“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” ~ Jane Austen, Persuasion
“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” ~ Muhammad Ali Jinnah
“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.” ~ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“These days, however, I am much calmer – since I realized that it’s technically impossible for a woman to argue against feminism. Without feminism, you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate on women’s place in society. You’d be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor – biting down on a wooden spoon, so as not to disturb the men’s card game – before going back to quick-liming the dunny. This is why those female columnists in the Daily Mail – giving daily wail against feminism – amuse me. They paid you £1,600 for that, dear, I think. And I bet it’s going in your bank account, and not your husband’s. The more women argue loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hard-won privileges.” ~ Caitlin Moran, How to be a Woman
As I woke up this morning I was thinking about my new novel, Time’s Echo, with the main theme of women fighting for their rights. Then I saw the new Time cover with “Person of the Year”, which this year is actually all The Silence Breakers. The cover has several women on it who have blown the whistle on how men in power abused them. I gave a little cheer, as I do every time a woman speaks up and people believe her.
Those two things brought up lots of old questions that I’ve been asking since I was harassed for choosing religious studies as my major forty-one years ago. I wanted to know then, and I still want to know, what makes men think they have the right to tell me what to do with my life? And that’s just one little part of my internal feud with the male dominated societies we live in.
It’s not just men, of course, who want to make themselves feel more secure by trying to control their outer world. We all do it and I don’t understand why. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do understand why we do it. We do it because we’re afraid, and because it’s easier to blame something or someone outside ourselves than to do the work necessary to make a real and lasting change in ourselves. Some people think it’s just too much work.
But, at what point did we assume that we know what is best for other people and try to get them to live their lives as we would prescribe?
Maybe it’s a silly exercise, but for some reason I feel like I can’t go on with my book until I can pinpoint the moment we, as a species, went off the rails. My ultimate goal for Time’s Echo is to not only write about what is wrong with female/male relationships, but to suggest some solutions as well. I know – it’s just a novel. But for some reason I can’t proceed until I can offer some hope.
In my imagination I go back to the beginning of the human race and see women taking roles that their brains are programed to perform, and men doing the same thing. Men and women worked as a team. But then something happened and men decided that they needed to take over and control everything including women. What made women agree to this clearly unhealthy and detrimental situation?
I’m only an amateur student of history and brain research, but even I can see that men’s and women’s brains work differently. (See, Men are Mars, Women are from Venus for a clue.) I don’t need to enumerate those differences that have been coming to light over the last century or so. But this is what I think might have happened. Women were so busy taking care of the children, managing everyday tasks like, foraging for edible and medicinal plants, cooking, making a home and clothing, taking care of the children, and tending the sick and wounded, that they allowed men to take on the more aggressive tasks of brining home food from the hunt, building homes and community structures, and protecting the family group. Over time somehow men thought their tasks were more important. I mean their brains were wired for conflict and protection which in my mind, naturally led to possession. Maybe women were too busy to notice this subtle shift from team player to dominator until it was too late. And women being decidedly less aggressive, allowed men to take on this new role. But I can also imagine that ancient women might have looked on this new kind of man, as immature. “Oh, they’ll grow up soon and we’ll be able to be full partners again.” Meanwhile the drive to produce children was strong in both men and women, so an uneasy alliance was formed. That was many, many centuries ago. Women are still waiting for men to grow up.
Not long ago I turned on the TV and the DVR was set to my favorite station, TCM. A movie was in progress. A husband and wife were having a discussion. The wife was packing to leave. The husband said, “I don’t understand. Why are you leaving?” To which the wife replied, “Oh, Bob, what a child you are.” Bob’s response is the part that made me stop what I was doing and get info on the movie. He said, “Of course, I am. All men are children. They like to play and chase toy balloons.” The name of the movie is Madam Satan (1930), a title I hate, by the way. But that little bit of dialogue made something click in my head. Women want true partners not only in marriage but in all aspects of life, but sometimes don’t find them. They marry little boys who are chasing balloons, and other bits of fun, which makes them too busy to be true partners. It happens that way in business too. And in those situations, women are left to pick up the pieces.
I don’t want you think that I hate men. I was raised by an amazing father who was mature, loving, responsible, respectful, and who understood human nature. I was also fortunate to be surrounded by other great men. I married one. These men gave me hope that one day, the child/men were going to finally grow up. Thankfully, we’re finally seeing it happen.
Men have ruled the world for centuries, but I can’t put all the blame on them. For whatever reason, we women have allowed this situation to be perpetuated. And our efforts to gain some measure of autonomy has twisted us in weird ways. I’m writing in generalities here, which is always dangerous, but nevertheless, I believe my observations to be accurate for at least some women. We women became expert manipulators. We learned how to make men think they came up with some great ideas, in other words the “woman behind the man” concept. We have become competitive with each other over the “best” men, or life situation. We’ve hidden our intelligence. We’ve allowed men to use and abuse us to maintain security, all of which has shattered our collective feelings of self-worth. Of course, there have been women who have not allowed men to dominate their ambitions, or take away their power. They stand out as fantastic examples for the rest of us. I think those women helped the rest of us wake up to all the possibilities we have been missing out on.
Thank heaven there is now a definite change in long held attitudes. It’s going to take us a very long time to unravel our old ways of thinking and discover new ways to relate to each other.
But this is what I’d like to see happen from this day forward: More cooperation and less competition between men and women in government, business, and all aspects of society. I want more women in leadership positions so we can have discussions about how to come up with real solutions to all of our world problems. I want every person to have a roof over their heads, food on the table, education, access to health care, and a job they can be proud of. I want us to respect each other. Making that dream come true probably won’t happen in my lifetime. That doesn’t matter. I’ll keep hoping, writing, and working for that outcome anyway.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.