feminist writing

What will the neighbours say?

I screamed yesterday at our ‘thief’ friend. We had been trying to locate him for a few weeks as he was looking after a beautiful writing desk of mine and we wanted to begin efforts to get it back. Unfortunately he sold it. To finance his lifestyle and he was not in the slightest bit sorry.

I was on the balcony when I realised he was on the phone justifying his actions. I literally screamed “you thief” and ran inside and took the phone and said “you thief, you disgust me”.

Today my actions are being reviewed.

The big concern seems to be what will the neighbours think and say about my actions.

No matter what I do, think, feel or say, the only issue ever that must be a priority is not being judged by the neighbours.

I kind of have had three years to get to know the rules, and still I find it hard to adapt.

If you are molested by my drunken friend, you must say nothing. If my friend steals money from us, you must say nothing. And ultimately, if a friend of ours, steals our furniture and sells it for a profit, and refuses to give us the money, you may not speak out. You may not be outraged or offended.

You as a woman, must not embarrass society, and clearly speak out when a person needs to actually hear the truth. You may not scold, or reprimand a thief.

Men can drink, dance and be Merry till dawn. Women may not express utmost fury or upset. It is all about agreements.

The woman must agree to let her man be. I can see that in many stale relationships, agreements are made over time. A woman may start to avoid having sex with her husband after twenty years and she may make excuses and retreat to the world of her children. The darling I have a headache, becomes a rejection that the man has to concede to. The many Gentle man that has been thwarted in this way, finds his solace in the world of ambition, work, money and a few pegs at night before he rests his tired head on the pillow. He has stopped reaching his hand out for a loving connection, and he has long stopped hoping for a tender touch of his wife’s hand.

These agreements have been made in the silence of the night. She prefers to not have sex, and she is at peace to let him be and have his few hard won pegs of whiskey each night. She no longer has to pretend and kiss his stale breath. It becomes a win-win, despite the slightly tragic lose-lose at the heart of it.

Personally, I have not yet made these agreements, nor did I ever imagine I would have to. We met later in life, and it was a blessed, holy-temple town prasad, truly a gift from the gods. We came in peace, to create something new, something of our own determination. A love marriage by definition breaks the rules of the past, and gives way to creating a way of life built without the rule book handed down by the ancestors, the elders, or indeed the neighbours.

We have a friend in Jaipur that I basically now see as the proverbial nosy parker neighbour. He is a well respected man, with a lot of self-given leadership qualities and rights, and he has repeatedly stated from his unchallenged pulpit of power, that I, the Western woman am an unsuitable match. That my problem is my defiance of ancient cultural entitlements. He has often declared that I refuse repeatedly to show understanding. That I do not grasp that a succesful marriage is based on these silent understandings.

That my refusal to live with relational understanding is the problem. If only I showed some real understanding, as a woman must, I would understand, and deeply respect that my man requires my approval and acceptance of his tendencies. I must understand, and not question his desires. If he wants to enjoy and participate in online porn, that is his frustration and I must show tenderness. That he does not wish to have sex with me, and that he feels no desire for me, I am supposed to simply show humility and understand that in spite of this, he is still a good, kind and gentle man and that I must find understanding within myself that my desire or expectation to have a private sexual life, is simply a wrong, faulty expectation.

It is a little joke with a couple of our friends that Sir has to be correct no matter what.

I am starting to see that whilst I may not agree, he is the ultimate over-reaching neighbour. I will find him wherever we run to. We can pack up and move to a different town, and start again, but the Moral Policeman archetype will soon come knocking on our door in another guise. He is the conscience that speaks to many. That says, What will the neighbours say. Do not try to make a life based on modernity, and do not try to make a life based on new ideals and hopes. Here, I am the life sucker of your dreams. I am real, and I have a lot more power than you will ever be able to reconcile.

I knew this archetype well in my earlier life. I knew the dream-buster well. The strict father figure, that we could project all our own small failings onto. If something lacked the strength and guts to see to fruition, there was always the imagined dream buster that could be blamed for the thwarted efforts. It was mean Daddy/Mummy that could hold in their steadfast hands the basket of blame. Thankfully, there comes a time, where those parent figures are seen for what they really are; our caretakers, who become old and frail, and simply offered love. They did not stop us, and we are gifted that true recognition, a grace, that the only person or thing that has ever stood in our way, is ourselves.

I know that when my bags are packed and it is time to move on, Mr Pulpit will rejoice and say, “See I was right, she was incapable of understanding”. He will see it as a personal victory, and be triumphant that another foreigner was reduced to the ultimate indignation of being exiled and discarded as just another bit of white trash.

