When I was a child, I was told a lot of things. From the point when it was clear that I could understand the hidden meanings behind the words that were carelessly but guardedly thrown across the room, I became a piggy bank for the deposition of cultural wisdom.
I was taught to clean, because it was important for one’s house to be tidy but behind those words, I could sense the forceful whisper of the truth that I was being taught to clean because I was a girl. I was told to be fragile, a damsel in distress whose expectation was to be rescued by a male figure. Those times when chores were assigned and I was made to dust the windows while the boys went ahead to cut the grass and cut down trees I was told I was weak, that what a man could do a woman was incapable of. It was important that I learnt how to cook; this skill, I was told, was for my own good. But in those silent moments of practice, when burning acrid smells, wafting through the air, forced a nearby relative to scream “Is this what you would do in your husband’s house?” It was clear that this skill was not for mine but the man’s own good.
I was taught to be loyal, silent, and submissive. When an elder spoke my opinion was not valid and since in every marriage the husband was the elder, the same was the case. They said I had to be a home maker, respectful, supportive. It was my duty to hear and not be heard, to listen when spoken to, then, nod my head to indicate understanding. I was to be at the man’s beck and call, catering to his every need. No one thought to consider that I may need support of my own, not from family but from the man whom I was being trained to be so perfect for.
I could aspire to be successful but not too successful. With this things, I had to be careful, sure to leave enough gap between the prosperity of the man and I, enough to stroke his ego as the undisputed breadwinner; too much success would only leave me old and lonely. It wasn’t my place to aspire for financial fulfillment, even if the fulfillment was based on the gratification of personal achievement. A husband and some children, preferably male, were to be my greatest accomplishments.
I’ve lived my life complacent with these ideas, accepting my place as the supporter and the man’s as the provider, neither disputing why a woman has to put her dreams on hold to cater to a man’s insecure ego nor questioning why their entitled desire for respect have time and again birthed acts of violence.
Not anymore. You see, while it’s admirable for a woman to be a supporting figure, it is even more commendable if she can provide as well, two traits are, after all, better than one. It’s okay for a woman be successful, it’s okay for her to pull the reins, it okay for her to be a breadwinner. Financial instability does not make one less of a man, selfish acts of insecurity are what do.