to be . . .
Hamlet said, “to be or not to be, that is the question!” For women, it might be more complex than that. I’ve noticed that we women as a group may find it hard to speak up for ourselves or even to say who we are without fear of hurting other people’s feelings. So, it’s not just a matter of being or not being, it’s complicated by our female imperative to be nice.
I don’t know why or how we became socialized this way where there seem to be extremes of a silent majority of women who don’t know how or don’t feel comfortable voicing who they are or what their lives mean to them. If a generation of women (our mothers) were denied educational opportunity or personal independence due to the times they lived in, they usually didn’t complain much, being glad they had what they had after all.
Then there’s the other end of that bell curve where a (very) few vocal women act as outspeaking surrogates for the rest of the female population. Take for example, Hillary Clinton, who, whether you agree with her or not, is self-confident enough to call down senators who were badgering her at the senate hearing on Benghazi. Who else? Kathryn Bigelow, married for three years to James Cunningham, and the director of a movie where torture is highlighted. Or Angelina Jolie who is not so much vocal but demonstrates her compassion for others through her actions on behalf of the disenfranchised.
Even Michelle Obama, who has a law degree, intelligence and instincts probably as good as or even more intuitive than her loner husband, the President, is careful to keep her talents and gifts shrouded because the American public can’t stand someone who might threaten them outside the role of traditional mother and wife.
And we live in AMERICA and it’s like this, not like in India where women are so unvalued as to be blamed for rape, the victims of so-called “honor” killings and so on. Sometimes, I’ve observed women grappling with whether to leave a marriage because leaving might be easier than speaking up and constantly standing up for yourself to a partner whose obnoxious attitudes are easier to resign yourself to, thinking that he’ll never listen, much less want to make a change. These are underground kinds of struggles we usually don’t tell anyone about and might often be hard to admit to even to ourselves. Women are so powerful and yet we can give up our power so often.
Where and when were we taught to be afraid to be ourselves and to own it? To put everybody else first? Feminism missed that boat it seems, in its important battles for the vote, for equal pay, for professional recognition, and now being allowed to fight in battle alongside men.
What am I missing here?