David Foster Wallace: ”Truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you first.”
Awareness is the first step in letting any positive change to drop its seed in our mind. Any form of discrimination is unfair. Racism, slavery, sexism, sweatshops, even unnecessary torturing of animals when our brains are able to do better. “I want to break free…I’ve got to break free”, sings Freddie Mercury, calling not just for his sexual liberation, “but it’s for everybody”. We must embrace and benefit from the expanded possibilities we got now! The freedom fighters from the 1960s period shall progress the seed into a bloom of equality for all. As a woman I ask myself: Am I just a shadow or creating my own light — life?
The current unrest in America is an accumulation of anger, past and present. The rage gushes not from the recent restrictions of the global pandemic but from the centuries-rusting racial stigma tattooed in our minds. Adding to the fire was the recent stir up of fear, pointing fingers at the alien or an unjust ‘competition’ by the authoritarian and populist politicians in power. This emotional gambling is disconcerting. Voting for such self-centric egoists flags red our own conscience.
Who am I, who are you? Honestly? Reflection illuminates the dark corners of our soul.
THE PAST WAS ROUGH, REMEMBER, SO LET’S MAKE THE FUTURE BETTER
We shall be aware and vigilant as in the past as much as in the present, violence and injustice were ignited by discriminating others. Hitler did it by marginalising and systematically killing the jews, Stalin with the rich and privileged, the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Today, Turkey still discriminates the Kurds, and while the United States mass-eliminated native Americans at first, later the black community went through an apartheid like South Africa. Now China and Mexico are haunted for their insurgent power over a weakening America by the elected President Trump and his incited entourage.
Yet, there is another marginalised group, much larger and indispensable to the survival of the human species and the economy – women.
The price of oppressed freedom supported by the elites WAS PAID ALONG WITH THE BLACK LIVES, by the jews in the concentration camps, the subjects of the kings or emperors, but the #metoo movement spotlighted how much oppressed women still are in the second millennium AD. Also, the recent stigmatising of the Muslims as terrorist-suspects has deepened the unequal profiling in many countries.
Wake up! I shall say for these privileged of us having the opportunity to vote in democratic systems. What are we doing with our prejudice? We should have learned that like wars it is not good for the human race. Now that the established religions do not wield as much power as they used to, humans seek directives in new religions. But, by blindly following someone without listening to the other side is like karma harmful to everyone.
WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IS ABOUT REPROGRAMMING OUR CULTURAL MALWARE
The powerful nurture prejudice to control the masses — us. For most of history women were subjected to lesser rights than men. Perhaps, essentially, because the male ego could not fathom a gender so powerful as to bear his descendants to wield an equal slice of the power cake. Now, that in most first world countries women have equal rights in courts and have access to education and the workplace, parenting and social screening remain to clear up the path to a truly fair deal. Shared by the male and female, the family and household shall be cared for equally when the other partner is occupied with his or her work duties.
In my inbox this above image just landed timely (With a gratitude to Nicole from the LA Writers Group).
What comes to your mind? A needy, perhaps weaker female on the left, must be the shorter one in this couple, the dominating right swan looks down at its counterpart. Stereotypes cloud reality. I know women taller than their partner as much as she can be the more dominant gender, larger and she can take the lead in pursuing him. Some women are stronger than most men, some compete in boxing, love driving sport cars others are closed in labs as molecular scientists. Some do not want to be mothers. The burden of pregnancy and raising a child in this unsustainable global society stops many women from child bearing. Because we can. Birth control, education and financial independence empowered women post WWII. Yet, we are not treated fully equally yet. Plain maths.
NO FREEDOM WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY
To me an advanced country is such where all the citizens are viewed equally and are free to responsibly choose a life they desire for happiness. “Free, vigorous spirits advance the world”, said Leigh Hunt. If satisfaction and liberty are the measurements of success, then we shall strive to work hard on such noble goals. Still, there is no freedom without responsibility as chaos, violence, and eventually a larger scale war destroy all hope that there remains for improvement. The wellbeing and safety of others are part of the freedom package. Family binds together.
Yet, rich countries like the Saudi Arabia and Japan do not fit in my advanced country model. Misogynist or any form of the sexism culture is venomous for a sustainable progress. If one considers an ageing population, in economical terms, then female empowerment is ripe to be commanded politically as it is happening now. While not becoming a genuine force to install equal pay for the same job for men and women, economy motivates governments. Let’s take this argument as the opportunity in the legal terms. Nanny states force their ideas upon society, therefore giving you responsibility shall produce a more sustained liberty.
Gender equality tells an intriguing parable in Israel. The country where three major religions traditionally separate women and men, is very progressive in civic life. While, as I wrote in Jerusalem at the West Wall, at the King David’s tomb, and in the mosques recall the outdated prescribed Christian role dividing in my own family. As traditions still permeate the life of the believers, Israeli women inspire fierce strength as they participate in the army, street art and poetry. Confident, perhaps because of their compulsory military training, creatively free and engaged in the Tel Aviv’s street art scene, women found more equality in this secular state than in most of the Middle East. Just cross the border to Jordan, a different world for women!