I find myself asking again and again, at which point do I have to concede that this society, will continue to highlight that this man cannot choose me.

Whose life is this?

Entitlement

entitlement. the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

wanting special privileges is something that I can understand. even joni mitchell said, “won’t you buy me a mercedes benz?”. and to a degree, i understand hard fought for hope that we have exchanged enough days of our life to ‘deserve’ something in return, be it love, respect or peace and quiet. the issue i am pointing at, is the notion that just being born, to a certain family, class, sex, makes one inherently free to expect special treatment, and that they are outside of the rules of life.

i realize libertarians, and freedom seekers will say there are no such things as rules, and the anarchists, will say, give me a rule, so I may break it. But society has constructed common norms. they do very much exist. it is not that common for a three year old child to go to the bank on their own on their bicycle or be found wandering around the city mall buying their own shoes or winter clothes. there is often a structure in place, that a three year old will take guidance from an elder person on some subjects, and with great hope, they will be free to explore the real milestones of their age related ability and potential.

there are so many rules to life, that it can be a dizzying never ending list and at times, we have all wanted to sit in a quiet room and say Stop the world, I want to get off. We feel the mighty boom of school teachers, parents, extended family telling us right from wrong and often, we actually have to disregard it all, and find our own way.

the wilderness years bring many freedoms to experiment. teenagers all over the world have gone seeking relief from the bane of perceived or real control. getting high, feeling free, transcending the boundaries imposed on us, is an epoch defining time of our life, and it looks and tastes like true freedom, that at fifteen or nineteen we feel we deserve. We put the hours in going to school, and being home on time, and abiding by “their’ rules, and we take our new found freedoms as our entitlement.

yes, life will show us that this intoxicating freedom is but a brief pause, gifted in return for school grades. We may get scooters and cars, and suddenly we learn that we have to give up our right to drinking all night and driving, or we get our first jobs, and we learn we have to navigate our time off with our time in the system, and we learn drinking, or getting high or wearing micro bondage leather skirts and pink mohekan hairstyles is ours to do but often not on workplace time.

we learn, we adapt, and the rule book in many ways, no longer resembles a written magna carta of musts and must nots, but actually something we sense, and find to be quite an instinctual and fluid transition. Most make it. Great, grand drunken poets remain great and grand and drunken and nobody gets hurt. in the UK there were a number of research papers that investigated the use of heroin in professional staff and the figures were stunning. More common than anyone had ever imagined were top level professionals, lawyers, doctors and surgeons, turned out to be far more high than the supposed low-lifes bummed out at the street corner late at night. The rules to their game, were nobody will get hurt and to a degree that may be true.

The belief that I am god, I am great, brings with it this entitlement to break a lot of rules in life, and unfortunately a lot, far too many, do get hurt along the way. We have seen how many high profile film, radio and TV personalities in the UK have systematically abused their position and sexually abused young people who fell prey. It has happened in politics, children’s homes, religious institutions, and within the sports world. It is a subject of great distress, and whilst I appreciate the many faceted complications that these stories have at the heart of them, we are really looking at an entitlement belief. That a person may do as they wish, with special dispensation, for no other reason than they believe it to be so.

i keep coming back to my bete noir subject of men/women, housework, relationships, equality, chauvanism, gender differences, and rather than fail to write an original or groundbreaking discourse on these topics, I can only come back to this simple and personal awareness, of what works, and what does not work for me.

does a husband deserve special treatment in his homelife? does a wife deserve special treatment in her homelife? it gets to be this simple for me, the examination is not about a witch hunt to be proven right or wrong, and I have had my head bitten off more times than I can count this year. May I speak? May I ask that the balance of running a home is done with some some regard for the home and the people living here? Actually, I may not, so I am in no position currently to speak of such skillful negotiation!

boys are treated as prince buddhas from birth. truly the god-given gift to a family, that will pass on the ancestral dna through marriage and children, and will sustain a genetic blueprint on the earth that will keep grandparents bustling with a pride, that may be deserved. To see that what they have worked for will become a far reaching legacy is not to be scoffed at, and is a valid, and noble dream. but boys will not learn to take a glass of water from the fridge – they will shout at their sisters to get it for them, even if they are actually standing by the fridge. boys will not sweep a floor, the sisters will do this. the mothers, housekeepers will pick the clothes up from the floor, the shirts will be beaten until clean, and collars and cuffs scrubbed clean. the shirts will be ironed and hung in neat rows, and the boy will go out into the world, feeling like the village crown prince.

