(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 13 March 2011)
One of Guyana’s greatest women has also been named as one of Time Magazine’s top rebellious women of all time. To say that I was elated to hear this news is an understatement. There is no doubt that Janet Jagan was a fighter in every sense of the word.
This newfound fame for a Guyanese woman caused me to assess the “rebel” factor of the Guyanese women at large. There is no doubt that Guyanese women have spunk, attitude and sass – all of which, I can readily relate.
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Janet Jagan in person, I have a feeling she had to have plenty of spunk, attitude and sass as well. How could she not, given the amount of great things she accomplished in her life? A shrinking violet (a shy or retiring person) cannot storm a castle.
One of my three favourite phrases, which I have mentioned before, is “A well-behaved woman rarely makes history.” This is so true when one thinks of Janet Jagan. The woman is now infamous for her rebellion against so many aspects of societal expectations – and even political expectations (national and international).
Janet Jagan did not wait for a man to do what she knew she could do just as well – or better. She did not conform to what anyone else thought. She claimed her own thoughts and did what she wanted. She was a leader among leaders. This is my kind of woman.
It makes me glad when I see Guyanese women break out of that little box society has shoved them into. However, let’s be honest, there are also some Guyanese women who have been “put into their place” by the likes of men who do not appreciate a rebellious woman. Some have even been murdered for not “submitting” to their “masters.”
I had a good friend of mine once tell me, as he hit his breast with his fist, that he knows deep down inside that men are to be the head of the household. I can do better than that. I know with every ounce of my whole body, soul and mind that no man should be the master of another person – including a woman.
My friend believes what he does because that is what he has been taught since he was born – that a man is to rule over the home and over the woman. What else is he going to believe after being inundated with this sexist viewpoint for his whole life? I was taught those views too, but I always knew it was wrong from the time I was a young girl.
I know, I know – I am a rebellious woman, too. I gladly admit it and I am proud of it! I do not bow to the archaic ideas that I am a second-rate citizen because I am a female. I do not allow men to treat me as if I am anything but their equal and when I walk into a room I am recognised for my intellect – not as the one who cooked dinner.
And you, sister, can be a rebellious woman, too. Come on, you know how much you have been wanting to break those prison bars that have imprisoned you for your whole life. How many times have you longed to be free?
How many times have you thought about how unfair it is that you have to work all day and come home to cook dinner and clean all night? How many times have you wanted to lash out when the bossman grabs you on the rear? Take my word for it; there is no man but my husband who would dare to grab my rear (and my husband knows he has my permission).
I have another question, how long have you been working yourself to death hoping to be taken as seriously as a man? Girl, it is time to rebel. It is time to channel your inner Janet Jagan and let the real you come out in full force. By the time you are done, they will have no choice but to recognise you for the full potential you have as a person.
I am about to make a whole lot of religious people upset, but like I said – I am a rebel. Women, it is time for you to rebel, too. It is time to misbehave. It is time to make our own set of social standards. Stop finding excuses to conform to the patriarchal system and just be your own woman for a change.
Think about this, any woman who has ever made history has done so because they chose to defy the stifling system to which women are chained. Janet Jagan chose to be her own woman and she made history. Aung San Suu Kyi has been the foremost leader in the effort to democratize Burma, and after 15 years of house arrest, she was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also one of the top rebellious women in Time Magazine.
I am a writer and so my all-time favourite heroine is a writer. George Eliot, born Mary Anne Evans, created her male pen name to have her writings taken more seriously in the late 19th century.
According to Wikipedia, “Women writers were not uncommon at the time, but Evans’s role at the head of a literary enterprise was. The mere sight of an unmarried young woman mixing with the predominantly male society of London at that time was unusual, even scandalous to some.”
Eliot wrote my favourite book, “Middlemarch”. There are stories that she dressed like a man and she, in fact, had a long-term relationship without getting married.
She was a great rebel and set the groundwork for future female writers. When I grow up, I want to be a rebel just like her.
And just like Janet Jagan, you can be a rebellious woman, too.