I was recently invited by a fellow blogger, PATRICK STORIES, to give my opinions on feminism. I am blessed to live in a society – and to be in a marriage – where I do not often have to give the matter all that much thought. Still, PATRICK STORIES writes with such passion on the subject that I decided to give the topic a ‘go’. I do hope you check out his blog…
When I was aged 15 or so, my best friend told me that my expectations of love were unrealistic. “Your problem,” she told me emphatically, “Is that you’re in love with the idea of love. You have this image of Prince Charming swooping in to carry you off on his magnificent steed to a gilded castle where little birds eat from your hands and soft music plays in the background.”
Her words had the ring of Truth with a capital ‘T’ but still, I stubbornly chose not to listen. I DID want the fairy-tale. I DID want the ‘Happily Ever After”. I chose to ignore her words and instead, forged ahead toward adulthood with my illusions intact. A few short years later, the first person I gave my heart to would throw it away and crush it under his heel for good measure as he walked away.
Fifteen years after that, as I struggled to pick up the pieces of my life post divorce with a three-year old and a five-year old in tow, I often had cause to go back to the conversation I had had with a wise-beyond-her-years friend who had shown me my future in a looking glass even as I turned stubbornly away from the truth.
In the early months post divorce, I was too gutted to be anything but devastated. I felt lost; bereft; unloved and unwanted. I felt like discarded trash. Added to the shock and the stigma of divorce, the funding that had been keeping me in part-time contract work fell through and I found myself jobless at exactly the same time. For six months or so, I barely slept. Anxiety had me up before the sun, pacing and worrying. My mouth – which abruptly went dry when my Ex told me he wanted a divorce – stayed as dry as a desert for many long months. I was so nauseous I had to force every single bite of food I ate. I shed five dress sizes as effortlessly as one would shed a pair of jeans.
Thank God for my children, though. I couldn’t afford to lick my wounds forever. They needed their mother to be strong and self-sufficient. Within six months, I had found a minimum-wage job and went about the business of picking up the pieces. Eventually, I would leave the sorrow and the disappointment behind.
Instead, I got angry. Really angry.
For many long years, no man would have been foolish enough to approach me and ask me on a date. In my bitterness at discovering that there was no such thing as Prince Charming, I transferred all of my rage from my first love and my Ex to Every. Single. Man. On. The. Planet. I wore my anger like a shield. It preceded me into every room; every conversation. As I gradually became more and more strong and self-sufficient, I was determined ‘never to need a man for anything, ever again’.
Enter Best Friend Number Two.
“You do realise,” said Best Friend Number Two as she gently but firmly took my hand in hers, “That you have a son and a daughter who are watching every move you make? Sweetie, your son is going to BE a man someday. And how he feels about being a man will hinge greatly on the attitude his mother has toward men. Not to mention: is this really the behaviour you want your daughter to emulate?”
Well no, I didn’t.
I have gotten much better at recognising The Truth as I have grown older. That one conversation would change everything for me – and for my children. It has followed me – guided me – ever since. It allowed me to let go of my anger. It allowed me to embrace the man my son would eventually become. It allowed me to raise a daughter who loves and respects herself; who expresses her opinions and lives her own truth. Eventually, it allowed me to open my heart to the man who WAS meant to be my husband: through thick and through thin; for better and for worse; ‘til death us do part’.
Giving marriage a second chance hasn’t been easy. I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy. But it has been an equal partnership, built on love, mutual respect, daily courtesy and a great deal of compromise. I can be controlling and compulsive, especially when it comes to cleanliness. I like to abide by the rules. I stay under the radar and I don’t like to make waves. My husband flies by the seat of his pants, always questions rules and authority, and uses my best dish cloths to clean the car.
When it comes to the big issues, however, we are a team: money matters – no matter how insignificant – are always discussed together. Both of us believe that housework should be shared and curiously, each of us thinks that the other does ‘the most housework’. We are a little unconventional: all those years on my own forced me to learn a great many skills generally taken on by the ‘man’ of the house. My husband’s mother was very ill when he was young and as an only child, he learned to do most of the chores that normally, a ‘mom’ would do. So, he cooks; I do the dishes. I fix the things that are broken; he mows the lawn and gases up the car. I do the vacuuming; he mops the floors. Together, my husband and I have equally agreed upon every single step of our marriage. We both strive to give 100%. Every. Single. Day. And yes, despite all that, there have been days when we could both cheerfully have knocked the other into next week.
I was asked, recently, if I am a feminist.
The thing is, just like all those years ago when I decided to hate every single man on the planet based on a few bad experiences, I do not wish to exclude 50% (or so) of the human population by using a word (‘feminism’) that only refers to one – of two – sexes. I believe men and women are supposed to be in this thing together. I believe we are supposed to work together; to honour one another’s contributions; to combine our strengths; our talents; our aptitudes; our gifts…
I believe we are supposed to raise one another up.
I know that this is rarely how it works. I know women in (way too) many countries have no rights at all. I know that even in the most enlightened societies, women are still generally at a disadvantage. But I choose to believe that, one relationship at a time, we can be better; do better. Tribalism – no matter between whom – never serves but to divide people and to create chaos, discord and mistrust.
So no, dear PATRICK STORIES, I do not think I am feminist. I am more of an egalitarian. I know I sit on a lonely perch. I know this must anger a great many people who espouse a more ‘traditional’ viewpoint regarding the rules of men and women in society; in a relationship.
But perhaps one day, many, many others will choose to join me.
It is quite lovely here…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com