makes women stop being curious? What makes them lose that bounce?’
discovered, too, that the evolution of womankind is sabotaged by
always ask the abused woman: what did you do to make him beat you?’
must band together to fight every injustice, small or large, against our
would encourage our daughters to keep their maiden names when they
a Halloween party earlier this month I saw a sea of feminine faces. Most
of them were unaccompanied by their husbands. They were the mothers of the
little witches, ghosts, angels and monsters running around with sticky
fingers and orange juice.
women were for the most part well groomed: in linens, subtle shades of
lipstick, good haircuts and leather shoes. Their ages ranged from early
twenties to mid-forties. Some of them had stuck smiles on their faces as
they chit-chatted with one another.
didn’t bother. Their eyes drooped with worry, the lines around their
mouths (it was clear) were created more from tears and rage than from
smiles. But I knew, if I got close enough to the ones with the glazed
smiles, even their expensive perfume wouldn’t be strong enough to cut
out the smells of disappointment and loneliness that emanated from so many
sat there in the dusty twilight with the almost sickly-sweet scent of the
“lady of the night”, underneath a Samaan tree still dripping from
earlier showers onto the damp earth, among screeching children and
care-worn mothers, and thought about women.
makes the corners of their mouths turn down, their eyes dull, their faces
and bodies swell with food eaten not for nutrition but as an antidote to
depression? What makes so many women lose that fight? What makes them stop
being curious? What makes them lose that bounce and light? But the dark
had swallowed them all up, and I went home with the memory of silhouettes
of women’s hands holding a bit of their child’s clothing, a discarded
lollipop, a sticky hand. Endearing images of love, transference of hopes
and dreams, lives sacrificed, poured into those tiny hands.
the next few days I scanned women’s faces on a crowded downtown street,
in an aerobics class, in malls and at birthday parties. I listened and
watched carefully. These are the generation of women who have been sold
the dream of Cinderella, who - no matter how harshly or unfairly they’ve
been treated - stand by their man, believe, ultimately, that a man will
save them, make them happy, take care of them.
to my shock I, who have always considered myself a champion of women’s
rights, discovered, too, that the evolution of womankind is sabotaged by
ourselves. We scupper our growth firstly, by not taking responsibility for
ourselves, whether we are well appointed housewives or women who decide to
have children for four different men as a way of keeping them.
although our capacity for supporting one another is huge, more often than
not we pull one another down. Like a true underclass, we sell one another
out so we can get short-term gains from the opposite sex, maintain a
status quo, which is essentially dictated by men. No wonder they are
contemptuous. If we set ourselves up to be victims, we become them.
and mothers-in-law, sisters and friends will tell the abused woman to go
home and put up with a little lash here and there for the sake of the
children or the home or the little bit of money. We don’t tell one
another that each of us has options, that a little courage and untapped
talent goes a long way. We don’t seek out divorced or widowed friends.
criticise members of our own sex who won’t conform by cooking or fussily
cluck around children (thereby stunting and spoiling them). We’ll
“shoo-shoo” about somebody who’s left a marriage, or found love
outside it (while being understanding about the man who did it, saying he
deserved a second chance and she was a bitch anyhow).
of saying that physical or verbal violence is against the law, and that
freedom from fear is a basic human right, we always ask the woman who has
been abused: “What did you do to make him beat you?” The premise
instead should be that nothing warrants physical abuse, which is a weak,
cowardly, brutish and lawless response to a verbal confrontation,
especially when the other party is physically weaker.
bring up our boys to be brats and tormented abusers, either by allowing
their fathers to beat them to a pulp when they are naughty, or by calling
them sissies when they show emotion such as fear and insecurity, need and
are many good, gentle, honourable men who will never (no matter how
provoked) hit a woman, who will cherish women in their weakness and revel
in their independence. But for every good one out there, there are a
dozens who dull the light in women’s eyes, batter them until there is
loss of hope.
don’t fully understand what produced these men. Could it be a
combination of a need to maintain male power and authority dressed up as
tradition, over-indulgent mothers, a cycle of abused boys who turn into
abusing men? We can no longer go around blaming others. In the final
analysis, women must stop setting themselves up as victims, and we must
band together to do that by fighting every injustice, small or large,
against our sex. It may be too late for the generation before us, and
maybe even for some among our own generation. But our daughters can be
by educating them to the hilt. We must give our daughters the biggest gift
of all - financial, social and intellectual independence, so that the bulk
of their wealth is in their head and can be carried to any company in any
by ingraining a sense of justice in them, so that they will never put up
with any argument against them based on superior physical power, force or
by giving them a strong sense of self, ensuring that they go into
relationships with so much self-esteem they will not depend on men for
money, social status, home, or hearth, which become the reasons they stay
would encourage them to keep the light in their eyes until they die, by
tapping into whatever talent they have, by having a parallel outer and
inner life that belongs to them alone, a sense of individual destiny;
alongside their responsibilities as wives, mothers and daughters.
finally, I would encourage our daughters to keep their “maiden” names
when they get married. Allowing themselves to be known by their
husband’s name smacks of medieval days, when women were regarded as
property, and sets them up to be treated as such.
them give and receive flowers not out of need, nor loss, nor as a balm to
pain, but with love.