there is one symbol that sums up the hefty strides women have made in this
century, it’s the Virginia Slims ad for cigarettes, which shows a sexy woman,
staring boldly into the camera with that elegant cigarette in her mouth.
Feminists may criticize her for being a sex symbol, the righteous may say
she’s glamorizing a poison stick but nobody can disagree with the caption that
goes with the ad: “You’ve come a long way baby.”
centuries women were rubbed out from history books that only recorded the feats
of men, of killing and conquests, of wars and rulers. Throughout the history of
“Man” thousands of potentially great women went to their graves with
untapped talent, remained invisible. The business of raising decent men and
women who gave something back to the world in which they were born in was never
the early nineteen hundreds we were still carrying out age old functions-giving
birth, nurturing children, being homemakers, taking care of our elderly and ill.
were barred from entering universities, kept from fulfilling our potential as
doctors, lawyers, scientists, businesspeople, secretaries. Our potential died at
War 11 dramatically altered all that for women in the west.
(Women in many Islamic countries meanwhile continue to be trampled on)
Suddenly women were called upon as extra hands in the war effort. They stood
alongside men nursing the wounded, cooking and cleaning for the men in the
battlefront while mines and bombs exploded around them. At home they replaced
men’s work in factories and offices, keeping countries going as their men went
down in the trenches. When it was all over women were told to go home and make
babies and homes. They went back sure enough, but something had changed forever.
something was the realization that they could do everything a man could, and
sometimes better, for didn’t they have centuries of experience in juggling ten
jobs at once? Hadn’t they nursed an ailing mother, dug the garden, created a
meal out of almost nothing and managed the household finances so somehow the
children were clothed and fed and something was put aside for a rainy day. In
the 60’s they spat fire at the tradition that they knew was only another name
for a kind of slavery. They burned bras and bared all. They smoked and drank and
swore men under the table. They scorned men and went off to live without them.
But more changed as women evolved. They realized that in order to be equal to
men they didn’t have to become men. That in fact their womanly nurturing
attributes empowered them.
a new generation of women began to accept going to university for granted, voted
freely, rejoiced in the strength of their body, incorporated athletics as part
of their glory, discovered that they could transfer their home management skills
to corporations with great success, they could afford to grow calm with their
new power. Women became swans and butterflies overnight. As the century burned
forward we began excelling, outdoing the opposite sex in academics and business.
But as time went on, like the woman in the Slims ad, we were able to celebrate
our beauty, instead of hiding under it.
prefer to employ us because we had ingrained sense of deadlines (from a simple
thing as having to put children to bed on time) of conciliation and fair play in
the boardroom (from bringing calm to a home of fighting adolescents).
Caribbean woman is unique in this equation. She has inherited the history and
strength of women from four continents. From Europe she learned how to adapt to
an alien environment. From India she learned how to keep families together. From
Africa she learned raw survival. From China she learned enterprise. From the
Middle East she leaned thrift and hard work.
majority of our families in Trinidad and Tobago are headed by women- single
mothers who, without knowing it, everyday draw from centuries and continents of
experience to feed, clothe and educate their children without any help from
we are a matriarchal society it is because we have had no choice. Yet thousands
of women everyday get up early and pack lunch kits, drop children to school, and
are dedicated to their careers whether they are secretaries or supervisors.
Women use their gifts of nurturing and management at home and at work.
is one question I want answered in this equation. Why, despite all the strides
we have made do women suffer so much? Still paid less then men, still dependent
financially and socially on men, still, subject to domestic violence, verbal
humiliation, control and tyrannical stereotypes that repress our spirit and take
up all our time (cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing)? And what is it about
women that prevent us from supporting one another and fighting for basic human
rights and freedoms such as respect and financial independence, and social
silver lining amidst all the burdens our women carry is that the more challenges
that are thrown to the more they rise to the occasion, and somewhere between all
the toil emerges the pure pearl that can be the woman of this millennium.
is free, fearless, rejoices in her beauty and sexuality. She is gentle with
children, the elderly and the ill and yet pushes practical, intellectual,
artistic boundaries and boulders, until she is as dizzy with her achievements.
Like the girl in the Virginia Slims Ad, she is able to despite it all; spin her
life out, using the golden thread of her potential.
will do more, one by one, family by family, she will do as she has been doing
for centuries, hold the key to a more humane world in her hands. She may not
have the money, the power or the tools to do it but she can teach her children,
and so guide all of humanity by proxy.
so in a hundred years our grand daughters and great granddaughters will look
back at, us, the women who have brought in this millennium and say “We’ve
come a long way thanks to you, baby.”
long as there are women, constitutional crisis or not, the country will be run,