Saturday, July 18, 2015
I want a wife
I came across a very insightful essay/poem I read in a literature course which has, since then, left its mark on me. Its title is "I want a wife" and it was written by Judy Brady. It is a feminist poem, which questions the situation of women who often lose their identity as a person to replace it by a general label of that of wife (or mother as a matter of fact). Starting from a very young age, women are seen by their siblings and by society in general through one of their social roles in life, that of a wife, that of a mother, that of a mistress, and so on... But the thing is that it is not just the environment of women which is perceiving them as such, they themselves start identifying with specific roles that were assigned to them and start behaving according to them.
In this perspective, this poem makes us realize that often, what we believe to be something that is an inherent characteristic of femininity are actually specific behaviors that women internalize in order to correspond to the general ideal we have of what a woman should be, i.e. a wife or a mother. Therefore, the dichotomy between a respectable woman and a slut, or a mother and a spinster, in which we firmly believe without even having actually thought them trough, are simply the result of women having to match this ideal of femininity they were raised to become.
How is a woman to be a free spirit, a person who has the ability to become her true self, when such restrictions are imposed on her persona? There always seems to be a sort of border between a good and a bad woman/wife/mother. Also, notice how easily the terms "bad mother" or "bad wife" are easily applied, when who can actually pretend to know whether this or that woman is good or bad. Who are we to judge so harshly a whole gender, i.e. half the planet's population (actually a little bit more than half the world's population!)? Why should a woman who wants to study, to work, or who chooses not to have a partner, not to marry, not to have children be judged as a bad person, someone who is not "normal"? It doesn't make any sense... Especially when we come to consider the fact that a man who cannot find a true match is all the more praised.
Remember how the media covered George Clooney's love life until he got married... As he wouldn't settle down with any of his many girlfriends, a sort of frenzy emerged of finding a good girl for this extraordinary man. The older he got as a single man, the more sexy and seducing he became, as a man for whom no woman was enough (according to the media, I am not judging the man myself!). On the contrary, a woman who doesn't settle down isn't seen as a catch for all ordinary men... Many references to her unhappiness of not having found her true love or of not having had a baby will be a recurring theme. Just look at how Jennifer Aniston is often referred to.
Anyway, to go back to the poem itself, Judy Brady's main point is what a wife is supposed to be. She goes on enumerating the many skills and duties she needs to have and do in order to be a good wife, and the fact is that I can truly see all members of my family or my acquaintances... All the women I know, myself included, actually correspond to many of these key descriptions, and all the men I know actually do expect some of the characteristics stated in the poem, which is kind of tragic when you come to think about it. After reading this poem, I always feel that it will take much more time to get to the point where men and women will be able to become a self without these sexist social ideals being inside them and influencing their decisions, perspective, ideals, actions, etc. Even when someone or a group of people is against these patriarchal ideals, her/his ideas and reactions will always be in relation to these ideals.
I believe that these are still too embodied in our social relations and structures for us to move away from them completely. But this doesn't mean that we cannot try our best to question their validity, which doesn't mean that we should ban all our social constructed ideals altogether either! I guess the best way to progress as human beings who want to reach some sort of fairness and equality would simply be to ponder upon the things in which we believe without really knowing why we do so... I believe that in that way we will enable our mind to continually open itself to new approaches that can only lead to more openness and acceptance of the other, no matter who he/she truly is. After all, who are we to judge? Don't we all want the same thing: to be accepted and loved for who we are?
Here is a link to the poem "I want a wife" for those interested: http://www.columbia.edu/~sss31/rainbow/wife.html
Have a great day and keep your mind sharp!