(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 9 June 2012)
I attended a meeting earlier this year that included a good number of women who are devoted activists and advocates for Guyana’s female population. The overall discussion was spot on with the pulse of women’s issues in the nation.
However, there was one statement made by a facilitator of the meeting that I can’t seem to shake. She emphatically stated, “There is not a problem with submission.” She was, of course, referring to the traditional mandate that requires women to submit to men.
I wrote the woman’s statement down and put exclamation points next to it to signify my shock. I completely understand that there are some Sisters who still adhere to these traditions that require them to submit to their husbands because they were raised to believe it is right to defer to a man. However, I simply cannot understand how women do not see that this mandatory submission is one of the reasons women 1) remain in abusive relationships; 2) do not seek the help they need to escape the violence; and 3) do not prosecute an abuser and in most cases will protect him.
In fact, contrary to my dear Sister’s declaration, there is a very big problem with submission. The tradition of one gender submitting to the other (always women to men) has caused women to bow to the whims and fancies of men – always to the detriment of women and the elevation of men.
This skewed way of living has brought upon women savage atrocities like rape, torture, child marriage, constant verbal and emotional abuse, violence and murder for thousands of years – and in many instances neither victim nor her female friends and relatives are allowed to say a word in her defence.
Yes, there is a very big problem with submission. Think of all the women who have been brutally raped, beaten and murdered in Guyana in just the last three weeks. The submissive stance of those women was programmed into them from the time they were little girls so that even at death’s door they still submitted.
As a result, I am asking all of my Sisters to re-examine and challenge these long-accepted traditions (such as submission to males) in the light of the evidence that shows how much it hurts all women and, in fact, all of humanity.
My husband never viewed this practice of submission as tolerable and instead encouraged me to take an equal place in our relationship and our family – and I did.
However, it was obvious that some of our friends and church leaders did not approve of the way we had arranged our relationship. They often had issues with my ‘strong’ personality (defined as a non-submissive woman) and made sure to say as much – both men and women. I admit that I tried to conform to their ideology on several occasions, but my personality is just not one to be submissive. I am a born leader and do not apologise for it.
There are just some women who cannot be boxed in by societal traditions and I am one of them. Luckily, I have a husband who wants me to be all that I can be and encourages me to do so. If I had a husband who was otherwise inclined, who knows what kind of beatings and torture would have been inflicted on me to make me submit?
There are many, many women who are just like me and know deep down, regardless of what patriarchal traditions mandate, that forcing women to submit to men is simply wrong. It is immoral.
How can it be moral to force a woman to be less than what she really is just to bow to a man’s ego? How can it be moral to expect a woman to submit to a cruel man? Why on earth should I be expected to submit my intellect, body and will to another human even before myself? I’m sorry, but this is all just preposterous to me.
In the act of submission, a woman belongs to that man and must now go to him for permission to do whatever she wants. Her life is under his control. She has a career outside of the house only if he approves. She dresses the way he wants her to dress. She behaves in a manner that pleases him regardless of what pleases her and if he wants to demean, beat and murder her, what say does she have? None.
I know some will say that this is not what submission means, but this is exactly the ultimate result – and it is this way by design of a male-led world. Just look at the state of the women in the world to see the truth.
Personally, I refuse to ask permission to be who I am from any human – male or female. I refuse to be someone’s punching bag simply because a male-oriented tradition says I am “weaker” than a man. I am not weaker. In fact, I am quite strong in many ways men lack – as are most women.
Those who decided women are lesser and weaker had obviously never met a woman like me (or rather, all women like me were murdered so those who were left would gladly submit rather than be murdered as well).
I refuse to submit to men. Period. I will be all that I can be without any man’s permission. And the only way to stop me from being the woman I am in all my feminine glory is to murder me, too.
Should there come a day when the men murder me, too, I pity the fools because there will be many more of my Sisters ready to rise and take my place. I have made sure of that.