In the deep recesses of our minds we never imagine that we could be the victims of the things we stand and fight against. The reality is that these things are never too far from us; there is no running away from them-one can only stand and fight.
The protagonist in my story had the misfortune (or maybe some will perceive it as good fortune) of meeting and falling for a man from a deeply patriarchal family. The family’s idea of the perfect partner for their son/brother/nephew was one of a woman less educated than him, insignificantly younger than him-she just could not be older-even by a few months. She was not supposed to have household furniture because he did not yet have any. The jury was out, our protagonist was not good enough for this family’s son/brother/nephew. She was too old for him, too ‘ahead of him in life’ embarrassingly shallow as the concept may be-they said.
I am the protagonist. In my mind many possibilities could explain the final rejection-an unceremonious end to a seemingly beautiful relationship. 1. He never loved me. 2. He did not love me enough to stand and fight. 3. He loved me; he fought but still succumbed to the pressures of his family. But what difference does it make-in the end they won- because the relationship ended.
I ask myself a number of questions to which I cannot find answers. What, about an empowered woman, threatens a man or his family to such an extent that they would break up a relationship? What is it about a woman who earns more than the men she is involved with or has achieved more than the man even though they are of the same age could be considered as inappropriate? What part of-‘she is educated, employed and self-sustaining’ is an automatic diminisher of a man’s testosterone levels that he should feel emasculated and lesser of a man than he actually is?
Thing is, I grew up as the daughter of an empowered woman. From age five, when my elder sisters- who happen to be 11 and 12 years older than me- were teenagers, I would hear my mother say to them, “My daughters; a woman must do something in her life. You have to have a job. You must be able to take care of yourself. Never ever be dependent on another human being because when that person is no longer there, you could be driven to abject poverty.” And so from a tender age my aspiration was to be a self-sufficient, independent woman. Today I am a 28 year old college educated and employed female; earning a reasonable sum of money, living in my beautiful colourful sanctuary, driving my own car and as many would put it-with ‘almost’ everything going for me.
So would society be happier if I wasn’t who I am? Would it make a difference if I had the same level of education but have a lousy job? Would the conservative patriarchs be happier with a do’s and don’ts manual to which women religiously abide to ensure that men’s financial prowess is never challenged? Would a manual that reads like this; be their prelude to their self-created heaven on earth…
|Do not buy a bed until you get a husband, he may wonder who else besides him has slept in it.||Sleep on the floor even if it breaks your ribs and wait to buy a bed with your husband. Your marital pallet must be pure.|
|Do not buy a set of sofas until you get a husband.||Sit on the floor even if it gives you pneumonia and wait to buy a set of sofas with your husband or better still better find him with his own, that way he will be the man of the house.|
|Do not buy a car before you get married.||Be content being chauffeured by your beau, that way he knows exactly where you are each moment because he would have taken you there himself.|
|Never ever be more successful than your husband-in anything.||Stick to your lowly job, or better still quit it and become his cheerleader. He will love you for polishing his crown than have you as his queen.|
|Do not buy a television before you settle down.||Read newspapers and allow your beau to take you to the cinema once in a while so he feels important for being the force behind your discovery of who James Bond is.|
|Never have a fatter bank account than that of the man you date.||Spend your money on frivolities to ensure you are always broke. If need be, become an (in)voluntary philanthropist so that you never have more than your male partner.|
Mine is a classic case of the battle for supremacy of societal perceptions, a live performance in which the stage is life, the characters are masculinities and gender and the winner is patriarchy. I have experienced-firsthand- the role that society, including other women plays in building perceptions that alienate women who challenge tendencies considered to be the norm. It is the norm for a woman to be taken of, to be dependant on a man, to live in his shadow as the Mrs of a successful Mister. Anyone who dares to be the exception faces rejection and indeed I faced rejection but I am not going to be a slave of some people’s warped sense of male-worth, neither shall I be someone else’s cheerleader. If there is ‘A’ man- let him be man enough to realise that there is depth of character in standing by a driven or successful woman, cheering her onwards and upwards and not succumbing to other people’s perception that he is living in her shadow.