I’m not sure whether a hate for patriarchy and male entitlement / privilege qualifies me to be one. I’m not sure this was the point of feminism. Hate in and of itself cannot be the driver for anything good. Surely. Perhaps I am just angry. And maybe this doesn’t warrant a label. Or further justification. My real point is that we shouldn’t need an “ism” to justify our views on and desires for equality.
My observation is that labels are being used as bandage aids to signify progress in places where there is none. We should not be distracted by a “pretty story”. Because what does it matter that we have female leaders, Prime Ministers, CEO’s or increasingly equal pay or an equal place in democracy…when in fact, behind closed doors things are still the same.
I was just a girl, being taught very harsh lessons and truths about the significance of things not being as they actually seem. Surrounded by public displays of female equality accolades when in fact, every morning, the neighbours would turn a blind eye to screams that they heard through our walls the night before – exchanging a pleasant “good morning” to me on my way to school instead.
As a woman, I now see the importance of striving “to be” rather than just “to seem”. In everything. I do not need anybody to give me an “ism” for that.