why are we indulging boys in this way? and when is it too late to intervene and say, No that is not your entitlement, that is an agreement. a lot of times we hear that it is all the mothers’ fault! That she mollycoddled her boy, and stroked his hair, and turned a blind eye too many times when she needed to give better, different advice. She is blamed for cooking and caring for him because that is what her heart calls her to do. Should she have thrown him out sooner, made more fierce rules and god forbid used reprimand?
Maybe. She probably assumed some good wife will do the rest of the kicking into socially fit for purpose task.

but the wife cannot. the wife, can not implore another adult to change or adapt in any truthful or meaningful way. there can be manipulations, threats, bargains, and tear filled dramas, but actually she will be laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, and in many unfortunate scenarios throughout the world, she will risk being beaten to a pulp. She will be no longer be the sweet, flirtatious sexual commodity that she first appeared to be, and will now be regarded as some Frankenstein monster, that scolds, cries, and implores for some damn respect. She will be told she is crazy, unreasonable, a bitch, and the old school teacher hag, nagging mother, all replace a woman’s former joyous persona.

some men will run and have affairs, men will chase their boredom with online sex cyber bots. men will soothe their troubled souls. men will laugh and thump each other on the back, and drink their fill of mead as they medicate themselves far, far from the elephant in the room. therapists will write mighty tomes and speculate that the man simply was not getting his needs met at home, and it is the wife who must take the blame. we are good at that.

they can not say in all honesty, “it is my right, as a man to do as I wish. It is my right to do exactly as I please”. And actually they do know it.

Courts always give a much tougher sentences to the ones who cannot express remorse. Mostly, the human can seldom stand the discomfort of glimpsing their own unreasonable entitlement.

The young boys that rape, or harm, are often not really well enough, strong enough, or well formed enough to grasp that the heinous crimes stem from the false belief that they thought they were entitled to use might and desire to overcome an another. They maybe truly do not get it, and they may spend a lifetime in prison and still not get it. Politicians may never get it. That erode or diminish rights of sectors of the community, that make policy that truly hurts and destabilizes a person or a community. They also unfortunately, may never get it until they are de-selected as our representatives.

Do I have an entitlement to write these stories? Do I have a belief that I am special and can do and say as I please? I certainly was not born thinking this. I did not feel it was at all my right to speak out, to challenge the status quo, or even to say No. Five decades later and maybe with a huge amount of social change in the world, I glimpse that it may be okay, to experiment and explore, and I do so with a lot of doubt, a little courage and an unhealthy amount of fear that I will lose everything I love in this act of defiance.

Often when asked to consider doing life by the rules, they will say, Why should I? Well, consider this? Because it helps to function in this world, respectful of the cultures, and norms of others. Because it is what fellow humans recognize as the rights and functions of adulthood. Because, it may lead to greater ease and peace in one’s daily life. Because, culture is a mixture of mannerisms and manners.

Because we often have to try something that we do not fully understand. Because we learn as we go along. Because we are here to be helpful, and humans have to live in a hive, and get along with others. Because if we dismantle all these systems, we have anarchy. And whilst anarchy, sounds like a big fat Rasta joint on the porch, and some time to live One Love, it is also an ugly place.

Where great violence may arise. Where there are no rules that matter. Where love ceases to be about co-operation and where respect and admiration are erased and an extreme nihilism results in survival, of the most fierce, and all others cease to exist. It results in political systems that are above the law. It results in disorder. It is the refusal to accept all systems of control and authority. It may be an ‘absolute freedom’ on an individual level, a personal mutiny, a triumphant rebellion, but it may also be a perfect opportunity to look long and hard at whether or not the outcome is exactly as hoped for.

The rebellion of childhood, is an assertion, an entitlement to be free of perceived authority, and to find autonomy. The creation of a life free of external control or influence is the journey we take to become equipped to find our Independence. But after Independence, comes life. Busy, confusing, world of systems, people, demands, customs, confusions, traditions, hectic, claustrophobic, panic inducing, noisy, unfair, Life.

To conclude, I can only add the words of Mary Oliver, “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the Wild geese, harsh and exciting, over and over announcing your place in the family of things”.

 

 

Carol Rudd A footnote: “Mercedes Benz” is an a cappella song written by singer Janis Joplin with the poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, and originally recorded by Joplin.[1] In the song, the singer asks the Lord to buy her a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a “night on the town.”