Empowered from the inside: gender roles limit our potential
Acquiring the female gender by birth cuffed me in an involuntary captivity. The uncodified yet widely applied rule was to get a husband, give him as many children as he supports, cook, look pretty and smile on thy neighbours… a woman’s life. How boring and crippling one’s capabilities! Like a domestic pet, not a free-willed human being, once the calendar announced her X-teenth birthday, marriage was the only preoccupation of any family having a girl in the waiting.
The independence fighter in me still pursues self-harming actions and decisions spun from the cultural prejudice against women. But I cannot further lynch the roaring revolutionary fighting for HER independence in me. Grandmothers, like mine, have not stopped to ask the annoying question: “When you will have babies?” With the cutest expression, to look innocent, I always answer boldly: “No rush, I’m too busy traveling and writing.” My wicked smile concludes the over-the-years fostered phrase – polished by frequent repetitions – to a blinding shine of a sun’s reflection in the river of life. Whenever she needles in me that inquisitive phrase, and however nice the mother of my mum might appear with her cotton candy round face and an angelic curly hair, she suddenly becomes a secret scheme plotting enemy. My verbal and expressionist bouncer works, so I can usually switch the theme with an ease of a gazelle jumping across a stumbling rock.
Culturally, women are still boxed into specific roles as much as the outdated expectation from a man to be strong and provide for his family and spouse. In France (fashion like Chanel putting women into trousers helped) and increasingly in other secular countries like Czechia, couples with a child do not marry and just live together. Yet, women are still being targeted socially and commercially to look preppy, perfect hair, manicures, slim like sticks, perfectly dressed, … Superficial focus will not empower women. How can an object of purely sexual desire be respected? If I am to be empowered I need to be dealt with fairly and respectfully. Relying on my looks and polished surface may help me to get attention, even praise, or some form of success, yet this is short term and far from a progressive approach. Where do you feel? Inside, right? Do we feel a sense of power in our wrinkle-free skin, shiny diamonds on our neck or through our perfectly polished nails? While these may raise confidence, one shall not confuse it with empowerment. If you feel empty inside you live in a false pretentiousness. There is a wonderful name for the delicious physalis fruit in France that translates as “Love in a cage”. Women who do not show who they are inside are like the physalis, hiding their juicy potential from the world behind the protective, pretty cover.
The social media numbers often enhance the popular malware. Look at this African-American poet, dancer, feminist, rapper and model, even a CEO with 132K followers on her Instagram, she is certainly “an influencer”. Intriguingly her model/rapper profile attracts twenty times more adherents when compared with her creative poetry profile with less than 7000 followers. I wonder if the feminist in her is saddened it is not the reverse, sexy attracts the likes and fellowship on the visual media.
Simone de Beauvoir fought for women’s empowerment throughout her literary career inspiring equalitè. The French were overall ahead as one of the most gender-equalising countries, yet the pay gap is still rampant. Perhaps, the fierce confidence of those Joans of Arc flowers in their favourable cultural environment, but at work it must be still fought for.
Many women I know do not feel comfortable around food. They twist and spoon out their plates or ice creams to their boyfriends, spouses or kids instead of savouring them in full. When I host anyone, excuse me for applying the generous Czech style (I also eat a lot), women are way more likely to protest against the portion size, while men mostly welcome the generosity. Female relationship with hedonism is rarely in balance. Either they emotionally overeat or they submit their lives to guilt and strict dieting. Inflexible allowances direct their daily food intake. Most women seem to be imprisoned by the social scrutiny and rarely listen attentively to their cravings. Unless, they are pregnant and the primal urge is so intense that they succumb to an unlimited joy allowed to them in this nurturing situation.
Pleasure has been denied to women for millennia. Those who relished in the pleasantries of life were deemed prostitutes or witches as they still do in some tribal communities in Africa. Men relishing casual sex were rarely labeled as sinful whores. Promiscuity has been culturally encouraged for men. Virginia Woolf uncovered the ego behind sexist oppression in her essay Room of One’s Own: “He was not concerned with their [women] inferiority, but with his own superiority… it was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself… thinking that other people are inferior to oneself… there is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination – over other people”. She rages at gender injustice: “Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. Take it away and man may die, like the drug friend deprived of his cocaine.”
Global Gender Gap in 2020
This one meter does not suit all view still prevails in most societies, but is still the most striking in Africa and the Middle East. Countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia being one of the worst on the Global Gender Gap Report index, while Rwanda may surprise with its score in 2020 higher than even Switzerland. Burundi and Namibia reach up to the heels of South Africa. Ecuador has scored better than the United States.
The tides are changing even on the impoverished continent. National Geographic published a wonderful feature on gender equality in Africa.
