Tales Of My Mother; On Patriarchy & Elusive Gender Balance By Okore Scheaffer
She is known to many as the oracle; the woman who gave me life. Like every other mother she has sacrificed, sacrificed and sacrificed again for her children especially me. Wisdom flows with such ease and magnificence from her it is fascinating! Recently she told me a story and because anything hidden is meant to be found, this story was definitely meant for finding.
She asked me, “What happened to the door we opened?” I look at her confused not understanding the question and before I can ask her to repeat, she says “oh well, never mind” What door is this? Where is it? I’m thinking silently to myself and she says “The fact that many don’t even realize there’s a door is a horrific reality”
Unlike you my child, I grew up in a one-dimensional world. Every single thing was tabular apart from our breast and back area. There was no thinking or deciding for yourself. You belonged to someone from the day you were born, to when you were married off and even when you died, they had to burry you in a man’s ancestral home or your body was perceived as an outsider’s property. You had to belong to someone.
Our voices lacked sound and even when we spoke no one heard us. No one knew we had dreams of wanting to be more than just a different gender. It is only amongst ourselves that we were humans. It’s amongst women that women found an inclusion. Is this still the case? We felt each other’s pain. We dried each other’s tears. We plaited each other’s hair. We taught each other how to cook, clean and be better givers than takers. We were already taken.
Amongst us we created bonds of blood: Blood that we shed every single month and blood that we shed when we gave life. And then there are bonds we created that were specifically from pain; the pain of never being enough. The pain of childlessness that was blamed on us because everything was and sometimes still is, a woman’s fault. In our little gatherings we grew backbones for those amongst us who weren’t strong. We were the anchors of sorts.
We became refuge for those who were battered daily, occasionally for one reason or another. We shared in hush tones the rape that occurred in our marriages, the emotional abuse we were going through and how this was the way of life. We knew we wanted better but we didn’t know if better was something allowed for us. We soldiered on and claimed survival, after all, women were meant to be strong.
They’ll tell you it’s hard being a woman but I’ll tell you it’s impossible being a woman with no voice or choice. When I was growing up our strength was in numbers. The more hands we had meant the faster we cold finish our chores and get time to compare notes on our challenges which were more or less similar. We needed each other and we readily heeded each other.
It is in these moments of alone time by ourselves that we thought about education and what that meant. It is in these moments that we were grateful at least one amongst us had gone to school. They could read and write hence basic conversation wasn’t a challenge to them. We depended on them so much because they were our glimpse to a world none of us could ever get to have.
We started learning from them. We listened, imitated and emulated all that they had learnt. We realized the only difference between women and men during this time was education so all of us made a pact that our daughters would go to school. It wasn’t allowed of-course but we knew we had to do it. We planned and schemed secretly and found a way to open the door that would lead the next generation of women into a path of the unknown.
Our comfort came from the fact that despite the path being unknown, our daughters would be educated and knowledgeable. That at-least they wouldn’t wonder what right meant if left wasn’t an option, they wouldn’t be afraid to raise their heads and see tomorrow and they wouldn’t live in the background. They would finally belong to themselves. We opened a door and we were battered for fighting to educate our daughters while some of us were sent back to our father’s houses for defying our husbands. Even with the resistance and force the battery came with- we kept on.
It was a waste of time to educate a girl they said because she ended up being married anyways. It was a life long debate but we fought to keep the door of education open to ensure as many girls as possible could walk out of the darkness and into the light. Then today, educated young women in board rooms, running corporations, engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists and even politicians yet we struggle to attain a two third gender balance!! How is this possible?
You are the majority why aren’t you united? You are influencers why aren’t you influencing? You are the heart of society why aren’t you beating? You are life givers why aren’t you awakening life into his cause? Did you forget the journey and sacrifice we made? What divided you so much that even amongst you there exists social strata? How could you forget the many times I slept outside my own matrimonial home because I wanted you to go to school? Did we forget to remind you and why would you need reminding?
You have education; opportunities, mobilizing ability and you have each other why are you stuck? Go back to the very beginning and find what unites you as women and as humans who want better. Define the world you want your children to inherit. Articulate it in one voice then affirm by claiming it through action. You see victory isn’t by accident it is a choice and if you want a two third gender balance; you must make it a choice. Take it and take it now tomorrow might be too late.
The words of the oracle…
By Okore Scheaffer
(Image courtesy of buschauerportraits.com)