Every day is an opportunity to clarify thoughts, recognize and understand emotions, put things into perspective.
I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman, in the United States, and elsewhere, spurned at first by the recent horrific rape and death of an Indian woman, and just the other day from watching the first part of a Korean film made in 2010 entitled The Housemaid (which I must watch in its entirety when it is not 1 a.m. in the morning). As well, piecing those thoughts together with some experiences in the last few years, by no means so harmful but food for thought, in my own life.
So what does it mean to be a woman, right now, having grown up as a beneficiary of women’s rights, in the United States in the 20th and 21st century? How far and in what way have women moved forward from “the bad old days,” how is my life different from for example, my own mothers’? How has a departure from traditional feminine roles been beneficial? Detrimental? Questions that would take volumes to answer, answer in myriads of ways, surely.
The one that interests me perhaps most directly is at a micro level, however. The traditional role of woman as servant in the world of men. A being that exists in that world as necessary, but by virtue of being subordinated through physical and mental force, is a lesser being.
In my experience, the role of woman as servant still persists through expectation, at the very least. Sometimes it is realized directly through the old ways, through actual physical labor — and yes, this persists from generation to generation even in our enlightened Western countries. It certainly persists in the United States, which continues to receive immigrants from the older nations, who carry ingrained cultural traditions — male-female relationships — with them which have existed for thousands of years before the terms “women’s lib,” “women’s rights,” or “feminism” existed. How do you work with that?
My overriding concern in all of this is that no matter the role that a woman plays in a man’s life, chosen or not (for we cannot always chose what we want to do in life at all times), that she be seen as a PERSON. That she be given dignity, respect, freedom, and compassion as an equal, and not treated merely as a sexual object whose sole purpose is to procreate, or give pleasure, and/or a laborer who is capable of keeping a home, nurturing a family, or bringing home the bacon (and there is no “or” for many of us, as it is a reality that one must work both in the world at large and in the home).
And this issue of being seen as a PERSON, an equal, someone who is LIKE you, bleeds red blood, suffers, loves, struggles — this is what power obscures, where those who are dominant lose sight. Every kind of labor is noble and necessary (excepting the criminal kind), we all need one another whether you lead or you help the leader lead, but you treat one another with humanity throughout, no matter your role in the relationship, right? This is what is at the heart of these struggles, to me, anyway.
Ultimately, we all leave this world as we came in — naked, alone, with nothing. This is a truth that can’t be denied, but those in power constantly fight against it, and take it out on those who will have trouble fighting back in an equally powerful way. In other words, it’s bullying, in a majorly life-altering way, and sometimes even, life-threatening. It may appear as mentally strong, but really, it is the weakest thing of all.
These issues will never go away, I think. Handling them will be perpetual. Sometimes things will be better, and sometimes they will be worse. I can only hope that the better times will outnumber the worse. And certainly, I will always fight on the side of improving things, at a micro level at the very least, no matter what.