Wednesday, July 23, 2014

For Women: The False Seduction of Giving up Power


The seduction of giving up one's power is always strong for a woman. I've been reading Maya Angelou's fourth autobiographical text The Heart of a Woman.

A particularly fascinating part is when she meets a South African freedom fighter by the name of Vusumzi Make. Ms. Angelou is swept up into a passionate romance and within a week decides to leave her current fiance and travel to England with Make.

She is thrilled by the idea of financial and physical protection. Also by the idea of traveling and exploring the world. However, she is quickly discomforted by her lot as she finds that she is treated like a "diligent maid with a permanent pussy."

Ms. Angelou talks to a Black woman friend about her frustrations who insists that male dominance is the "natural order." She doesn't encourage her. She doesn't recognize the injustice in the relationship. She supports the current order.

Although the book takes place in the 1960s these same conversations can be heard today in 2014.

This made me think about how girls and women are told that if we remand our lives to a man's care then we shall live happily ever after.

There's the fairy tales. There's the movies. The books. The romance industry. Woman is saved by a man and lives happily ever after. All she needs to do is relent her power and become submissive to him and everything will be okay.

So well-meaning women do just this. They go their whole lives as individuals and then give up that individuality as soon as they meet a man. And in the best case scenario they wake up down the road in their life with a stymied sense of self and in worst case scenario they become easier targets for intimate partner violence and financial manipulation.

But nonetheless I hear this argument all the time: that women's subordinance and men's dominance is natural. And I wonder why if it's so natural then why is it constantly reiterated? Why doesn't it naturally occur? Why must it be constantly preached on the pulpit? Why is it continuously shown in the media?

It seems to me that equality is what's natural. Everything else is contrived. Women must be brainwashed to believe that they lack individual power. Women must be threatened with being alone or being viewed as undesirable. That is how you maintain male dominance.

Part of being a self-realized woman is learning to not be afraid of your own power. I have had to realize that a lot of people will be uncomfortable with my assertiveness and intelligence and strength but that's their problem and not mine. I have had to realize that I don't deserve to keep company with people who are threatened by me taking charge of my own life. Of my own life.

I've had to learn that every message to be more quiet, more demure, more obedient is spoken by people who are most certainly weaker than I am and are reliant on sexism to hopefully persuade me to give up on myself.

Women are often told to let a "man be a man." Sure, if that allows room for me to be a woman. Room for us to both be self-actualized humans and not one of us to be an object or chattel property.

Women can't be scared of their power. They can't let the message that intelligent and independent women are punished prevent them for exercising these gifts. Because while it is true that anti-patriarchal women are sanctioned in any patriarchal society the costs are always way higher for mindlessly following along.


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