Sunday, February 19, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
During my work as an advocate for women, I cannot even begin to count the number of times a man has asked me, “What about the men?” Although I am a staunch believer in gender equality, this phrase always catches me off guard because it is an ironic question in so many ways.
When one considers that men have “ruled/owned” women for several thousands of years in most cultures and that women have served men in every possible (and often degrading) way during those millennia, it is indeed ironic that little more than a couple decades into a substantial gender equality movement men would pout about being left out when women address the issues they still encounter in relation to inequality.
It is a logical conclusion that as women rise up to take a place of equality in society, men will, of course, lose some standing. After all, as women take their rightful place in business, politics, religion, etc., that will translate into fewer men in those places. The “what about the men” response is the male knee-jerk reaction to this loss of “ruler of all” status.
This loss of “ruler of all” status is the compromise the men of the world must make in order to see a better world for all – not just the males. The push by women for gender equality should not be seen as a punishment for men, but a balancing of how things should have been all along. The balancing process might hurt a bit as men have to step aside and allow women their rightful place, but trust me, it will hurt no more than what women have endured for so long as the servants and property of men.
Recently, one man asked whether I blamed men for every ill that happens to women. My blunt response was that it is men who beat women, degrade women, rape women, sexually harass women, psychologically abuse women – and yes, murder women.
Last week, a Berbice man who has been living with another woman disassembled the house of his wife and children and left them and their belongings in the rain without shelter. Am I to blame the wife and children for this horrendous act?
The other day a Blankenburg woman was murdered allegedly by her husband. I post all news stories about Guyana’s women to my Facebook page to keep the consciousness of women’s issues alive. Upon reading this news story about the murdered woman, one man blamed the woman. She should have chosen a better type of man. He said, “Stella, I hope you’re not blaming men for this disease but rather the choices women make.”
What this man does not comprehend is that domestic violence crosses social and cultural lines. There are as many doctors, politicians and businessmen who beat and murder their wives as there are men who deal drugs. And yes, I do blame the men.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
The feminist movement heydays were long over before I even knew I needed to stand up for my own rights. I grew up in an urban environment, single mother, poverty-ridden home.
Those who grow up in such situations are never thinking about fighting oppressive government policies, they are more concerned with just getting by from day to day. Will the electricity be turned off today? Can we eat something more than mayonnaise sandwiches? Will my overworked, high-pressured, abusive mother snap again today? The last thing on my mind was fighting for my rights as a woman.
On top of everything else, there was school to keep my urban survival skills sharp and church to make me feel small and insignificant – as if I did not have enough to accomplish that task already. One of the many things I learned in church was to be mad at the feminists. I did not know why, I just knew that I should. I was taught they were out of control male wannabes.
I married at a young age to a wonderful guy and started having children 18 months later. My focus was then on toddler chasing and house cleaning. I still did not know I should be concerned with my rights. In fact, at this point in the late 80s, feminism was an intimidating topic for me. I just knew that I needed more than to stay at home with the kids. I was in dire need of some intellectual stimulation, but instead I tried to play the role of what the church declared to be a good wife and mother.
For some women, this would be fine, but I needed more. My husband was working during the day and going to college at night. So I would care for the children all day – every day of the week. Then on the weekend, I would go to church to have them tell me how I should be happy since this was God’s design for women.
I tried to be happy and to some extent I was happy. I had beautiful children whom I adored and a good husband. Beyond that, I was bored and feeling like a slave. It wasn’t that my husband did not love me, we just both fell into the traditional roles of family life, which worked for him – but it did not work for me. After years of this, I decided I could not handle it anymore. I honestly did not know what I needed; I just knew I needed more than what I had.
I started rejecting the church’s notions on women and realising I could not possibly fit in the suffocating mould they had created for all women. It was time for me to take control of my own life. After years of discontentment, I decided I needed to go to school. This would change my life forever.