Sunday, June 17, 2012
Why, Ma, have you forsaken me?
No, we cannot blame our Mothers for the sins of Patriarchy. But why, oh, why hadn’t Mother given me a warning, at least; or, a hint that something was wrong? She was a good woman, a tough one, even if, seeing her close you can sense about her something that is fragile and delicate, although you can’t exactly point out what that is. We first learned from her our English Grammar, Reading and her beautiful handwriting, complete with all the loops and ears, which never failed to impress people. But how could she have failed to warn us? How could she have missed out on the most important things in the girl’s life? Did she expect us to figure out for ourselves, before it was too late, the position that society and culture assigned to us? Did she ever consider that figuring out might take a long time and that we might not be able to do it until it was too late? Or did she ever fail to get the whole picture? Has she completely inhabited men’s minds and men’s structures she had totally blinded herself to them, she could no longer see how they were killing her and how, sooner or later, they would also be killing her daughters and her daughters’ daughters? She was a woman used to being obeyed. When you see her taking off her thick eyeglasses to wipe dry her sweaty nose and put it back again to peer into something to read, you always get the impression she was a woman in control, even if she might not be showing it. She had a way of defying Father, without making him feel he was already being defied, the rug pulled down under his feet without his feeling it. That was Mother’s secret, her extraordinarily ability. Her decisions always made sense to us. She preferred food and books first, before frivolous dresses. (Although I remember now, there were really not many books when I was growing up at home except for her public school textbooks!) She preferred a small, happy house to a luxurious one; although the latter was not really within her choice. She scoffed at people’s penchant for jewellery that her vanity rested on the fact that she never wore one herself. She knew, as most women knew, the difference between need and whimsy. We used to get the impression that she believed in the strength of women; that she fought for our education because she believed in our worth and that she believed in her secret way in the equality of the sexes. But why, oh, why, did she forget to tell us life for a woman would be anything like this? Why did she forget to teach us to love ourselves as women before everything else? Why didn't she teach us to be selfish instead of teaching us very early in life eternal self-denial? Why did she forget to teach us about the primacy of economic power? Was she so afraid or desperate she made up her mind to just leave everything to chances and decided not to talk about it? Did she expect us to just fit into the mold, no matter how square, stupid, unjust and unreasonable, whether we like it or not? Did she perceive the various and subtle workings of women’s subjection to men and their structures? How did she feel about those structures? Did she nurse a burning desire to tear them down or raze them to the ground. Or, did she feel helpless, sad, angry or depressed? Did she feel anything at all? Did she love us enough to warn us against our impending doom or perhaps, to find a way of escape? But why, oh, why, did she leave us alone?