On Being a Lady
I walk down the streets at night wondering how safe I am.
I was taught to “sit like a lady”, and have been trained to dress in order to not tempt men. Little girls should be seen and not heard, they said.
My mother wanted me to eat like a lady, talk like a lady, and make myself presentable to society. Good manners…etiquette. I speak with proper diction. While she didn’t do much else to raise me, Mother dearest made sure that I had read and memorized Miss Manner’s Guide to Proper Etiquette.
My younger brother was taught to be tough. Being a man involved taking martial arts, wrestling, and reading science fiction with my father.
My brother believes that women who cry rape without incontrovertible proof ruin a man’s life. I’m still angry that a judge ruled that jeans put a woman at fault in a rape case.
I was – and honestly, still am – daddy’s little girl.
I am now married. Content in my identity as a woman, and fairly removed from the world of disadvantage and precariousness of womanhood.
I have grown into a wild thing, in spite of my conservative upbringing. I have been privileged – white, well-off enough, educated.
But women around the world live in fear far more than I do. My fears are limited to the occasional unsafe situation – poorly lit streets at night, public transportation in the off hours.
Women around the world are subjected to violence, abuse, sexual assault, political priorities marginalize women even in the most developed of countries.
Why do men get to decide the reproductive rights of women? Particularly if women are subjected to men’s unwanted advances so relentlessly. Stares, whistles, catcalls, relentless pursuit in the face of outright rejection.
When #MeToo has to become a social media movement to open the eyes of society to the onslaught of women’s struggles with power differentials our society is clearly on its last, gasping breath. An attempt to reveal the deep gash throughout our society that rends women from their source of safety and strength.
Womanhood has inherent strength. I as a woman am able to encompass all forms of love, from the most pure to the most debauched. If my physical strengths don’t match those of my brothers, fathers, husbands and sons, my mental construction has evolved to become a formidable, flexible trap.
The men in my life are special. Not a single one of them has hurt me. I am infinitely fortunate. As a young girl I was coddled, as a teenager I was teased and tortured beyond endurance, taught to cope with the tears and the emotions that both betray me and lay at the foundation of my personality. As a grown woman I am respected, my abilities valued, and my emotional nature supported. I have learned to speak my mind more freely than I ever imaged I could.
My sisters, my beloved women – how few I have grown to trust. Betrayed by the first women in my life, I haven’t been able to learn the art of sisterhood. I am humbled by the idea of female camaraderie, but fail to understand such closeness.
Society has pitted us against one another. Jealousy and Bechdel measures center us around men, further creating a subtle dependency on male, whether we want it or not. When I ask my younger friends questions, it centers on their marriage prospects, or which boys they think are attractive. I rarely have conversations that plumb the depths of anything outside of relationships.
Girl children in certain parts of the world are destined to marry, bear children, and die young, their lives lived out in poverty. Other women are refusing to have children, because the financial burden is too great. They live in sterile skyscrapers, rows upon rows of flats that isolate them from their communities. Their relative wealth creates just as precarious a situation as the financial poverty of their “underdeveloped” counterparts.
My father wanted to raise a daughter who could handle men. He taught me how to get what I want from them, charming and cajoling. He comes from a certain generation, of course.
I love men, and am admittedly biased towards them. Their infinitely sensitive and complex natures are much more simple for me to navigate than the similarities I see in women. I think a lot of us identify with this, and mourn the conditioning that has taken us away from our roots of women’s community.
Society has created cliques, not communities. When we turn towards one another we do so across a minefield. We are no longer of woman; we are of “me; alone”. We are vulnerable to the unwanted advances of some men, and unable to reach out to our sisters in times of need. We suffer in silence; sure that no one else will understand our state. While we have so many resources available, we can’t seem to navigate the treachery of society’s conditioning.
Writer, Thinker, Cook, Fixer, Traveler, Lover of life, with a stare-you-down look that is capable of making you rethink the mischief that you are about to engage in.
Written for Rage Against the Machine Month. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Kripa know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at A Thing of Grace when you’re done.
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