Now, in 2020, a tsunami of female creativity splashed onto the book shelves, the movie theatres, elections, and even the space and the Planet’s tallest peaks. Women wrestled their space into our mainstream culture and more than ever now have power over their daily life. We want to be heart and appreciated, but women have always desired freedom. In the beginning of the 18th century Phillis Wheatley, a slave and a Bostonian black author exemplified black female writing in America. There is even her sculpture in central Boston.
Men wrote most of our history books, and now it’s time we participated. Take Mary Magdalene, without her faith and witnessing of the Christ’s resurrection, an entire religion would probably never seeded itself around the world. Only recently the Pope recognised her importance equal to an Apostle and cleaned her tinted and confused reputation in the history books and misinterpreted Bible commentaries as a prostitute.
I remember my first visit of India, some 15 years ago. Arranged marriage was widely practiced and is still today, but what is even worse is the prevailing sexual harassment the women in the largest democratic country in the world must suffer through. Very recently, a wave of protests lead by the female population swept India, yet the Global Gender Gap index there remains low.
New chapter of human evolution has begun as women were freed from the prevailingly domestic roles. Now men can co-raise kids, conceive their own DNA-bearing heirs without penetrating any women’s vagina, so both genders were liberated from this co-dependency. The essence of relationships has shifted. Now equal partners are open to nourish their hearts’ genuine pursuits.
What’s a privileged life?
A European-born, global citizen, if I had lived in any of the low scoring countries or a period before the freedom movements, even as a Western woman I would not have equal rights and many choices in life. Being a wife and bear children would be my life’s purpose. If lucky, I could choose my husband, an equal partner perhaps, but without other options to advance my life, creativity, and perhaps to nurture and realise myself. I would probably secretly learned to write, kept a journal or ran away to the wild so I could live independently as myself. Now, the EU publishes the Gender Equality Index measuring the progress of its member states. Sweden and Denmark lead the scores with the most fair distribution. Yet, “the EU still has a lot of room for improvement. Since 2005, the EU’s score has increased by only 5.4 points”.
In a civilised society, someone has to keep the household running smooth, much easier today with all the technology gadgets. We do not to have to prepare food at home as delivery has freed us from the chores we do not want. Further, considering that there are more male chefs working at restaurants there are no limits on men cooking at home. An Austrian friend mine has a superbly organised husband who enjoys cleaning their house more than she does. It’s all personal and about the equilibrium between the partners.
In the past, unless you had enough wealth to employ servants, nannies, cooks, and other helpers, woman took care of the running of the household and family. Until quite recently, if a woman joined the workforce by utilising her talent and skills, making more money for the house’s coffers, she had to double-shift at home. Career women (Virginia Woolf had servants and publisher husband) were the outliers. Some women can do more than chores. Intellectually, entrepreneurially or through hard training in competitive sports, even box.
Men in general had their roles also conventionally imprinted on their earnings. Hunt, trade or work in any way to make money for the family. Once women earn equally for the same work, we can split the roles in a household more fairly and freely. The issuing domestic arguments will iron out with an equal effort.
Today, most women, increasingly also in so-far restrictive regimes and religions, have a choice. We are not brashly ostracised if the weeding bells do not ring for us. The forceful female breath of creativity and thinking enhances our lives. Where we would be without the Thatchers, Merkels, Malalas, Curries and Oprahs? In the past if you were not born a princess or an empress, you were owned by men.
Not having an opportunity to decide for myself, I would feel like a helpless fly flickering her feather-like wings off a cunning spider net. Feeling and knowing that I really am independent, free to decide anything concerning my cherished self and equally respected by all human beings — is for me the most important desire. A survival instinct I inherited from my Czech contemporaries intellectually fighting in the 1989 Velvet Revolution. I want to be free like the wind whizzing around me in spring and fall drifting around the Mediterranean.
I grew into a fearless guardian of my independent free will. Like the Israeli soldier women, emboldened by my military strength, surpassing men in my aptitude to pull the trigger faster than most, I do as I please. Expressing my fears, hopes, barring my poetic soul, so anyone can enter the fiery dome of my scull.
I composed a poem on gender equality, and titled it Homo Deus to suggest the future evolution of the roles that women can assume, liberated from the prejudices created artificially by culture and society.
A woman, no child
Just passion on her mind
No roles prescribed to her kind
That witch of the past
Now follows her lust
Not judged by society
Her family freed her chastity
A woman of the 21st century
Finds justice and creativity
Her feelings are legit
Peace and love, just have it!
She merges with equality
Boundless, strings unattached
Her — the freedom vulture
In a new culture
Homo Deus connects in kindness
I want to be free like a sailor on a boat on the sea, I want to break free like a woman from the chains of history, I want to run free in the vast field of blooming liberty. A woman, man, gay, black, Christian or Muslim, we are all human, let’s connect.