(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 18 Dec 2005)
What do I want for Christmas? I am a simple lady with very distinctive taste, so it is not easy to shop for me unless you know me very well. Creative types can be so eclectic some times (just look at Freddie) and my tastes and distastes change on a constant basis.
On top of everything else, I adore old world charm. I love history so much that at times I would trade the conveniences of modern life to fight alongside Joan of Arc or help Cleopatra scheme her way through another political mess or love affair. How great would it have been to fly with Amelia Earhart? Except that I would have wanted a return flight ticket.
The one reason I should probably remain in the 21st century is because I could never fall into that submissive woman role. I love that my Guyanese guy has been man enough to insist on equity in our relationship from the very start, which was over 20 years ago now.
I am reading a book this week just for fun. It has no screaming political message and nothing to be learned – aside from a life lesson. The book is called, “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. I have never read any of his books before, but I try to be open to new adventures. This story is set during World War II in the Southern States of the US.
Yesterday I read a tragic part of the story, perhaps the most tragic point of any story, where the heroine of the book tells of how she sacrificed her own desires and talent to conform to societal expectation. Sadder still is that this was forced on her by her own mother, who probably had to do the same thing when she was young.
Evidently the young female character was a gifted artist who loved to paint. However, her well-to-do parents felt it was inappropriate for a lady to pursue these types of endeavours. So she stopped painting.
If someone ever told me that I would have to stop writing, which is also a creative outlet for me, I think I would die inside - as I suppose millions of women have done throughout the centuries when they have been told they could not pursue their dreams. Imagine all of the masterful doctors, brilliant scientists and talented artists that never had a chance to develop only because they were women.
I have a deep appreciation for art and I love the work of the Masters like Da Vinci and Michael Angelo. At the same time I often tire of seeing history through only a man’s eye. Where are the female masters from the Renaissance? Where are the female lawyers in history?
Moreover, where are the great female religious leaders? Even now it is unusual to see a female minister and the thought of a female pope is still beyond the reach of the contemporary mindset. Is it that women are not spiritual? We all know that is far from the truth, if anything women are more spiritual – and capable leaders as well.
So what prevents us today from conceptualising a female pope? Society has not yet moved far enough away from its patriarchal mentality to envision a world where women can fully develop into the intelligent and capable beings they really are inside.
No female Catholic today could dream of one day being a pope. She is restricted by the mentality that she is somehow less of a human than a man. Society still imposes this mindset on women. There are men who degrade and expect submission and there are women who allow this behaviour thinking it is normal.
However, it is far from being normal. It is the exact opposite of being normal. One gender is no better than the other gender. Each gender may have its own physical and social characteristics, but the physical differences are for nothing more than the survival of our species and the social differences are quite often a result of environmental stimuli rather than an encoded and unchangeable behaviour.
In fact, it is interesting to see that the more equitable an environment, the more androgynous the behaviour from both genders. This suggests that the social qualities often linked to each gender are in fact trained behaviours.
For example, it is believed that all women are naturally nurturing, when in fact this could be a trained behaviour resulting from a doll she was given as a child – a toy often withheld from most boys. The girl learns to be nurturing with the doll and the boy does not.
On the other hand, it is thought that men are naturally more aggressive than women. However, this aggressive behaviour could instead be a result of a boy watching the same aggressive behaviour from his father, uncles and brothers and assuming this is the way boys are to behave and therefore mimics the behaviour.
Aggressiveness is thought to be natural in men and nurturing is thought to be natural in women, however I know very aggressive women and very nurturing men. Likewise, I know women who are not at all nurturing and men who are not at all aggressive. My point is that society has trained us to believe one gender is superior to another, when in fact there is very little difference between the two and what differences there are should be equally valued and appreciated in society.
I suppose I must digress now to get to my Christmas wish this year. This year I want happy women for Christmas. I want to see women who can be whatever they want to be in life.
I want to see women share their lives with men who know their value and esteem them as equals. I want to see brave women walk away from their abusers and make a life for themselves.
I want to see women break free from the societal chains that hold them back from their full potential. What I want most is to see a woman giving a Christmas blessing in the office of the Pope in my lifetime.