Before I toe the line...I demand to know who drew it

Delta Ndou
Posted February 9, 2010 from United Kingdom

Someone once asked whether I thought women could ‘ever’ be equal to men. I told them that I did not think women could ever be equal to men because as far as I was concerned women have ‘always’ been equal to men - they were just conned into thinking otherwise. The very fact that the matter could be subject to debate, dispute and indeed controversy points to how a people can be so indoctrinated as to miss the truth that is staring right in front of them. Can there be anything more ludicrous than relegating one group of people to subservience just because they don’t happen to possess the right anatomy? How then have we managed from one generation to the next to perpetuate, authenticate and reproduce the same patriarchal attitudes and values that disempower women and privilege men? Even in the most glaring inequalities and the most ghastly social injustices, we are led to believe that a woman’s inferiority is a natural consequence of having been born female - that it is ordained by some deity or divinity. So to challenge the status quo, we are forced to commit the great unforgivable sacrilege of pointing out the fact that women folk are oppressed by a system that rests solely on the idea of male supremacy. Those of us who have the temerity to point out what is so obviously wrong with the status quo are treated with hostility by the very women we would hope to liberate for even a captive starts to believe that their captivity is the will of God and having made peace with it - they become reluctant to believe anything to the contrary. Years and years of internalizing patriarchal values have created in us a deeply ingrained belief in our own ‘inferiority’ and the spaces we have been given to occupy suddenly seem appropriate and natural to us - we feel we have no right to aspire for more. And who is more enslaved than the person whose chains bind the mind and whose shackles tie the soul? For the things we imbibed in our childhood become so much a part of us that to conceive of breaking them seems unnatural - yet we can never be free until we start to question, to query, to prod, to interrogate, to inquire and if need be - to challenge, to reject and even to rebel against those beliefs that would keep us caged by our anatomy. We have believed a lie, we have lived a lie and we have fallen victim to the greatest con of all time - we have believed that our womanhood obscures our humanity. I would rather be a human being than a woman any day - because womanhood is a social construct - a figment of some man’s imagination, a prescription derived from the sexist ideology that places people’s biological make up above their humanity. Before I toe the line - I demand to know who drew it. Before I measure myself against any yardstick - I demand to know who carved it. Before I stop myself at any boundary - I demand to know who set it. Before I confine myself to any space - I demand to know who created it. For if we are to be free we must know the answers to the questions and we must be the answers; for too long we have not cared to know the answers for we have not even been allowed to ask the questions. So now we, those of us who have been told we suffer from the ailment of too much schooling, constipated and ruined by ‘excessive’ education - we who are not afraid to desecrate the shrines of silence our mothers erected - we question the status quo. And the sound of our voices is like a thing of shame - that we should have the audacity to ask questions and the nerve to demand an answer - we are a generation hell-bent on calling culture’s bluff. The pigeonholes of stereotype can no longer contain us; in our minds we carry the resolve that we will not be our mothers’ daughters. For our mothers bestowed upon us so narrow a path, so limited a scope of choice and so silent a voice that we could not speak up and be heard. We believed the myth of male superiority, bowing before the tyranny of patriarchy and accepting miseries and misfortunes with the stoicism of cows standing in the rain. So we chose to be feminists because feminism is the radical notion that women are people too and that patriarchy is nothing more than male supremacy posturing as ‘culture’. And in the years that have gone by we have gradually come to realize that we suffered needlessly from internalizing the doctrine of one group of people seeking to protect the privileged status quo that was their due merely by having been born male. Simply by being taught two different sets of catch phrases - we grew up marginalized, relegated and subjugated. The oppression of women rested firmly on the greatest con there ever was - it rested on the fallacious belief that women were ‘natural’ subordinates of man and lesser beings.

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  • Sharese
    Feb 16, 2010
    Feb 16, 2010

    I want to scream, sing, shout and dance a resounding YES for all that you have said. I agree with all of it and the fact that you put it so succinctly yet profoundly true just makes my heart blossom with the joy of the "what could happen" of a generation.

    Those of us who have the temerity to point out what is so obviously wrong with the status quo are treated with hostility by the very women we would hope to liberate - this is so true and very heart-wrenching. I feel that many times the internalized sexism of women is so strong that they don't even realize that they are indeed oppressing their sisters. I also find this in simpler ways of women being "jealous" or "hateful" of each other because of internalized sexism- that they view themselves of value only if a man sees them as such. I choose to surround myself with strong women that take a stand. The feminine energy enlivens me and I would never shut it down, oppress it or trade it for masculine approval.

    Keep singing your song of triumph, ring the bells of truth. And THANK YOU for this post. I look forward to taking in more and my heart swelling and being able to feel the exhale of your words from the other side of the world.

    In peace and love,